North Korea to expel US citizen who ‘illegally entered’ country

Most Americans held by North Korea have been released after high-profile interventions with leaders in Pyongyang, above. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
0

North Korea to expel US citizen who ‘illegally entered’ country

  • Lawrence Bruce Byron had been in custody after crossing into North Korea from China on October 16
  • It is rare for North Korea to release an American detainee so swiftly

SEOUL: North Korea has decided to expel a US citizen who illegally entered the country last month, Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency said Friday.
The man, identified as Lawrence Bruce Byron, had been in custody after crossing into North Korea from China on October 16, it said.
“While being questioned, he said he had illegally entered the country under the command of the US Central Intelligence Agency,” KCNA said.
“Relevant authorities have decided to expel him from the country,” it added.
A man with the same name was arrested in South Korea while trying to sneak over the inter-Korean border in November last year.
Byron, who is in his late 50s and from Louisiana, was later deported back to the US.
Media reports said he told South Korean officials he sought to facilitate talks between North Korea and the United States, although he is a private citizen.
It is rare for North Korea to release an American detainee so swiftly and it comes amid stalled negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
From journalists to missionaries, most Americans held by North Korea have been released after high-profile interventions.
The reclusive regime freed three US detainees in May in an apparent goodwill gesture before a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.
The three men traveled home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and were greeted by Trump on their arrival at an air base near Washington.
Currently, there are no known US detainees held by the rigid communist state.
At their historic Singapore summit, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearization of the peninsula.
Progress has since stalled as Washington and Pyongyang spar over the meaning of the document.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
0

Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.