DR Congo army says rebel group ‘annihilated’ in restive east

This photo taken on July 8, 2012, shows Col. Sultani Makenga (R), head of the rebel M23 group, followed by soldiers and walking in Bunagana, a town near the Ugandan border. The United States ordered sanctions on Sultani Makenga, the head of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on November 13, 2012, for his role in atrocities in the country. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
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DR Congo army says rebel group ‘annihilated’ in restive east

BUKAVU, DR Congo: DR Congo’s army claimed Friday to have “annihilated” a rebel group in the country’s chronically troubled east, killing at least 48 insurgents, capturing 150 others and winning back key territory.
The offensive against forces loyal to William Amuri Yakutumba, a deserter fighting President Joseph Kabila, saw thousands of Congolese crossing Lake Tanganyika into Burundi as clashes raged between government forces and Yakutumba rebels in the eastern province of South Kivu.
“The operation was a success, the rebels have been annihilated. There is no more fighting and we are in the midst of cleaning up operations,” said army spokesman Major Louis-Claude Tshiwanga.
He said since the launch of the operation on January 21, “48 Yakutumba have been killed and 150 captured.”
The army paraded the captured rebels as well as cannons and machine guns seized during a press conference on Thursday in the town of Uvira.
The Yakutumba attacked Uvira at the end of September in a naval operation before being pushed back from the area by MONUSCO, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The army spokesman said people were slowly returning to the town.
Security sources said the rebel chief had not been captured but could have been wounded in fighting last week.
But the UN radio Okapi, citing General Philomen Yav who was in charge of the offensive, said 83 rebels and six government soldiers had died in the fighting.
“Almost all the territory under the control of the Yakutumba has been recovered,” the radio said.
The DR Congo government has announced it is waging “war” against two militias in the east — the Yakutumba and the Ugandan Islamist rebels of the Allied Democratic Force (ADF).
The Congolese Yakutumba are in South Kivu while the ADF are active in North Kivu.
Both regions border Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Rival militia groups have long held sway over large areas in the two provinces, often competing for their rich mineral resources.


Hindu hardliners step up campaign to block Indian temple to women

Updated 18 October 2018
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Hindu hardliners step up campaign to block Indian temple to women

  • The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala was meant to allow women from Wednesday
  • State authorities have insisted that they will ensure access to the temple

NILACKAL, India: Hindu hardliners blocked intersections, threatened drivers and ordered a 12-hour strike on Thursday as they stepped up their campaign to bar women from one of India’s holiest temples.
The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala was meant to allow women from Wednesday following an order last month by India’s highest court.
But hundreds of traditionalists, throwing stones at baton-wielding police, defied the order — surrounding and shouting at any woman attempting to make it to the hilltop site.
Angry young men also surrounded and smashed the car windows of female television reporters and threatened others, including an AFP reporter. Another female correspondent was kicked.
Overnight local Hindu groups declared a 12-hour shutdown of local businesses, telling drivers that their vehicles would be attacked if they took anyone toward the temple.
“Some men came to the parking lot early Thursday and warned taxi drivers against defying the shutdown call,” taxi driver Praveen, in the town of Pathanamthitta, said.
“They warned drivers at several nearby parking lots and hotels. Anyone who defies it will be risking damage to his vehicle,” he added in an account corroborated by other drivers.
“No one will get to the temple today because all the drivers are scared for the safety of their cars,” one hotel receptionist said.
State authorities have insisted that they will ensure access to the temple, imposing restrictions on public gatherings that came into force from midnight.
Kerala police, who have drafted in hundreds of extra officers, many with helmets and body armor over their khaki uniforms, provided escorts to some buses.
Police also patrolled through the night and reinforced their presence at Nilackal, the base camp below the temple.
But groups of between 50 and 100 young men gathered at intersections on Thursday, preventing any vehicles from continuing toward the temple.
“Traditions that have existed since before courts cannot be tampered with,” said Krishna Kumar, a tall muscular man in his 20s at one crossroads in the town of Kozhencherry.
Last month India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on females of menstruating age — judged between 10 and 50 years — entering and praying at the hilltop temple, reached by a tough uphill trek.
Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from some.
The entry of women at Sabarimala was long taboo but a ban was formalized by the Kerala High Court in 1991, a ruling overturned by India’s Supreme Court last month.
The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate.
The Supreme Court ruling enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Biju S. Pillai, a local man in his 30s, was one of those opposed to the court ruling, telling AFP that he returned from working in Dubai to “protect the sanctity of the temple.”
“No one should be able to change the way this temple has functioned for centuries,” he said. “If any change is made they will have to kill us and go over our bodies.”
EP Jayarajan, a minister in the Kerala government, blamed the violence on “goons” from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a hardline Hindu group seen as close to Modi’s BJP.
The head of the BJP in Kerala, PS Sreedharan Pillai, said on Wednesday that their party advocated “peaceful protest against the court verdict.”
“The overwhelming majority of women oppose the Supreme Court ruling,” he added.