Catholic priest disappears in Bangladesh before Pope visit

Catholic priest disappears in Bangladesh before Pope visit
This photo taken on November 21, 2017 shows Bangladeshi Christian devotees offering prayers at a church at Nagori, near Dhaka. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2017

Catholic priest disappears in Bangladesh before Pope visit

Catholic priest disappears in Bangladesh before Pope visit

DHAKA: Catholic priest has disappeared in Bangladesh, police said Wednesday, a day before Pope Francis starts a landmark visit to the Muslim-majority nation wracked by Islamist extremism.
Walter William Rosario, 40, is from the same village in northern Bangladesh where suspected Islamist extremists last year hacked a Catholic grocer to death as he opened his shop.
A major search has been launched for Rosario, who is also headmaster of a Catholic school in Natore district, after his family reported him missing, police said.
“He has been missing since late Monday. His mobile has been switched off,” local police chief Biplob Bijoy Talukder told AFP.
Gerves Rosario, the bishop of the nearby city of Rajshahi, said he believed the priest had been kidnapped and that Catholics in the region were deeply worried.
“He was organizing for around 300 Catholics to travel to Dhaka to see the Pope and attend his holy mass. But his disappearance has marred their joy. They don’t want to go to Dhaka anymore,” said the bishop.
The family received a phone call from someone using Rosario’s number to demand a ransom, but Talukder said police believed this was a hoax.
They have not ruled out the possibility he was abducted by Islamist extremists, who have carried out attacks on religious minorities in the region in the past four years.
Pope Francis arrives in Bangladesh Thursday on the first visit to the country by the head of the Catholic Church in 31 years.
The trip will be dominated by the plight of more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled ethnic unrest in Myanmar and taken refuge in Bangladesh.
Christians, who make up less than 0.5 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people, have in recent years faced attacks by Islamist radicals.
Since 2015 at least three Christians, including two converts from Islam, have been hacked to death in attacks blamed on the militant Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
In July last year militants from the same group stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages including 18 foreigners in an attack claimed by the Daesh group.
However, the government has denied the international militants’ involvement and security forces have killed more than 70 alleged militants since the cafe attack.


Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants
Updated 15 January 2021

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants

Britain tightens borders to keep out new COVID-19 variants
  • Johnson is grappling to control a third wave of the virus and prevent the health service from collapse
  • The rule changes come into force at 0400 GMT on Monday

LONDON: Britain is tightening border controls to block new variants of COVID-19, suspending all “travel corridor” arrangements that had meant arrivals from some countries did not require quarantine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is grappling to control a third wave of the virus and prevent the health service from collapse while also racing to vaccinate millions each week.
“What we don’t want to see is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting,” he told a news conference, explaining the end of travel corridors at least until Feb. 15.
The rule changes come into force at 0400 GMT on Monday and mean all passengers must have a recent negative coronavirus test and transfer immediately into isolation upon arrival.
Isolation lasts for 10 days, unless the passenger tests negative after five.
On Thursday, Britain banned arrivals from South America, Portugal and some other countries over fears about a variant detected in Brazil.
Britain’s current lockdowns ban most international travel meaning that airline schedules are currently minimal, but the withdrawal of any quarantine-free travel will be a further blow for an industry already on its knees.
UK-based airline easyJet said there was no immediate impact from Johnson’s announcement, but in a statement added: “We need to ensure that travel corridors are put back in place when it is safe to do so.”
Britain has already felt the effects of mutations in the virus, after a variant first discovered in England has proved to be more transmissible.
Critics say the government has been too slow to act and previously left borders wide open.
Much of the criticism prior to Friday’s announcement has focused on whether rules requiring arriving passengers to quarantine are actually being enforced, with anecdotal evidence that few checks are made.
“We will be stepping up our enforcement, both at the border and in country,” Johnson said.