Tajikistan to create ‘tourist police’ after Daesh-claimed attack kills 4

A man signs a book of condolences at the US Embassy in Dushanbe on July 31, 2018, in tribute to the victims of a deadly attack in which two US, a Swiss and a Dutch citizens, were struck by a car and attacked on July 29. (AFP)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Tajikistan to create ‘tourist police’ after Daesh-claimed attack kills 4

  • Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon ordered the creation of the force tasked with “protection of public order and security (and) escort of tourists”
  • The move is a response to the attack by an armed gang on a group of seven foreign cyclists on Sunday

DUSHANBE: Tajikistan on Wednesday pledged to create a “tourist police” force to protect visitors after four tourists were killed in an attack claimed by Daesh.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon ordered the creation of the force tasked with “protection of public order and security (and) escort of tourists” as well as the “prevention of crime,” state media reported.
The move is a response to the attack by an armed gang on a group of seven foreign cyclists on Sunday which left two Americans, one Swiss and one Dutch national dead along a popular biking route.
The incident was at first reported as a hit-and-run road accident but later claimed by the Daesh militants.
Tajik authorities have declared 2018 to be a “year of tourism” and claim massive increases in visitor numbers.
On Tuesday Daesh released a video showing what it said was a pledge of allegiance by the five men accused of murdering the European and American tourists visiting the impoverished ex-Soviet nation.
Police in the authoritarian country have so far ignored the Daesh claim of responsibility for the attack, instead blaming a banned opposition party with the backing of rival Iran.
The police account has generated skepticism outside the republic due to an ongoing government crackdown on members of the party, which was legal as recently as 2015, Tajikistan’s icy relations with Tehran and the Daesh video footage.
The video released by Daesh on Tuesday shows five men, who resemble pictures of the suspects put out by Tajik police, sitting by a tree in front of a Daesh flag.
The clip shows them swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader.
Tajikistan released pictures of four of the suspects after they were killed by police while resisting arrest. A 33-year-old man resembling the fifth participant in the video has been detained.
The victims were killed by being struck by a car and attacked with knives and guns as they cycled along a road off the Pamir Highway — a popular tourist route with spectacular views.
They have been named as Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin of the United States, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel.
One Dutch and one Swiss citizen also survived the attack while a French cyclist escaped unscathed.


Bottles, chili paste thrown as Sri Lanka parliament descends into farce

Sri Lanka's police members protect parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya (in a black jacket, C) as he tries to walk to his chair while parliament members who are backing newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa protest during the parliament session in Colombo, Sri Lanka November 16, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 min 12 sec ago
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Bottles, chili paste thrown as Sri Lanka parliament descends into farce

  • Rajapaksa loses confidence vote; second one in three days
  • PM Rajapaksa's backers try to block no confidence vote

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament descended into chaos for a second day on Friday as lawmakers supporting newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa threw books, chili paste and water bottles at the speaker to try to disrupt a second no-confidence motion.
The vote went ahead anyway and for a second time lawmakers gave Rajapaksa and his new government the thumbs down, potentially strengthening the hand of Wickremesinghe, who is seeking to return as prime minister.
Wickremesinghe was removed by President Maithripala Sirisena late last month and replaced with Rajapaksa, plunging the island off India’s southeast coast into political turmoil.
Rajapaksa is seen as a close ally of China, though Beijing has denied accusations that it was instrumental in getting him appointed.
Wickremesinghe said “anarchy” could result if the president did not recognize the second non-confidence vote. He was speaking to foreign correspondents at the prime minister’s official residence, which he has refused to vacate.
“We have the majority,” he earlier told reporters. “We can form our government and we will act accordingly.”
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, from Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, said the president had rejected the second vote . Sirisena’s office did not respond to calls seeking comment.
With parliament scheduled to reconvene on Monday, Sirisena appears faced with the choice of either reappointing Wickremesinghe, whom he has said he will not bring back, or allowing the crisis to fester.
Rajapaksa’s camp demanded an early election.
“We shall continue to agitate till an early election is called. We are thrown into anarchy,” Rajapaksa loyalist Keheliya Rambukwella said, accusing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of being biased and acting on behalf of Western nations.
Sirisena dissolved parliament last week and called elections, but the Supreme Court ordered a suspension of that decree on Tuesday until it had heard petitions challenging the move as unconstitutional.

BOOKS, BROKEN CHAIRS
Earlier on Friday, Rajapaksa supporters poured on to the floor of parliament, surrounding the speaker’s chair, and demanded the arrest of two lawmakers from Wickremesinghe’s party for allegedly bringing knives into the house on Thursday.
A member of parliament from Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna party sat on Jayasuriya’s chair surrounded by more than 20 lawmakers, delaying the start of proceedings. Rajapaksa loyalists then tried to prevent Jayasuriya from sitting on a second chair brought in by police.
One MP then pulled out the cushion of the second chair and hurled both toward policeman guarding the speaker.
When Jayasuriya eventually started calling out names while standing — under a heavy police presence for the first time in parliamentary history — to know whom MPs supported, Rajapaksa supporters bombarded him with books, chili paste and water bottles.
Three lawmakers and at least six police were injured, parliament medical staff said.
The speaker’s office informed Sirisena in a letter that 122 MPs of the 225 lawmakers signed the no-confidence motion, the same margin as in Wednesday’s first vote.
Sirisena had called for the second vote after rejecting the first.
Sources close to the leadership have said Sirisena’s decision to sack Wickremesinghe came after the prime minister’s party rejected the president’s request to back him for second five-year term in 2020. They also split over whether to back Chinese or Indian investors in various projects, the sources said.
India and Western countries have requested Sirisena act in line with the constitution while raising concerns over Rajapaksa’s close ties with China. Beijing loaned Sri Lanka billions of dollars for infrastructure projects when Rajapaksa was president between 2005-2015.
Tourism accounts for nearly 5 percent of the economy and is a key main foreign exchange earner, along with the garment and tea industries, and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad.