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
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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.


Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

International and local electoral observers arrive to attend briefing by the chairman of the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about preparations for the rescheduled general elections in Abuja, on February 20, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

  • Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement

ABUJA: Nigerians vote for a new president on Saturday after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence.
Some 120,000 polling stations were due to open at 0700 GMT, from megacity Lagos and the oil hub Port Harcourt in the south, to ancient Kano in the north and the country’s rural heartlands.
Results are expected from early next week, with the winner gaining control of Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer for four years.
In a crowded field of 73 presidential hopefuls, the two frontrunners — incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72 — are expected to vote in their home towns.
Electors are also choosing 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators from a choice of 6,500 candidates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way.
That angered voters who had already traveled to their home towns and villages to participate, and saw the main parties accuse the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.
Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu has given an indication of the scale of the task, announcing that more than 825,000 temporary staff had been drafted in to help conduct the vote.
More than 80,000 vehicles and nearly 1,000 boats have been hired to transport ballot papers, results and other materials to and from polling units.
“I want to reassure you that elections will be held on Saturday,” he said on Thursday. “There won’t be another postponement.”

The logistical fine-tuning, however, has been overshadowed by comments from Buhari that he had ordered security forces to be “ruthless” with vote-riggers and ballot-box snatchers.
Critics said his warning was a “license to kill” to the police and the military, while Abubakar said his comments were not fitting for an elected head of state.
Buhari has since sought to reassure voters not to be afraid, promising an “atmosphere of openness and peace, devoid of fear from threat or intimidation.”
Analysts SBM Intelligence say 233 people were killed in 67 incidents of election-related violence from last October to Friday — an average of two people per day.
The election campaign has come against a backdrop of wider violence from Boko Haram Islamists and criminal gangs in the north that have killed more than 200 people this month alone.
That could affect participation in some affected areas and combine with voter apathy from last weekend’s postponement to affect turnout, according to analysts.
Just over 84 million people were registered to vote but only 72.7 million (86 percent) of those will be allowed to vote, as they have picked up their voter identity cards.

In 2015, former military ruler Buhari became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president, beating Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes.
Buhari has again vowed to be tough on insecurity and corruption, and wants to complete much-needed road and rail infrastructure projects, as well as social mobility schemes.
Abubakar is a pro-business free marketeer whose main pledges have been to privatise giant state-run companies and float the embattled naira currency.
Nigerian elections have previously been characterised by voting along ethnic and religious lines.
But with Buhari and Abubakar both northern Muslims, that could split the northern vote, making southern states a key battleground.
Opponents have accused Buhari of trying to manipulate the judiciary that would rule on any dispute about the results, after he suspended the country’s chief justice this month.
Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper on Friday said whoever wins has to repair a “broken economy” limping back from recession, and hit by high unemployment, inflation and weak growth.
Some 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty, with the gulf between haves and have-nots widening.