Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2ndR) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2018
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Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held rare talks with the opposition Thursday, days after its imprisoned leader was given a fresh sentence that will keep her behind bars for 10 years.
Hasina’s ruling Awami League party had earlier rejected any calls for talks with her opponents and ruled out accepting its demand for the dissolution of parliament before elections next month.
In an abrupt about-face, the prime minister hosted members of the opposition coalition at her Dhaka residence late on Thursday to discuss — but did not back down in her refusal to appoint a caretaker government for the polls.
Former foreign minister Kamal Hossain brought a group of 20 opposition officials to the meeting, according to Awami League deputy chief Obaidul Quader.
Hasina rejected the delegation’s key demand for a caretaker government, Quader said.
The visitors were “not satisfied” with the talks, said opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The talks came as Hasina’s chief rival, former premier Khaleda Zia, was on Tuesday handed a seven year prison term on graft charges, while another appeal court doubled her sentence for an earlier embezzlement conviction.
Zia and Hasina have been rivals since the 1980s, when both women allied to force the country’s former military dictator from power.
The duo alternated power for two decades until Zia boycotted national polls in 2014, sparking violence across the Muslim-majority democracy of 160 million.
Zia’s is the only inmate in an otherwise abandoned 19th-century jail and her health has deteriorated in custody. Her physician said she was suffering from diabetes and that arthritis had rendered her left hand useless.
Lawyers for Zia have accused the government of putting her health at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison.


Kenyan police say gunmen kidnap Italian volunteer, wound 5 in attack on coast

Updated 11 min 55 sec ago
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Kenyan police say gunmen kidnap Italian volunteer, wound 5 in attack on coast

  • The wounded, who were all under the age of 25, were taken to hospital
  • The men, armed with AK-47 rifles, attacked the town of Chakama

NAIROBI: Kenya said on Wednesday gunmen kidnapped an Italian volunteer in the coastal region of Kilifi during an attack in which five people were wounded, the first time a foreigner has been abducted in the East African country in several years.
“The gang ... abducted an Italian lady aged 23 years who is a volunteer of Africa Milele Onlus, an NGO operating in the area,” the National Police Service said on Twitter.
The wounded, who were all under the age of 25, were taken to hospital and officers were pursuing the attackers, police said.
The men, armed with AK-47 rifles, attacked the town of Chakama on Tuesday evening, police said. The town is west of Malindi, a major tourism destination on the coast.
There was no immediate comment from the Italian government.
Police did not say if the gunmen were suspect militants from Al-Shabab, an Islamist group based in neighboring Somalia that has launched deadly attacks in Kenya for years, including the 2013 attack on a shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, in which nearly 70 people were killed.
“Neither the reasons for the attack nor the identity of the attackers have been established,” police said.
An unidentified witness told Kenyan TV channel KTN News: “The European lady got out of her room, instead of lying on the ground, to inquire what was going on. One of the attackers then slapped her.”
“Their aim was to get money but they took off with her to the river and, before leaving the village, they started shooting in the air and they shot one woman and four boys,” the witness said.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab aims to topple Somalia’s foreign-backed government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. They have intensified attacks in Kenya since it sent troops into Somalia in 2011.
Suspected Shabab militants have launched several attacks in recent months in which Kenyan soldiers have been killed but those attacks have all taken place in Lamu County, which is north of Kilifi and borders Somalia. The group has beheaded people in more than one of those attacks in Lamu County.
The town of Chakama in Kilifi County where the attack occurred is nearly 300 km (185 miles) southwest of the Kenya-Somalia border.