Pope warns of nuclear terror threat

Pope Francis. (L’Osservatore Romano/ AP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Pope warns of nuclear terror threat

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Friday renewed calls for global nuclear disarmament, warning that new technology had increased the risk of deadly weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
“You only have to note that nuclear technologies are spreading, partly because of digital communications, and the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons,” Francis told a seminar at the Vatican.
“The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare.”
Francis was addressing a Vatican conference on disarmament that was attended by several Nobel peace prize winners and top UN and NATO officials, against the backdrop of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
Western powers are also increasingly concerned over the possibility of groups like Islamic State getting their hands on the technology that could allow them to manufacture an improvised nuclear device.
Describing the current international situation as marked by a “climate of instability and conflict,” the Argentine pontiff said the prospects for disarmament appeared “increasingly remote.”
“The escalation of the arms race continues unabated and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations.
“As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace, the undertaking of educational, ecological and health care projects, and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.”
Citing the memory of the victims and survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs at the end of World War II, Francis said any new use of such weapons would have “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects.”
“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.
“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.”
Despite his overall gloomy tone, Francis said he was encouraged by a recent UN vote declaring the use of nuclear weapons illegal, even in warfare.


Rebel attack in Congo Ebola zone kills 18

Congolese police patrols in Kinshasa, Congo, in this May 17, 2017 file photo. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Rebel attack in Congo Ebola zone kills 18

  • The attack underscores the challenges the government and health organizations face in tackling Ebola in an area where years of instability has undermined locals’ confidence in the authorities

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 14 civilians and four soldiers were killed on Saturday in a six-hour attack by rebels on the town of Beni in eastern Congo, the army and local officials said, disrupting efforts to contain an Ebola epidemic in the area.
The latest outbreak of the deadly disease in Democratic Republic of Congo has been focused in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which have been a tinder box of armed rebellion and ethnic killing since two civil wars in the late 1990s.
Militants believed to belong to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist group active in eastern Congo, clashed with Congolese troops in Beni, a town of several hundred thousand people, local civil society leader Kizito Bin Hangi said by telephone.
“Beni is ungovernable this morning. Several protests have been declared in the town where the people express their anger with consternation,” he said.
In addition to the known fatalities, dozens of civilians were wounded as they fled the violence, which broke out in the early hours of Saturday evening and lasted until midnight, Bin Hangi added.
During a news conference in Beni on Sunday, a representative of the Congolese army said four soldiers had also been killed in the attack.
Spokesman Mak Hazukay confirmed the civilian death toll of 14, but said six civilians and four military personnel had been wounded — lower figures than estimated by the civil society leader.
The attack underscores the challenges the government and health organizations face in tackling Ebola in an area where years of instability has undermined locals’ confidence in the authorities.
Community unrest in the wake of the latest violence prompted the Health Ministry to suspend temporarily the field work it has been carrying out in Beni as part of its Ebola response.
“Many inhabitants of the town of Beni took to the streets this Sunday to protest against the growing insecurity in the zone. The field work of the response will resume once calm returns to the town,” the ministry said in its daily Ebola report.
The latest outbreak, which causes haemmorhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhea, is believed to have killed 99 people since July and infected another 48.