Communist leader detained after Sudan demonstration

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


Daesh destruction of rural Iraq hinders residents’ return: Amnesty

Updated 40 min 18 sec ago
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Daesh destruction of rural Iraq hinders residents’ return: Amnesty

  • Amnesty reported Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards, sabotaged wells and stole or destroyed vital farming equipment
  • The extremists seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014

BAGHDAD: The Daesh group’s deliberate destruction of agriculture in northern Iraq has hindered the return of hundreds of thousands of residents, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards and sabotaged wells by filling them with rubble, oil or other materials. The militants also stole or destroyed pumps, cables, generators, transformers and vital electricity lines.
Amnesty called on the Iraqi government to repair rural infrastructure and compensate the displaced so they can return to their homes.
Daesh seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. US-backed Iraqi forces gradually drove the militants from all the territory under their control, declaring victory a year ago after a costly campaign that destroyed entire neighborhoods and towns.
“The damage to Iraq’s countryside is as far-reaching as the urban destruction, but the consequences of the conflict on Iraq’s rural residents are being largely forgotten,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty.
He said the report focuses on the “deliberate, wanton destruction” around the area of Sinjar, where the extremists massacred and enslaved thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority. About half of Sinjar’s residents have returned, with many others saying they have nothing to go back to.
Beyond Sinjar, Amnesty’s report gave sobering figures for all of Iraq.
“The conflict against IS eviscerated Iraq’s agricultural production, now an estimated 40 percent lower than 2014 levels,” it said. “Before IS, around two-thirds of Iraq’s farmers had access to irrigation — only three years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Around 75 percent of livestock was lost, spiking to 95 percent in some areas.”
Syrian and Iraqi forces have gradually driven Daesh out of nearly all the territory it once held. But the group still maintains a presence in the Syrian desert and remote areas along the border. Many have warned it could stage a comeback if economic grievances are not addressed.
“Unless there is urgent government assistance, the long-term damage inflicted on Iraq’s rural environment will reverberate for years to come,” Pearshouse said. “When IS tore through Iraq in 2014, it thrived off rural poverty and resentments, so Iraq’s government should be concerned that something similar could happen again.”