US senators seek answers on US presence in Niger after ambush

1 / 2
Myeshia Johnson, widow of U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, sits with her daughter, Ah'Leeysa Johnson at a graveside service in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday. (REUTERS)
2 / 2
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) attends the graveside service for U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson, who was among four special forces soldiers killed in Niger, in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 October 2017
0

US senators seek answers on US presence in Niger after ambush

WASHINGTON: US senators said on Sunday the White House has not been forthcoming with details about the military’s presence in Niger after the deaths of four soldiers there earlier this month and they want more answers on US operations in the west African country.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in separate interviews that they support Republican Senator John McCain’s effort to get answers from the Pentagon on the ambush and more broadly on the US fight against ISIS in Niger.
Graham and Schumer said they had been unaware of the large US presence in the country and said Congress needs more information on what could become a long and open-ended involvement.
“I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” Graham said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is an endless war without boundaries and no limitation on time and geography,” he added. “You’ve got to tell us more and he is right to say that.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Graham and McCain, who serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Friday that the military is shifting its counter-terrorism strategy to focus more on Africa and expanding the ability to use force against suspected terrorists.
The attack earlier this month, which US officials suspect was carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate, has thrown a spotlight on the US counter-terrorism mission in Niger, which has about 800 US troops.
US President Donald Trump drew attention to the ambush after sparring last week with Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who criticized the president for what she said were insensitive remarks to the widow of one of the fallen soldiers.
Democrat Schumer said on the same program on Sunday that he, like Graham, had also been unaware of the large presence of US troops in Niger and is also awaiting more answers from the military this week.
He said Congress may need to re-examine the current authorization for what he said could be a long, open-ended involvement in the country and region.
“We need to look at this carefully. This is a brave new world. There are no set battle plans,” he said, adding that Congress currently authorizes action as part of the authorization of military use that has been in place for 16 years since the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.
“I would be for re-examining this. There is no easy answer but we need to look at it. The answer we have now is not adequate,” he said.


France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

Updated 19 min 25 sec ago
0

France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

  • France had failed to make the case for its ban and ordered it to review the legislation, the committee said in a statement
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Committee said on Tuesday that France’s ban on the niqab, the full-body Islamic veil, was a violation of human rights and ordered it to review the legislation.
France had failed to make the case for its ban, the committee said, and gave it 180 days to report back to say what actions it had taken.
“In particular, the Committee was not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society,” it said.
Decisions taken by the committee, a panel of independent experts who oversee compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), are not legally binding, but under an optional protocol of the treaty, France has an international legal obligation to comply “in good faith.”
The committee’s findings come after complaints by two French women convicted in 2012 under a 2010 law stipulating that “No one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.”
The Committee said the ban disproportionately harmed their right to manifest their religious beliefs and could lead to them being confined at home and marginalized. It also ordered France to pay compensation to the two women.
The committee’s chair Yuval Shany said the findings were not an endorsement of the full-body veil and that he and several others on the 18-member panel considered it a form of oppression.