India troops kill Kashmir militant linked to Al-Qaeda

Above, Indian paramilitary troopers stands infront of closed shops during a one day strike in downtown Srinagar on May 17,2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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India troops kill Kashmir militant linked to Al-Qaeda

SRINAGAR, India: Government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed a top militant commander linked to Al-Qaeda in the disputed region, officials said on Friday.

Zakir Musa was killed Thursday evening in a gunfight after police and soldiers launched a counterinsurgency operation in the southern Tral area, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman.

Musa refused to surrender and fired grenades at the troops after they zeroed in on his hideout in a civilian home, police said.

His killing triggered violent anti-India protests in many places. No one was immediately reported injured.

Authorities cut off Internet on mobile phones in a common tactic to make organizing anti-India protests difficult and discourage dissemination of protest videos. They also imposed a curfew across much of the Kashmir Valley, including in the main city of Srinagar, in anticipation of more protests and clashes, and ordered schools and colleges to remain closed.

In mid-2017, an Al-Qaeda linked propaganda network said Musa joined an affiliate militant group, Ansar Ghawzat-ul-Hind, as its head. He had left Kashmir’s largest indigenous rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and was believed to be joined by less than a dozen others.

He instantly became a media sensation, particularly with New Delhi-based television news channels using him to showcase that Kashmiri struggle for self-rule was part of a global militant agenda. Previously, no global militant groups have openly operated in Kashmir, a territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both entirely.

All Kashmir rebel groups rejected Musa and his Al-Qaeda affiliate, some even calling him inimical to their cause.

Separatist leaders, who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir, have repeatedly rejected the presence of outside groups, including Al-Qaeda, and have accused India of portraying the Kashmiri struggle as extremist.

Musa was a close aide of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri rebel leader whose killing in 2016 triggered open defiance against Indian rule.

Wani’s death and the resulting public fury brought the armed rebellion into the mainstream in Kashmir and revived a militant movement that had withered in recent years to only about 100 fighters in scattered rebel outfits.

Officials say since Wani’s killing, hundreds of young men have joined rebel ranks, some of them after stealing weapons from soldiers and police. Wani’s death also cemented a shift in public behavior, with people displaying anger at Indian rule openly and violently when troops raid villages to hunt rebels.

Rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population, with most people supporting the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.


Hong Kong protests signal alarm special freedoms fading

Updated 1 min 21 sec ago
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Hong Kong protests signal alarm special freedoms fading

  • Activists are planning more protests, hoping to win attention and support
  • hundreds of thousands marched in a June 16 protest

HONG KONG: China promised that for 50 years after Britain gave up control of its last colony, this shimmering financial enclave would get to keep freedoms absent in the communist-ruled mainland. Twenty-two years on, those are rights many here believe Hong Kong cannot live without.
The hundreds of thousands who marched in a June 16 protest over a now-shelved extradition bill, and those still demonstrating, are signaling alarm that Hong Kong may become just another Chinese city as those protections unravel and Beijing’s influence expands in the territory.
Activists are planning more protests for Wednesday, hoping to win attention and support from world leaders gathering in Osaka, Japan, for the Group of 20 summit later this week.
“This is not about a power struggle,” said Bonnie Leung, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, one of a number of groups involved in organizing recent protests over the legislation. “This is about the values that make the world a better place.”
“The whole world, whoever has connections with Hong Kong, would be stakeholders,” she said.
All of those involved — the territory’s top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the police, lawmakers, the protesters and the rest of Hong Kong — are caught up in tensions stemming from the “one country, two systems” colonial legacy that bequeathed a Western-style civic society under a political system controlled by Beijing.
The protests erupted after Beijing-backed Lam tried to push through legislation that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to face trial in Communist Party-dominated courts in mainland China. Many in Hong Kong viewed the bill as another step toward curbing protections they expect from their legal system.
While they come from all walks of life, the protesters share a determination to preserve those freedoms, said Samson Yuen, a professor at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University.
“This protest has drawn everybody in town together,” he said. “They really value the freedom to speak up and protest.”
Jerome A. Cohen, a leading expert on Chinese law and government, said the extradition bill would have deprived local authorities of the right to prevent forcible transfers by China of suspects, including visitors, “for detention, trial and punishment that violate international standards of justice.”
The bill also would have enabled China to require Hong Kong authorities to freeze and confiscate assets of alleged suspects, Cohen wrote in a recent blog post. Efforts to limit the cases subject to extradition would not prevent suspects from being subject to China’s “incommunicado torture chambers, its denial of competent legal defenders and its unfair trials.”
Most Hong Kong residents belong to families that fled poverty and political upheavals in the communist mainland. British rule did not bequeath them democracy, but it laid the foundations for strong civic institutions, schools, health care — as well as a laissez faire trading regime dominated by business leaders deeply invested in keeping Hong Kong as it is.
Normally reluctant to wade into political matters or criticize Beijing, businesses also expressed concern over the extradition bill, with the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce noting that the protests reflected “serious apprehensions.” The chamber welcomed the government’s decision to suspend the bill, as did its American and British counterparts.
It’s unclear if the turnout for another big protest planned for the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to Chinese control might match the earlier ones.
Lam’s push for the now stalled legislation, ill-timed around the 30th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and the tear gas, steel batons and other aggressive tactics used by police, especially in June 12 protests that turned violent, helped draw people young and old into the streets.
Activists want an investigation into the complaints over police violence, along with Lam’s resignation and other demands. But the continued protests reflect a deeper sense of grievance and unease, especially among Hong Kong residents coming of age in an era of declining economic opportunity, said Ken Courtis, chairman of Starfort Investment Holdings.
“Social mobility is more and more theoretical in Hong Kong, so young people continue to be very dissatisfied. There’s a broader concern about China in Hong Kong. The economy’s not growing like people thought it would grow,” Courtis said.
In many respects, Hong Kong faces the same sorts of challenges of other developed economies with aging populations and slowing growth.
The city of 7 million has an economy that is bigger than Vietnam’s and a per capita GDP of more than $46,000. But controls on land use favor property developers, and half the apartments available rent for $2,550 a month or more, while median monthly incomes are about $2,300.
In a city dominated by business leaders and other elites, the only leverage protesters can wield is “the power of numbers,” said Yuen, noting that surveys of those participating in protests in recent weeks generally identify with the city’s “grassroots or lower classes.”
“They see themselves as lower class because of crony capitalism in Hong Kong. It’s very hard for them to get a fine paying job and also to buy an apartment in Hong Kong,” he said.
Brian Chow, one of the protesters sitting in the sweltering heat on a recent day outside the city’s Legislative Council building, said he wasn’t the “type” to get involved in violence.
“I’ll just carry on sitting here, sing some Christian hymns, show our resistance, keep the government paralyzed until it responds to us,” he said.
After protesters blocked lines in the tax and immigration offices downtown on Monday, the government issued a statement appealing to them to “act peacefully and rationally when expressing their opinions and not to affect those in need of government services.”
In her apologies over the extradition bill fiasco, Lam appealed for “another chance” and said she would focus on improving the economy and resolving the housing crisis.
Chinese officials warned against “outside interference” but made a point of backing Lam’s decision to sideline the proposal. At a time of severe trade friction with the US, Beijing’s higher priority lies in preserving Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub and free port, Courtis said.
“People in Beijing are pragmatic. They see time in terms of many years,” he said. “Step sideways here, if that’s not enough then step backwards. Now you focus on making the economy work and keeping people happy.”