Al-Azhar demands Boko Haram free abducted girls

Updated 20 May 2014

Al-Azhar demands Boko Haram free abducted girls

CAIRO: Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar urged the Nigerian group Boko Haram Tuesday to free more than 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped and has threatened to sell into slavery.
Al-Azhar, which runs the main Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles.”
It called “for the immediate release” of the girls, abducted on April 14 in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state.
Abubakar Shekau, who leads the group that has killed thousands in a five-year uprising, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
In a video message obtained by AFP on Monday, Shekau said the group was holding the girls as “slaves” and would “sell (them) in the market.”
A total of 276 girls were kidnapped when Boko Haram stormed their school under the cover of darkness and loaded them onto trucks. Some managed to escape, but more than 220 girls are still being held, according to police.
Global outrage, initially slow to emerge, has been building, including calls by US senators for Washington to intervene.

8 more girls kidnapped
In Kano, Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast, residents said on Tuesday, after the extremist group’s leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month.
“They moved door to door looking for girls,” said Abdullahi Sani, referring to the late Sunday attack in the village of Warabe, Borno state. “They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.” Sani, a Warabe resident, spoke to AFP by phone from Gwoza, a town 10 kilometers (six miles) away where he and others fled after the attack, which he blamed on Boko Haram.
He said the attackers did not kill anyone, which was “surprising,” and suggested that abducting girls was the motive for the attack.
The gunmen torched parts of the village, he said.
Another Warabe resident who also fled to Gwoza, Peter Gambo, confirmed Sani’s account of the attack and said the military had not yet provided any protection.

UN Warning
In Geneva, The United Nations warned Islamist Boko Haram militants on Tuesday that there was no statute of limitations if they carried out their leader’s threat to sell more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month.
“We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in international law. These can under certain circumstances constitute crimes against humanity,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.


Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

Updated 21 min 48 sec ago

Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

  • Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election
  • Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year

MOSCOW: A Russian diplomat said on Monday a group of more than 30 suspected Russian mercenaries detained in Belarus last week were only passing through Minsk and were on their way to an unnamed Latin American state.
Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election.
Russian officials have dismissed the accusation and described the men as employees of a private security firm. The Russian state says it does not use mercenaries.
The standoff could further strain relations between Minsk and its traditional ally Russia, which soured after the neighbors failed to agree on an oil supply contract for this year.
“Their final destination was one of the states in the Latin American region,” the diplomat, Kirill Pletnyev, was quoted as saying on Monday by the Russian RIA news agency.
Belarus granted Pletnyev consular access to the detained men, RIA added. His quotes did not name the Latin American country or give any more details on the identity of the men.
Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year, describing them as military specialists.
On Friday, Alexander Agafonov, the head of the Belarusian investigative group that is handling the case, said the arrested men — some of whom were wearing army fatigues — had given “contradictory accounts” about their plans.
He was quoted as saying that 11 of the arrested men had told authorities they planned to fly on to Venezuela, 15 to Turkey, two to Cuba and one to Syria. Another said he did not know his destination, while three refused to make a statement.
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has said he wants a full explanation from Russia, faces his biggest electoral test in years on Aug. 9 as public anger swells over his handling of COVID-19, the economy and human rights.