Malaysia hits back at US travel warning, saying it ‘lacks objectivity’

This May 25, 2018, photo show a general view of capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Malaysia hits back at US travel warning, saying it ‘lacks objectivity’

  • Over the past few years, Sabah has been the site of several high-profile kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf Jihadist group and other terrorist organizations from Mindanao

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Sunday described an advisory issued by the US warning its citizens not to travel to the Southeast Asian country, as “lacking objectivity.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it “strongly protests” the US government’s decision to include Malaysia as one of 35 countries given a “K” indicator on April 9 in its travel advisory for this year. The indicator relates to “the risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world.” America raised concerns over the risk of potential kidnapping or hostage-taking situations in certain areas of eastern Sabah.
The Malaysian government responded that the travel advisory “lacks objectivity” and does not reflect “the reality on the ground.”
It went on to describe the security situation in eastern Sabah as “safe and protected for tourists.”
The statement added: “This is borne out by the fact that the number of tourist arrivals in Sabah has grown by 5.5 percent, reaching 3.87 million last year. Further, the number of kidnapping incidents has dropped significantly to almost nil. Eastern Sabah continues to attract world-class divers.”
The ministry said it has ramped up its security efforts with increased patrols, closer security cooperation with neighboring countries, and the strategic positioning of security assets in the areas mentioned, while urging the US to immediately remove Malaysia from the list. 
The state of Sabah is in the eastern part of Borneo Island, bordering Indonesia and Brunei. The island is close to Mindanao, in the southern part of the Philippines.
Over the past few years, Sabah has been the site of several high-profile kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf Jihadist group and other terrorist organizations from Mindanao. 
This month, a Malaysian fisherman died from gunshot wounds when he tried to escape from his Abu Sayyaf captors. He was reported missing along with two Indonesian fishermen in December last year. All three men were believed to have been kidnapped from their boat. 
Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told Arab News that despite the dire situation in Eastern Sabah, the travel advisory would not affect Malaysia’s tourism. 
”To be blunt about it, this won’t affect Malaysia a lot, because most of the tourists who go to the surroundings of Semporna (in Eastern Sabah) are amateur or seasoned divers who will go there at all costs due to its designation as the world’s best diving spot,” he said. 
He added that most non-Americans, and even non-Europeans, are less influenced by US travel warning nowadays, as there are many other factors that would affect people’s decision to travel to a country. 
The other 34 countries given a “K” indicator in America’s 2019 travel advisory include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen. 


Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

Updated 19 April 2019
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Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

  • A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group
  • A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries

LONDON: A woman has been shot dead during riots in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland and the killing is being treated as a terrorist incident, police said Friday.
Images posted on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.
It was not immediately clear who the woman was or who shot her.
“Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement on Twitter.
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder enquiry.”
The violence came in the run-up to the Easter weekend, when Republicans opposed to British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.
A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry (also known as Derry) earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, which is in favor of Britain’s presence in Northern Ireland, described the death as “heartbreaking news.”
“A senseless act. A family has been torn apart. Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019. No one wants to go back,” she wrote on Twitter.
A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries, as well as British armed forces, in a period known as “the Troubles.”
Some 3,500 people were killed in the conflict — many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Police have blamed a group called the New IRA for the flare-up in violence in recent months.
Some have expressed fears that recent attacks could be a sign that paramilitaries are seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.
Michelle O’Neill, the deputy leader of Irish republican party Sinn Fein, condemned those responsible for the killing.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young woman shot dead by so-called dissidents,” she wrote on Twitter.
“This was an attack on the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement,” she added, while calling for calm.
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