Watchdog urges Russia World Cup opening boycott over Syria

A view of the pitch and the stands of the Nizhny Novgorod Arena in Nizhny Novgorod on May 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Watchdog urges Russia World Cup opening boycott over Syria

  • Russia, which hosts the world’s most-watched sporting event for the first time this year, is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime
  • Britain is already boycotting the tournament over the events that led to a former spy being poisoned

BEIRUT: World leaders should boycott Russian President Vladimir Putin’s VIP box at next month’s World Cup opening unless he takes steps to protect Syrian civilians, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Russia, which hosts the world’s most-watched sporting event for the first time this year, is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and arguably the most powerful broker in the seven-year-old war.
“In hosting one of the most televised events in the world, Russia is courting world public opinion and looking for respect,” HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in a statement.
“World leaders should signal to President Putin that unless he changes track and acts to end atrocities by Russian and Syrian forces in Syria, they won’t be in their seats in the VIP box with him on opening night.”
Billions of people worldwide are expected to watch the World Cup on television and HRW argued that Moscow’s responsibility in the suffering of Syrian civilians should not be forgotten.
Russia is the main exporter of weaponry to the Syrian regime and its forces provide on-the-ground support to government forces and allied militia.
The New York-based watchdog has documented Russian-Syrian joint military operations that “have caused thousands of civilian casualties,” including recently in Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.
Roth warned that millions of other civilians faced the same fate in upcoming operations, especially in the northwestern province of Idlib that still largely escapes government control.
“World leaders should not allow a sporting event to gloss over a pattern of atrocities in Syria that now looms over two million civilians,” he said.


FBI: Georgia man arrested in plot to attack White House

Updated 34 min 14 sec ago
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FBI: Georgia man arrested in plot to attack White House

  • 21-year-old Hasher Jallal Taheb was arrested in a sting after he traded his car for weapons
  • The FBI says Taheb planned to use an improvised explosive device and anti-tank rocket in a suicide attack
ATLANTA, Georgia: Authorities in Georgia have arrested a man they say was planning to attack the White House.
An FBI agent’s affidavit says 21-year-old Hasher Jallal Taheb of Cumming, Georgia was arrested in a sting Wednesday after he traded his car for weapons. He’s charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building owned by the US using fire or an explosive.
US Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak says Taheb planned to use an improvised explosive device and anti-tank rocket. The affidavit says Taheb planned to die in the attack.
The affidavit says local law enforcement contacted the FBI in March after getting a tip from a member of the community. The tipster said Taheb had become radicalized, changed his name and planned to travel abroad.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Taheb had an attorney who could comment.