Sarath Fonseka sworn in as Sri Lanka minister

Updated 26 February 2016
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Sarath Fonseka sworn in as Sri Lanka minister

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Thursday appointed as a Cabinet minister its first five-star field marshal and the former army general who led the military to victory in a 26-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists.
Sarath Fonseka, the leader of the Democratic Party, lost the August parliamentary poll, but entered parliament following a nomination this month by the ruling United National Party of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Fonseka was sworn in as minister of regional development at a time when supporters of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa accuse the government of investigating the military over war crimes at the demand of the West and the United Nations.
Rajapaksa refused to investigate any alleged war crimes in the final phase of the conflict that ended in May 2009.
“The message is that, as the government is moving forward in implementing the UN resolution, it continues to respect the military and is not rejecting the military in any way,” said Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, an independent advocacy group.
Fonseka’s appointment signals that the government may protect senior military leaders “suspected of widespread abuses,” rights group Human Rights Watch said this month.
Fonseka, 65, has rejected domestic and international allegations that he was responsible for war crimes during the final phase of the war against the Tamil Tigers and has said he is willing to testify in any international court.
He won a pardon from President Maithripala Sirisena last year after being convicted by Rajapaksa’s government of offenses ranging from corruption to engaging in politics in uniform.
Fonseka challenged Rajapaksa in the presidential election of 2010 and lost the election by 18 percentage points.
Rajapaksa’s government accused him of planning a military coup and arrested him less than a month after his election defeat. Fonseka rejected the allegation.
Sentenced to 30 months in jail, he was released in May 2012. He headed a new opposition party while in jail and won a parliamentary seat in April 2010 elections, but was stripped of the post after his sentencing.
Fonseka’s party backed Sirisena at the presidential polls in January last year.


Pakistan rescues four Iranian soldiers from militant group: army

Updated 32 min 15 sec ago
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Pakistan rescues four Iranian soldiers from militant group: army

  • The statement said the soldiers were being handed over to Iranian authorities
  • The incident comes months after the Sunni militantn group Jaish Al-Adl abducted 12 Iranian security personnel in October last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rescued four Iranian soldiers being held captive by a militant group in the country’s restive southwest, the military said in a statement Thursday.
The rescue took place in Chaghi district of Balochistan province, near the Afghan border, the statement said.
“Terrorists of a proscribed organization were reported to have entered Pakistan from Afghanistan side along with abducted Iranian soldiers,” it said.
“After exchange of fire, four Iranian soldiers (were) recovered,” it continued.
The statement said the soldiers were being handed over to Iranian authorities, though it did not say when. It also did not say what date the rescue took place, or name the group holding the soldiers.
The incident comes months after the Sunni militantn group Jaish Al-Adl abducted 12 Iranian security personnel in October last year near the border.
Five of them were later released and handed back to Iran by Islamabad.
Relations between Pakistan and Iran recently suffered another blow after Tehran said a Pakistani suicide bomber was behind a February 13 attack that killed 27 Revolutionary Guards in its volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.
Jaish Al-Adl, which Tehran says operates mostly out of bases in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the blast.