Myanmar has ‘no religious discrimination’, army chief tells Pope

Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing arrives to give a speech during talks between the government, army and representatives of ethnic armed groups over a cease-fire to end insurgencies, in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 27 November 2017

Myanmar has ‘no religious discrimination’, army chief tells Pope

YANGON: Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing said he told Pope Francis his country had “no religious discrimination” after the pair met late Monday, in a papal visit framed by the exodus of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
“Myanmar has no religious discrimination at all,” he said in a Facebook post by his office. “Likewise our military too... (it) performs for the peace and stability of the country.”
The Tatmadaw, as his army is known, has been accused by the UN and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of conducting a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” by driving 620,000 Rohingya from western Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.
Myanmar denies any wrongdoing despite testimony by refugees pointing to a widespread campaign of rape, murder and arson.
The Rohingya, who are effectively stateless, are subject to a suffocating web of state-enforced restrictions.
Most are denied citizenship by Myanmar, which says they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants.
Last week Amnesty International called western Rakhine state a “crime scene,” describing the restrictions on the Rohingya as tantamount to “apartheid.”
The pope, who is visiting Myanmar to spread a message of peace, has spoken up several times for the Rohingya as the crisis has unfolded calling the benighted group “brothers and sisters.”
His comments have enraged hard-line Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar, who are now waiting to see if he uses the term “Rohingya” during his four-day trip.
Min Aung Hlaing’s office said the senior general had welcomed the pope during a brief 15 minute meeting in Yangon and told the pontiff there was also “no discrimination between ethnic groups in Myanmar.”
The Rohingya are not recognized as an official ethnic group.

Italian Daesh member arrested, repatriated

Updated 14 min 44 sec ago

Italian Daesh member arrested, repatriated

  • Alice Brignoli moved to Syria in 2015 with her husband Mohamed Koraichi, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, and their three children
  • Brignoli has been flown back to Italy with her children, including a fourth who was born in Syria and stands accused of criminal association for terrorism

ROME: An Italian woman who moved with her family to Syria to join Daesh was arrested there on terrorism charges and repatriated, in an operation run by the special branch of Italy’s Carabinieri police in cooperation with the FBI.

Alice Brignoli moved to Syria in 2015 with her husband Mohamed Koraichi, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, and their three children.

She has been flown back to Italy with her children, including a fourth who was born in Syria. She is accused of criminal association for terrorism.

The Carabinieri said in a press conference attended by Arab News that Brignoli “played an active role in indoctrinating her children into the cause of jihad,” while Koraichi joined Daesh as a fighter. She was identified with her family by Italian investigators in Al-Hawl camp in Syria.

She and her children were handed over by the Kurdish authorities who control the camp to the Carabinieri, who flew them back to Italy on a military airplane. Koraichi died in September from a health complication.

According to investigators, Brignoli reached Syria in 2015 with her three children who were aged 6, 4 and 2 at the time. She drove by car all the way through the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey.

“Brignoli and her husband Koraichi had brought their children with them to Syria as part of a strategic choice: As they were all males, they could become fighters in the future. They could become terrorists,” Alberto Nobili, Milan anti-terrorism chief prosecutor, said at the press conference.

The 6-year-old “had been immediately sent to a training camp where he started to be instructed to become a fighter,” Nobili added.

“Upon her arrival in Milan, Brignoli said she was delighted that her children had finally returned to a normal life. The children are happy too because they know that their odyssey is over and now they hope to be able to live a new life.”

While Brignoli is now in San Vittore Prison in Milan, the children are being looked after by social services. She will be allowed to see her children periodically.

“It’s a beautiful story. With this operation we managed to bring back to life a woman and her four children,” Nobili said, adding that he is working on locating and repatriating “more Italian citizens who left the country” to join Daesh.

“We’ve developed relations with other countries who share with us this same problem, and we’re particularly focused on children kept in training camps,” he said.

“We must take care of them. Most of them are orphans and carry a fierce hatred as they saw their parents die. We must bring them back here, to normality, before it’s too late to stop their radicalization and violence. This is a good way to fight against terrorism and radicalization.”