Fugitive ex-militant Battisti arrives in Italy from Bolivia

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Fugitive Cesare Battisti, center, wanted in Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s, is escorted by Italian officers as he steps off a plane coming from Bolivia. (AFP)
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Italian militant Cesare Battisti sits aboard a chartered plane prior to take off from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. (Polizia Di Stato/AFP)
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The plane carrying Italian militant Cesare Battisti sits on the tarmac in Santa Cruz, Bolivia prior to departure for Rome in Italy. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2019

Fugitive ex-militant Battisti arrives in Italy from Bolivia

  • Italy had repeatedly sought the extradition of the activist, who lived in Brazil for years
  • The 64-year-old smiled grimly as he was escorted off the plane by a dozen policemen

ROME: Former communist militant Cesare Battisti, wanted in Italy for four murders in the 1970s, arrived in Rome Monday after an international police squad tracked him down and arrested him in Bolivia.

An Italian-flagged Falcon 900 plane carrying Battisti, who spent nearly four decades on the run, touched down under rainy skies at Ciampino airport, where far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was waiting to escort him to prison.

The 64-year-old, who was not wearing handcuffs, smiled grimly as he was escorted off the plane by a dozen policemen.

He was expected to be taken Rome’s Rebibbia jail, where according to media reports he will begin life behind bars with six months solitary confinement.

Jailed in 1979 for belonging to an armed revolutionary group outlawed in Italy, Battisti escaped from prison two years later, and has spent nearly four decades on the run.

He was seized late Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in an operation carried out by a joint team of Italian and Bolivian officers.

The ex-militant was given a life sentence for having killed two Italian policemen, taking part in the murder of a butcher and helping plan the slaying of a jeweler who died in a shootout that left his teenage son in a wheelchair.


India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago

India sends 36 ministers to restive Kashmir on charm offensive

  • Ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley
  • The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors

NEW DELHI: India has dispatched dozens of ministers to its portion of the Kashmir region to promote government projects and development following months of unrest in the area.

Last August New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, imposing a security crackdown and a communications blackout. It is India’s only Muslim-majority state and scrapping its semi-independence was the central government’s bid to integrate it fully with India and rein in militancy.

Prepaid mobile and Internet services have been restored although most of the valley remains without the Internet. Landline and post-paid mobile services were restored last month. 

The 36 ministers are on a five-day outreach mission to connect with people in the valley, with media reports saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the delegation “to spread the message of development among the people, not only in the urban areas but also in the villages of the valley.”

He was also reported as asking them to tell people about central government schemes that will have grassroot benefits.

The ministers’ visit follows a New Delhi-sponsored trip of 15 foreign ambassadors to the region.

Jammu-based ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo said the ministerial trip tied in with New Delhi’s development agenda.

“The ministers will interact with local-level representatives and stakeholders, and discuss the plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “Kashmir cannot go back to the old ways. There are no political issues that remain here, all have been sorted out by parliament by abolishing Article 370, division of the state and neutralization of separatist elements.”

But India’s opposition Congress party said the visit was an attempt to “mislead and misguide” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is a third attempt to mislead and misguide the people of the world, Jammu and Kashmir and India. They are coming here for a third time to tell lies,” Congress leader and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Ghulam, Nabi Azad, said.

Dr. Radha Kumar, from the Delhi Policy Group, said that a development agenda would not work without addressing the political issue.

“With all the unilateral decisions to abrogate the special status of the state, arresting all the mainstream leaders and putting the state in a lockdown, how are the government’s actions so far going to establish credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir?” Kumar told Arab News. “I think this visit is more for international consumption than anything else.”

Dr. Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri intellectual and academic, called the visit a “clear sign” that New Delhi had no idea what to do.

“No matter how many ministers you send to Jammu and Kashmir it’s not going to alter the ground situation, it’s not going to address the issue of alienation,” he told Arab News. “What issues will they talk about with people? The government lost the people’s trust long ago.”

The Himalayan region has experienced turmoil and violence for decades. It is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, which have gone to war twice over it, and both rule parts of it. India’s portion has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s.

Jammu-based Zafar Choudhary, a senior journalist and editor of The Dispatch newspaper, said Modi’s government was full of surprises. “There have never been so many surprises in Jammu and Kashmir as have come in the last two years,” he told Arab News. “There is no instance in the past when so many central ministers have visited a state in one go.”

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