Australian men charged with terrorism over mosque fires

A screengrab from a video shared on social media shows the Geelong Mosque in Melbourne burning in May 2016. (Shia Waves via YouTube)
Updated 20 August 2017
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Australian men charged with terrorism over mosque fires

MELBOURNE, Australia: Police have charged three men with committing terrorist acts on suspicion of starting fires at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Melbourne last year, inspired by Daesh and intending to divide the Muslim community.
Two of the men are already in custody and awaiting trial on suspicion of plotting bomb attacks in Australia’s second largest city last year, while a third — a 29-year-old Melbourne man — was arrested late on Saturday.
All three face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment over the arson attack at the Imam Ali Islamic Center in December 2016.
Australian Federal Police’s counter terrorism national manager said that attacking a place of worship had no place in society.
“It is clear that these arson attacks were designed to intimidate and influence those that attend this mosque and the wider Islamic community,” Assistant Commissioner Ian McCartney said on Sunday.
Australia, a staunch US ally that has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, has been on heightened alert since 2014 for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, or their supporters.
While there have been several “lone wolf” attacks, officials say 13 significant plots have been foiled in that time.
Police say the three men were adherents of militant Sunni Muslim ideology.
Police said the arrest of the man on Saturday came after extensive investigations into fires at the Melbourne mosque – but said it did not relate to any direct threat to the community.
The other two men facing charges are in custody and awaiting trial for allegedly planning militant attacks around Christmas Day 2016 in Melbourne.
The two, a 25-year-old and a 27-year-old, will also be charged with terrorist offenses for causing a previous fire at the Imam Ali Islamic Center in November 2016.
The man arrested on Saturday will appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Sunday, while the other two will appear in court on Monday.
This month, two men were charged with terror-related offenses after authorities disrupted what they described as a Daesh-inspired plot to bomb an Etihad Airways flight.
Another man arrested in relation to the foiled plot was charged with weapons offenses and released on bail. A fourth man was released without charge.
A gunman in a 2014 Sydney cafe siege boasted about links with Daesh militants, although no direct ties with the group were established. The gunman and two other people were killed in the siege.


France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

Updated 24 May 2018
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France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

  • France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris
  • More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally

PARIS: France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris in June to assess humanitarian needs for the country and possibly contribute to reviving U.N.-backed peace talks.
A Saudi-led coalition backed by the West has carried out air strikes against the armed Houthi movement in a war since 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally and unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the UN says.
"We are currently working on how to organise this conference with our various partners, Yemen and the United Nations," France's foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing on Wednesday.
"This conference should take stock of humanitarian needs, evaluate the assistance provided and the response mechanisms which need to be improved and define humanitarian actions to improve the situation of civilian populations."
The French president's office said the conference would take place at the end of June. A source aware of the plans said it was scheduled for June 27.
Von der Muhll declined to say whether Paris intended to invite representatives of the Iran-aligned Houthis.
"This work, which we want to be collective, can help to recreate the conditions for a resumption of political discussions under the auspices of the United nations," Von der Muhll said in a statement on Tuesday.
It is unclear how this would fit into the UN Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths' efforts. He said in April he wanted to present a plan for negotiations within two months to end the conflict, but warned that any new military offensives could "take peace off the table."
Three rounds of UN-backed peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, with the last held in Kuwait in August 2016, ended without success. Griffiths began his term in March in a bid by the U.N. to revive the stalled peace process.