Four accused of murdering Palestinian boy in Belgian asylum centre

Belgian authorities on Thursday charged four young Palestinian men with the murder of a nine-year-old Palestinian boy. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 April 2019
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Four accused of murdering Palestinian boy in Belgian asylum centre

BRUSSELS: Belgian authorities on Thursday charged four young Palestinian men with the murder of a nine-year-old Palestinian boy at an asylum-seekers' centre near Belgium's northern port city of Antwerp.
Officials said the boy, who had been staying with his mother in the Broechem centre, went missing late on Monday before a search turned up his lifeless body in a ditch on Wednesday.
The Antwerp's prosecutor's office said an investigating judge charged four of the five people who were arrested on Wednesday with his murder.
"The facts are qualified as hostage-taking and murder," the prosecutor's office in Antwerp said in a statement without confirming a news report the boy may have been kidnapped for ransom.
The accused are aged 19, 20, 21 and 24 years old, the prosecutor's office said, with spokesman Kristof Aerts confirming they are Palestinian. The fifth man arrested faces possible charges later Thursday.
The shocking case has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Charles Michel.
"An investigation will be conducted in a transparent and independent manner. The culprits must be punished," Michel wrote in a tweet earlier, offering his condolences after this "tragic death".
The boy, born in Lebanon but of Palestinian origin, had been staying with his 26-year-old mother in the Broechem asylum centre when he disappeared on Monday evening, Aerts said.
He was last seen riding his bike. A search operation found the boy's lifeless body in a ditch on the grounds of the reception centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Newspapers in the northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders reported the boy died in a possible extortion case.
The daily Het Laatste Nieuws said the boy's aunt, who lived in the same centre, had received a threatening telephone text message: "100,000 euros or you will never again see Daniel alive."
The prosecutor's office did not confirm the report.
A source close to the prosecution told AFP that statements that the accused have given investigators "are not clear" and none of them has confessed to the alleged crimes.
Belgium, a country of about 11 million inhabitants, receives about 20,000 asylum seekers annually, many of whom come from conflict areas in the Middle East, according to the Fedasil agency website.


Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

Updated 23 May 2019
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Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

  • The vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month
  • Sultan Mosque was designated a national monument in 1975

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s Sultan Mosque is a focal point for Muslims in the cosmopolitan city-state and the vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month of Ramadan when people from all walks of life flock to its bustling bazaars.

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s “Muslim Quarter” with a mix of Malay, South Asian and Middle Eastern elements. Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim, according to the latest official data.

Arab Street — an area that includes Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street — is a hub for hipsters, vivid murals, Persian rug stores, shisha bars, perfumeries and textile shops, as well as being home to the distinctive golden domes of the Sultan Mosque. There is even an ornate archway welcoming people to explore the neighborhood and its distinctive shophouses, buildings that were used for working and living in. 

“We are more like brothers and sisters, rather than businesses. I know most of the customers and they know me too,” a 36-year-old biryani hawker who gave his name as Nareza told Arab News as he served a line of hungry clients.

Nareza said his stall’s signature dish was mutton biryani, made from a family recipe handed down through generations from his late grandmother. 

FASTFACT

Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim

“Dum biryani is a process of mixing meat and rice together in one pot, so the rice has a bit of the masala taste while the meat has a bit of the basmati rice fragrance,” he said, adding that he sold more than 300 portions of biryani a day. “I learned to make biryani from my father, who used to do charity work in the mosque. We make our own spices, we do not buy them from outside vendors. That is why the taste is different.”

The bazaar is packed with places selling food, drinks, decorations and homeware. The fare reflects Singapore’s international status, with eateries and stores selling kebabs, sushi and local Malay goodies.

But Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and having a fast-paced lifestyle, leading some to focus on preserving culture and heritage for future generations.

“We want to create awareness about the significance of Sultan Mosque to the Muslim community,” juice stall owner Riduan told Arab News, saying all sale proceeds were donated to the Sultan Mosque. “Arab Street is unique because you see a lot of different races coming here and it is also a tourist attraction. This is where we demonstrate we are Singapore society. Singapore is not just limited to skyscrapers such as Marina Bay Sands.”