Al-Azhar demands Boko Haram free abducted girls

Updated 20 May 2014
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Al-Azhar demands Boko Haram free abducted girls

CAIRO: Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar urged the Nigerian group Boko Haram Tuesday to free more than 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped and has threatened to sell into slavery.
Al-Azhar, which runs the main Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles.”
It called “for the immediate release” of the girls, abducted on April 14 in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state.
Abubakar Shekau, who leads the group that has killed thousands in a five-year uprising, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
In a video message obtained by AFP on Monday, Shekau said the group was holding the girls as “slaves” and would “sell (them) in the market.”
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped when Boko Haram stormed their school under the cover of darkness and loaded them onto trucks. Some managed to escape, but more than 220 girls are still being held, according to police.
Global outrage, initially slow to emerge, has been building, including calls by US senators for Washington to intervene.

8 more girls kidnapped
In Kano, Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast, residents said on Tuesday, after the extremist group’s leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month.
“They moved door to door looking for girls,” said Abdullahi Sani, referring to the late Sunday attack in the village of Warabe, Borno state. “They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.” Sani, a Warabe resident, spoke to AFP by phone from Gwoza, a town 10 kilometers (six miles) away where he and others fled after the attack, which he blamed on Boko Haram.
He said the attackers did not kill anyone, which was “surprising,” and suggested that abducting girls was the motive for the attack.
The gunmen torched parts of the village, he said.
Another Warabe resident who also fled to Gwoza, Peter Gambo, confirmed Sani’s account of the attack and said the military had not yet provided any protection.

UN Warning
In Geneva, The United Nations warned Islamist Boko Haram militants on Tuesday that there was no statute of limitations if they carried out their leader’s threat to sell more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month.
“We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law. These can under certain circumstances constitute crimes against humanity,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.


UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

Updated 4 min 2 sec ago
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UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

  • Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov traveled to Beijing and Xinjiang from Thursday to Saturday last week
  • The officials exchanged views on international counterterrorism efforts and reached “broad consensus”

BEIJING: The UN counterterrorism chief visited Xinjiang last week despite protests from the US and a rights group that the trip would be inappropriate in light of the human rights conditions in China’s far west region.
Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov traveled to Beijing and Xinjiang from Thursday to Saturday last week, said a statement Sunday from the Chinese foreign ministry. Voronkov and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng exchanged views on international counterterrorism efforts and reached “broad consensus,” the statement said.
The US, researchers and rights groups estimate that as many as 1 million ethnic Muslims may be arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, home to the Uighur and Kazakh minority groups.
Former detainees have told The Associated Press that they were held without charge in “reeducation centers” where they were forced to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese government denies there is widespread abuse in these centers, which it says are vocational training schools aimed at combatting extremism and helping Xinjiang residents gain employable skills.
In a conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan conveyed “deep concerns” about Voronkov’s visit.
“Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not,” Sullivan said, adding that Voronkov was putting the UN’s reputation and credibility at risk “by lending credence to these false claims.”
Human Rights Watch said Friday the UN should have sent a human rights expert instead of a counterterrorism official.
China’s foreign ministry did not provide details of Voronkov’s trip to Xinjiang.
“Counterterrorism cannot be linked to specific countries, ethnic groups and religions,” the ministry said in its Sunday statement. “It cannot adopt ‘double standards.’ China supports the UN in playing a central coordination role in international counterterrorism affairs.”