Communist leader detained after Sudan demonstration

Soaring bread prices sparked a series of protests in Sudan. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018

Communist leader detained after Sudan demonstration

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security agents arrested the leader of the opposition Communist Party on Wednesday after it organized a protest in the capital Khartoum against rising bread prices, its spokesman told AFP.
Sporadic protests have erupted in parts of Sudan, including Khartoum, after bread prices more than doubled earlier this month following a jump in the cost of flour.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Sudanese demonstrated near the presidential palace in response to a call by the Communist Party.
Anti-riot police fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons to disperse the crowd.
Early on Wednesday, agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) arrested the Communist Party’s leader, spokesman Ali Saeed said.
“Today, at 3:00 a.m. (01:00 GMT), two trucks full of armed men from NISS came to the house of our General Secretary Mokhtar Al-Khatib and took him to an unknown location,” Saeed told AFP.
“We don’t know where he is but we do know that it was NISS that took him.”
Several other senior Communist Party figures, student leaders and activists have already been arrested since the bread price protests began.
The Communist Party said its members would continue to mobilize people and organize demonstrations, while the country’s main opposition Umma Party has called an anti-government demonstration for later on Wednesday.
The protests erupted after the cost of a 50 kilo sack of flour jumped from 167 Sudanese pounds to 450 ($9 to $25) as wheat supplies dwindled following the government’s decision to leave grain imports to private companies.
So far they have been sporadic and quickly broken up by security forces. A student was killed during a protest in the western region of Darfur on Jan. 7.
Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.
The authorities cracked down on those protests to prevent a repeat of the deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.
Dozens of people were killed when security forces crushed the 2013 demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018

Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.