Burkina Faso in mourning after double extremist attacks

Burkina Faso in mourning after double extremist attacks
Burkina Faso police officers in Ouahigouya. (File: AFP)
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Updated 26 December 2019

Burkina Faso in mourning after double extremist attacks

Burkina Faso in mourning after double extremist attacks
  • Burkina Faso has seen regular extremist attacks which have left hundreds dead since the start of 2015
  • There was worldwide condemnation of the attack, as well as expressions of support for Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso was in mourning Wednesday after militants killed 35 civilians, almost all of them women, in double attacks in the north in one of the deadliest assaults in nearly five years of violence in the West African country.
Seven soldiers and 80 militants also died in Tuesday’s simultaneous attacks on the town of Arbinda and its military base in Soum province, which lasted “several hours” and was of a “rare intensity,” the army said.
Burkina Faso, bordering Mali and Niger, has seen regular extremist attacks which have left hundreds dead since the start of 2015 when militant violence began to spread across the Sahel region.
“A large group of terrorists simultaneously attacked the military base and the civilian population in Arbinda,” the army chief of staff said in a statement.
“This barbaric attack resulted in the deaths of 35 civilian victims, most of them women,” President Roch Marc Christian Kabore added on Twitter, praising the “bravery and commitment” of the defense and security forces.
Government spokesman Remis Dandjinou later said 31 of the civilian victims were women, adding around 20 soldiers and six civilians were wounded.
The president has declared 48 hours of national mourning.
There was worldwide condemnation of the attack, as well as expressions of support for Burkina Faso.
In his traditional Christmas message at the Vatican in Rome, Pope Francis denounced attacks on Christians in Africa and prayed for victims of conflict, natural disasters and disease on the world’s poorest continent.
The pontiff urged “comfort to those who are persecuted for their religious faith, especially missionaries and members of the faithful who have been kidnapped, and to the victims of attacks by extremist groups, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.”
In Brussels, the head of the European Council Charles Michel tweeted: “Inates in Niger yesterday, Arbinda in Burkina Faso today... Martyr towns, victims of a rampant terrorism that threatens us all. The European Union stands by Africa in its battle against terrorism.”
Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou also expressed his “solidarity” and, speaking “in the name of the Nigerien people” offered his “condolences for all civilian and military victims.”
The morning raid was carried out by dozens of jihadists on motorbikes and lasted several hours before armed forces backed by the air force drove the militants back, the army said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but jihadist violence in Burkina Faso has been blamed on militants linked to both Al Qaeda and Daesh groups.
Leaders of the G5 Sahel nations held summit talks in Niger earlier this month, calling for closer cooperation and international support in the battle against the Islamist threat.
Militant violence has spread across the vast Sahel region, especially in Burkina Faso and Niger, having started when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012.
The Sahel region of Africa lies to the south of the Sahara Desert and stretches across the breadth of the African continent.
There are 4,500 French troops deployed in the region as well as a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali to fight insurgents.
The G5 group is made up of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, whose impoverished armies have the support of French forces as well as the UN in Mali.
In Burkina Faso, more than 700 people have been killed and around 560,000 internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
Attacks have targeted mostly the north and east of the country, though the capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times.
Prior to Tuesday’s attack, Burkina security forces said they had killed around a hundred jihadists in several operations since November.
An ambush on a convoy transporting employees of a Canadian mining company in November killed 37 people.
Attacks have intensified this year as the under-equipped, poorly trained Burkina Faso army struggles to contain the Islamist militancy.
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Pakistan restores social media access after suspension on ‘security grounds’

Pakistan restores social media access after suspension on ‘security grounds’
Updated 12 sec ago

Pakistan restores social media access after suspension on ‘security grounds’

Pakistan restores social media access after suspension on ‘security grounds’
  • Interior minister apologizes for the suspension which was part of a crackdown against a religious political party that held violent nationwide protests this week
  • Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department says it has initiated action against individuals who ‘used social media to incite violence’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has restored access to multiple social media apps which it temporarily blocked on security grounds on Friday, the country’s telecommunications authority said.

The suspension of social media services was part of a crackdown against a religious political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), that held violent nationwide protests this week.

Pakistani internet users had difficulty accessing apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter starting on Friday morning.

“Access to social media applications have been restored,” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has since apologized for the suspension of social media services.

“I as interior minister apologize that we blocked social media for three hours,” he said in a video statement.

“They (TLP) were planning to come out on the streets after Friday prayer. We will not do this in the future. They did not come out. It was all peaceful. Today those who wanted to spread chaos, anarchy and terrorism in the country through social media have been defeated.”

The internet blockade came as Pakistan said this week it would outlaw the TLP after the arrest of its leader, Saad Rizvi, on Monday sparked major nationwide protests.

“We have banned them (TLP), will go for their dissolution, freeze their bank accounts, cancel their passports, block their identity cards and will not allow terrorism in the country at any cost,” Ahmed said.

Rizvi and his supporters are calling on the government to expel the French ambassador over cartoons published in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Anti-French sentiment has been building for months in Pakistan since French President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for Charlie Hebdo’s right to republish the cartoons, deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

On Thursday, the French embassy in Pakistan advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country amid the violent anti-France protests.

Meanwhile, the country’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said it had “initiated action against individuals who used social media to incite violence, spread hate and glorified the assaults on law enforcement personnel.”

According to the CTD statement: “A list of TLP-related social media accounts have been identified and a complaint lodged with the Federal Investigation Agency cybercrime wing.”

Earlier in the day, PTA spokesperson Khurram Mehran told Arab News that the suspension of social media apps was “in order to maintain public order and safety.”

Internet, cable TV and phone service provider Nayatel, based in Islamabad, sent text messages to users saying: “On directions by PTA, below mentioned social media platforms have been blocked. Twitter. Facebook. WhatsApp. YouTube. TikTok. Telegram. Inconvenience is regretted.”

Usama Khilji, a director at the digital advocacy group Bolo Bhi, said the suspension was “against the constitution to suspend people’s access to information by blocking social media just because of a group and in the name of law and order.

“Also, this is not a wise security strategy to suspend the internet because this will not send protesters home. Instead, it will project a bad image of our country abroad,” he told Arab News.

Nighat Dad of the Digital Rights Foundation said: “What kind of national emergency are we dealing with that the government had to temporarily ban social media? These arbitrary decisions of blocking and banning have never done any good except opening up ways to blanket bans.”


Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government
Updated 16 April 2021

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government

Myanmar’s ousted MPs form new shadow government
  • Helming the so-called ‘National Unity Government’ is Aung San Suu Kyi, in her position as State Counsellor, and President Win Myint — who is also under house arrest
  • The junta has said anyone working with the CRPH is committing ‘high treason,’ and have announced arrest warrants for hundreds of prominent activists and politicians

YANGON: A “parliament” working in hiding to oust Myanmar’s junta from power announced a new shadow government Friday, with deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi at its helm alongside ethnic minority politicians.
The country has been in turmoil since the military detained Suu Kyi and seized power, triggering a massive uprising that the junta has sought to quell with lethal force.
Besides demanding for democracy’s return, protesters are also increasingly calling for more of a governing role for the country’s minority groups — which have long seen their voices marginalized by the ethnic Bamar majority.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — a group of lawmakers mostly from Suu Kyi’s party attempting to govern underground via a shadow parliament — on Friday announced its leaders.
Helming the so-called “National Unity Government” is Suu Kyi, in her position as State Counsellor, and President Win Myint — who is also under house arrest and facing a barrage of charges from the junta.
They are flanked by a vice president who is ethnic Kachin and a prime minister who is ethnic Karen, said Min Ko Naing, a prominent democracy leader, in an address on the CRPH’s official Facebook page.
“We have organized a government which has the largest number of ethnic minority groups,” he said.
A list of appointed ministers also included prominent leaders from the Chin, Shanni, Mon, Karenni and Ta’ang ethnic groups.
The politicians were chosen based on results from the 2020 election, input from a nationwide anti-coup protest movement, and ethnic minority groups — including armed rebels in the country’s border territories, said Min Ko Naing.
“We have to pull it from the root... we must try to eradicate it,” he said, as he raised the three-finger salute — the symbol of resistance
“Only the people can decide the future.”
The junta has said anyone working with the CRPH is committing “high treason,” and have announced arrest warrants for hundreds of prominent activists and politicians — some of whom now hold positions in the new “National Unity Government.”
Myanmar has more than 130 official ethnic minority groups.
But the country’s political fate has long been tightly held by the Bamar majority — first under a nearly five-decade junta regime which forced a so-called “Bamarization” on minorities; and then under Suu Kyi’s administration.
Since the coup, more than 720 people have been killed in anti-coup unrest, according to the local monitoring group.


Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up
Updated 16 April 2021

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up

Pakistan appoints new finance minister in latest cabinet shake-up
  • Hammad Azhar, who was made finance minister less than a month ago, has now been replaced by Shaukat Tarin
  • Pakistan is currently working on national budget and on implementing economic reforms suggested by the IMF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed a new finance minister on Friday, replacing Hammad Azhar, who received the portfolio less than a month ago.

Shaukat Tarin, the new appointee, is a banker who also served at the same position from 2009 to 2010 under the Pakistan Peoples Party administration of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The news was announced by the newly appointed information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain who shared the notification of the recent cabinet reshuffle in a Twitter post:

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has made changes in the cabinet, the details of these changes are attached.”

 

 

Azhar will now look after the Energy Ministry. He was given the additional portfolio of finance and revenue after Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was recently asked to step down last month over what the government described as rising inflation.

The change to the finance ministry comes at a time when the government is working on the annual budget which is likely to be presented in June. Pakistan's economic managers are also implementing structural reforms suggested by the International Monetary Fund to the country's economy.

Apart from the two cabinet changes, the prime minister also took the Economic Affairs Ministry from Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar and gave him the Ministry of Industries and Production.

Omar Ayub, who was previously supervising the Power and Petroleum Divisions, has now been tasked to take care of the Economic Affairs Ministry.

Senator Shibli Faraz has also been assigned the Ministry of Science and Technology which fell vacant when Chaudhry Fawad Hussain was appointed as federal minister for information and broadcasting.

“As info minister my task is to change misperceptions about Pak[istan] and highlight the vibrant effort of the Government,” Hussain wrote on Twitter.

 

 


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally
Updated 16 April 2021

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally
  • Jimmy Lai currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was jailed for 12 months on Friday over one of the city’s biggest ever protests in 2019.
It is the first time the 73-year-old – who is currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law – has received a sentence for his activism.


Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis
Updated 16 April 2021

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis
  • The shooter wasn’t immediately identified
  • At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures
INDIANAPOLIS: Eight people were shot and killed in a late-night shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, and the shooter has killed himself, police said.
Multiple other people were injured Thursday night when gunfire erupted at the facility near the Indianapolis International Airport, police spokesperson Genae Cook said.
At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures. Another two people were treated and released at the scene, Cook said.
The shooter wasn’t immediately identified, and Cook said investigators were still in the process of conducting interviews and gathering information.
Police were called to reports of gunfire just after 11 p.m. and officers observed an active shooting scene, Cook said. The gunman later killed himself.
FedEx released a statement saying it is cooperating with authorities and working to get more information.
“We are aware of the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport. Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected,” the statement said.
Family members gathered at a local hotel to await word on loved ones. Some said employees aren’t allowed to have their phones with them while working shifts at the facility, making it difficult to contact them, WTHR-TV reported.
Live video from news outlets at the scene showed crime scene tape in the parking lot outside the facility.
A witness who said he works at the facility told WISH-TV that he saw a man with a gun after hearing several gunshots.
“I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Jeremiah Miller said.
Another man told WTTV that his niece was sitting in her car in the driver’s seat when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded.
“She got shot on her left arm,” said Parminder Singh. “She’s fine, she’s in the hospital now.”
He said his niece did not know the shooter.