Give Muslims self-rule or ‘count body bags’: Philippines’ Aquino

Updated 27 March 2015
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Give Muslims self-rule or ‘count body bags’: Philippines’ Aquino

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino has called on lawmakers to pass a bill endorsing a pact aimed at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion, warning them they would otherwise start counting “body bags.”
Aquino had wanted the bill, which would give autonomy to the majority Catholic nation’s Muslim minority in the south, passed this month.
But Congress suspended debates on the proposed law in the face of public outrage over the killings of 44 police commandoes by guerrillas in a botched anti-terror raid in January.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal a year ago Friday, had said its members fired in self-defense at the commandoes, who passed through a rebel camp while going after militants.
“This is the crossroads we face: we take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow,” Aquino said in a nationwide television address.
“Perhaps it is easy for you to push for all-out war,” he said, hitting out at critics who have condemned the peace deal with the MILF.
“But if the conflict grows, the number of Filipinos shooting at other Filipinos will grow, and it would not be out of the question that a friend or loved one be one of the people who will end up inside a body bag.”
The rebellion for a separate state or self-rule has claimed nearly 120,000 lives and cost billions of dollars in economic losses, according to government estimates.
Under a peace deal signed with the MILF, the 10,000-member group pledged to disarm while the Philippine government vowed to pass an autonomy law in Muslim areas of the south.
“The Bangsamoro basic law is one of the most important proposed bills of our administration. It answers the two most pressing problems of our countrymen: poverty and violence,” Aquino said.
He warned it would be difficult to restart peace talks if the current process failed and the MILF leadership lost its influence among its members to more radical elements.
Aquino is required by the constitution to stand down in mid-2016 after serving a single six-year term.
The January police raid sought to capture or kill two men on the US government’s list of “most wanted terrorists” who were living among Muslim rebels in southern Philippine farming communities.
One of the men, Malaysian national Zulkifli bin Hir who had a $5-million bounty on his head, was reported killed.
But the other, Filipino Abdul Basit Usman, escaped as rebels surrounded and killed the police commandoes.


Arrests after Indian woman gang-raped, burned to death

Updated 29 min 7 sec ago
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Arrests after Indian woman gang-raped, burned to death

  • India has a grim record of sexual violence, with nearly 40,000 rape cases reported countrywide in 2016
  • Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, reported more than 4,800 rapes in 2016

NEW DELHI: Indian police arrested two men on Monday over the gang rape and burning to death of a woman, the latest shocking crime against females in the country, officials said.
Five men allegedly took it in turns to rape the woman after barging into her home early on Saturday, before dragging her to a Hindu temple where they burned her to death in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
“Two of the accused were arrested from an adjoining district early Monday and we are looking for the rest,” local police chief Radhey Mohan Bhardwaj said.
Initial investigations found the men, who are members of the same extended family as the victim and from the same locality, were “annoyed” with the 35-year-old for meeting a particular man, Bhardwaj said.
Police said the mother-of-two revealed the identities of the accused to her husband over the phone after the alleged rape and before they took her to the nearby temple and murdered her.
Police rejected media reports that the woman’s desperate emergency phone call went unanswered, saying it was unsuccessful because of the poor network quality in the area.
India has a grim record of sexual violence, with nearly 40,000 rape cases reported countrywide in 2016.
Campaigners say the true figure is likely to be much higher given the social stigma around victims of sexual crimes.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, reported more than 4,800 rapes in 2016.
The state has been rocked by several high-profile rape cases in recent months, including one that allegedly involved a lawmaker from the ruling party.
Sexual violence in India has been in the global spotlight since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a woman on a New Delhi bus sparked angry protests and stiffer penalties.