Over 100 on downed Malaysian plane were AIDS workers

Updated 18 July 2014

Over 100 on downed Malaysian plane were AIDS workers

MELBOURNE: As many as 100 passengers on the Malaysian airliner that crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday were headed to a major international AIDS conference in Melbourne, the Australian government said on Friday.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed that at least 27 Australians were among the 298 passengers and crew on the flight that the United States says was brought down by a surface-to-air missile.
“A number of people who were traveling to Malaysia for an international AIDS conference were also on board,” Bishop told reporters.
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur was due to connect with a flight to Perth, in western Australia, Bishop said.
UNAIDS Director Michael Sidibe, who is in Melbourne, tweeted that many passengers were en route to the conference.
“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” the conference organizers, the International AIDS Society (IAS), said in a statement.
As many as 100 conference attendees were on the doomed flight, Fairfax Media reported, including Joep Lange, a Dutch former president of the society who had spent 30 years researching and fighting the disease.
“The IAS has also heard reports that among the passengers was a former IAS president, Joep Lange, and if that is the case, then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant,” IAS said.
The week-long 20th International Aids Conference, with scheduled speakers including former US President Bill Clinton, is due to begin on Sunday.
At least 154 people on the flight were Dutch citizens, said Huib Gorter, Malaysian Airlines senior vice president in Europe. There were also 43 Malaysians, including all 15 crew on board, 27 Australians, and 12 Indonesians. Other nationalities so far identified were six passengers from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, four Belgians, three from the Philippines and one Canadian. There are still 47 dead whose nationality has not yet been confirmed, he added.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pointed the finger at Russia over the disaster and said the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“This is a grim day for our country and it’s a grim day for our world. Malaysian Airlines MH17 has been shot down over the eastern Ukraine, it seems by Russian-backed rebels,” Abbott told parliament.




(Additional reporting by Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)


Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

  • Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri was on the US most wanted terrorists list
  • Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said he was killed in a special operation in Ghazni province

KABUL: Afghan security forces have confirmed the killing of a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Ghazni province, eastern Afghanistan, prompting the country's president to accuse the Taliban of having links with the terrorist network.

Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, alias Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, was on the US list of most wanted terrorists. The US issued a warrant for his arrest in December 2018.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a tweet late on Saturday said that Al-Masri was killed “in a special national security operation.”

Following the announcement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused the Taliban of having links with the terrorist group.

"The killing of this significant leader of Al-Qaeda's terroristic network proves that there is still the threat of terrorism and Taliban have ties with terrorists," he said on Sunday afternoon.

According to NDS sources in Kabul and Ghazni, he was one of the most senior leaders of Al-Qaeda.

“Al-Masri was one of the most senior Al-Qaeda authorities and was a financial and logistical facilitator of the network and had meaningful ties with Taliban,” the source in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.

He added that an Afghan affiliate of Al-Masri was arrested during the raid.

An NDS officer in Ghazni said that Al-Masri was killed in Andar district, where scores of foreign militants have settled in recent years and have been “protected by the Taliban.”

The Taliban deny the claim.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News that Al-Qaeda has had “no ties with the Taliban” since the historic US-Taliban peace accord in late February. In accordance with the deal, the Taliban pledged to sever ties with foreign militants and deter them from using territories under the group’s control.

The US invaded Afghanistan and in late 2001 ousted the Taliban government, which refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders accused of being behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 Americans.

The terrorist network has been decimated over the years, but US officials believe its fighters are still operating in Afghanistan and some have deep ties with the Taliban.

Al-Masri’s reported killing comes a year after the NDS announced that in a joint raid with US troops it had killed Asim Omar, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. Omar was reportedly killed in southern Helmand province — a Taliban stronghold.

A former Afghan spy master, Rahumatullah Nabil, in a tweet said that Al-Masri and some other members of Al-Qaeda were frequently traveling between Ghazni and other parts of Afghanistan and a tribal region in Pakistan’s north in recent months.

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center, Chris Miller, confirmed Al-Masri’s death in a statement, saying that his “removal” was “a major setback to a terrorist organization that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners.”

According to Afghan analysts, however, a replacement for Al-Masri will soon be found within the terrorist group’s ranks.

“The killing will have some impact on the network’s activities and the war in Afghanistan, but not a drastic one as new leaders will jump up to fill the gap,” security analyst Ahmad Saeedi told Arab News.

The development comes as an uptick in deadly violence has been observed in Afghanistan despite ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar to yield a lasting peace and end decades of conflict in the war-torn country. 

At least 20 people were killed at an educational center Kabul on Saturday, hours after a roadside bomb killed nine civilians east of Kabul. Officials blamed the Taliban for the roadside attack.