Violence flares in Northern Ireland over flag decision

Updated 04 December 2012
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Violence flares in Northern Ireland over flag decision

BELFAST, United Kingdom: Fifteen police officers were hurt in violence which flared in Northern Ireland overnight when 1,000 protesters rioted after councillors voted not to fly the British flag all year round, police said Tuesday.
Two security workers and a press photographer were also injured Monday night as officers were pelted with bricks, bottles and fireworks and demonstrators tried to force their way into City Hall in Belfast.
Trouble broke out minutes after Belfast city councillors voted to remove the Union Flag from City Hall, meaning it will be taken down for the first time since the building opened in 1906.
Nationalists opposed to Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom wanted the flag taken down permanently, but in a compromise it will now be flown only on 17 designated days.
At one point, Loyalists with scarves tied around their heads to conceal their identity tried to kick down the back door of City Hall to gain entry.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said the violence was unacceptable.
“There is no excuse or justification for attacks on police officers, council staff, and property,” he said.
“Such behavior is not representative of those who campaigned to maintain the Union Flag flying over Belfast City Hall.”
Unionist parties who support Northern Ireland retaining its links to Britain share power with Nationalists in the provincial assembly.
The assembly was set up under a 1998 peace deal that largely ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in which more than 3,600 people died.
Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said that while he condemned the violence, the flag vote showed that Unionists feel they are being marginalized.
“Firstly, we are clear that no one should have been attacked or injured last night, no property should have been damaged, and no illegality should be tolerated. Attacking police officers is wrong, full-stop,” he told the BBC.
“But it is also wrong to continue to make the Unionist people of Belfast feel that they are to be treated as a minority whose heritage and values are to be suppressed.”


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.