Myanmar army’s admission of killings a ‘positive step:’ Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Naypyidaw, Myanmar January 12, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Myanmar army’s admission of killings a ‘positive step:’ Suu Kyi

YANGON: Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed an unprecedented army admission that security forces carried out extra-judicial killings of Rohingya Muslims as a “positive step,” state-backed media reported Saturday.
After months of staunch denials of abuse, the army on Wednesday said a probe found four members of the security forces helped kill 10 Rohingya militant suspects at Inn Din village on September 2, leaving their bodies in a hastily dug pit.
Some 655,000 Rohingya have fled western Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August, carrying with them consistent accounts of atrocities by Myanmar’s army.
Rights groups have accused Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi of failing to condemn the widespread abuses during the army crackdown, which followed raids by militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
After meeting the Japanese foreign minister on Friday Suu Kyi raised the army’s admission of involvement in the Inn Din killings as a “new step taken by our country.”
“In the end, rule of law in the country is the responsibility of that country. It is a positive indication that we are taking the steps to be responsible,” she added, according to a report carried by the Global New Light of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s army has a grim track record of rights abuses chiselled out across the country over 50 years of rule.
Observers hoped the emergence of Suu Kyi’s civilian government in 2016 would see the army ease up on its notorious “scorched earth” approach to rebellion and conflict.
The unrelenting Rohingya crackdown banished those hopes.
Amnesty International has called the summary killings at Inn Din “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of atrocities carried out since August and urged a wider, impartial probe.
But the conflict area of Rakhine remains locked down to media, aid agencies and UN investigators.
ARSA, the Rohingya militant group, “wholeheartedly” welcomed the army’s admission saying it validated the wider allegations of abuses including a campaign of rape and murder and the systematic torching of villages.
“These 10 Rohingya innocent civilians found in the mass grave... were neither ARSA members nor had any association with ARSA,” it said in a statement circulated on Twitter.
The UN and US have accused Myanmar’s army of ethnic cleansing, with the UN rights chief saying it may even be guilty of genocide.
Myanmar refutes the allegations, blaming militants for causing the violence and the international media and aid agencies for spreading false information due to a pro-Rohingya bias.
The Rohingya are reviled in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most are denied citizenship and described as “Bengalis” — or Muslim interlopers from Bangladesh.
burs-apj/jah


Suicide attack on Kabul voter registration center kills 12, injures dozens

Updated 31 min 56 sec ago
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Suicide attack on Kabul voter registration center kills 12, injures dozens

KABUL: Afghan officials say the toll from a suicide bombing in Kabul has climbed to at least 12 killed and 57 wounded.
Public Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro said the toll from Sunday's attack, originally placed at four dead and 15 wounded, could climb further.
The suicide bomber targeted a crowd that had gathered to pick up national identification cards at a voter registration center in the capital.
"It happened at the entrance gate of the centre. It was a suicide attack. There are casualties," Dawood Amin, city police chief, told AFP.
Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh said at least four people had been killed and 15 wounded.
Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the death toll but put the number of wounded at 20.
The centre was also being used by people to register for national identification certificates.
The attack happened in a heavily Shiite-populated neighbourhood in the west of the city. Footage on Ariana TV showed pools of blood and shattered glass on the street.
Angry crowds shouted "Death to the government!" and "Death to the Taliban!" There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Photos posted on social media purportedly of the site showed several bodies on the ground and a badly damaged two-storey building.
Afghanistan began registering voters on April 14 for the long-delayed legislative elections, which are seen as a test-run for the presidential poll next year.
Election officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern as the Taliban and other militant groups control or contest large swathes of the country.
Afghan police and troops have been tasked with protecting polling centres, even as they struggle to get the upper hand against insurgents on the battlefield.
Militants on Friday launched rockets at a voter registration centre in the northwestern province of Badghis.
At least one police officer was killed and another person was wounded, officials said, blaming the Taliban.
On Tuesday gunmen attacked a voter registration centre in the central province of Ghor, kidnapping three election workers and two policemen.
Taliban militants released the five on Thursday.
Over the next two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million adults at more than 7,000 polling centres for the parliamentary and district council elections.
Officials have been pushing people to register amid fears a low turnout will undermine the credibility of the polls.
President Ashraf Ghani last week urged religious leaders to use Friday prayers to encourage worshippers to sign up.
He also called on provincial governors to tell their employees to register themselves and family members.