China’s aircraft carrier sails by Taiwan as tensions rise

The aircraft carrier Liaoning — a second-hand Soviet-built ship — caused a stir in Taiwan when it first entered the strait in January last year in what was seen as a show of strength by Beijing. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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China’s aircraft carrier sails by Taiwan as tensions rise

TAIPEI: China’s sole aircraft carrier has passed through the Taiwan Strait, the island’s defense ministry said Wednesday, as Beijing warned against any move to “separate the country.”
The Liaoning and accompanying vessels entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Tuesday and left around noon Wednesday, the ministry said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalist speech on Tuesday, warning against what he called any attempts to split China.
“All acts and tricks to separate the country are doomed to fail and will be condemned by the people and punished by history,” Xi said in an address ending the annual session of the National People’s Congress.
China still sees Taiwan as its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and have been ruled separately ever since.
Ties have turned frosty since Taiwan’s Beijing-skeptic President Tsai Ing-wen came to power. Her government refuses to acknowledge that the island is part of “one China.”
Tsai has warned against what she called China’s military expansion — the increase in air and naval drills around the island since she took office in May 2016.
The aircraft carrier — a second-hand Soviet-built ship — caused a stir in Taiwan when it first entered the strait in January last year in what was seen as a show of strength by Beijing.
It returned in January this year.
“We are monitoring the whole process of the Liaoning’s cross-region drill,” Defense Minister Yeh De-fa told parliament Wednesday when asked to comment on its latest moves.
The defense ministry said in a statement that it sent aircraft and vessels to conduct surveillance. “No unusual activities have been spotted and we urge the public to rest assured,” it said.


Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

Updated 23 October 2018
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Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

  • Man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial
  • Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: A man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the “brutal murder of four foreign cyclists” had begun in the suspect’s high-security detention center.
Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.
The victims were struck by a car as they cycled along the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.
Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.
A video of the five men pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was released by an official Daesh media channel.
Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party — the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan — that was banned by the government in 2015.
The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.
Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.
A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.
In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.