Philippines sends two naval ships to evacuate citizens in Middle East

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, talks with security officials at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila. (AP Photo)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Philippines sends two naval ships to evacuate citizens in Middle East

  • President says naval mission is ‘sacred’
  • Regional tensions high since top Iranian general killed

MANILA: Two Philippine Navy vessels set sail for the Middle East on Tuesday to evacuate overseas Filipino workers amid rising tensions in the region.

President Rodrigo Duterte sent off at Manila's South Harbor the BRP Davao Del Sur and the Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz to assist in the repatriation of  OFWs.
He said it was “a sacred mission” to safeguard the lives of Filipinos in the Middle East. “That is not a joke. It runs into millions, men, women, and their families, and their children,” he said.

The vessels have 130 crew members each, with an additional 100 medical, repair and SEAL personnel to support them.

Tensions have been high in the Middle East since a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US airstrike. Iran retaliated by launching missiles at an air base in Iraq used by US forces.

Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said the journey to the Middle East would take between 16 and 22 days. Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia this week to personally assist in the evacuation effort.

The Department of National Defense said that requests for repatriation in Iraq, Libya and other countries in the region had been received by Philippine embassies and consulates, and that exit clearance documents had been processed.

The government’s repatriation team in Doha consists of diplomats who are exploring all possible routes by commercial airlines from Baghdad and Irbil in Iraq to Doha, and then on to Manila.


Bangladesh sentences 10 to death for 2001 political bombings

Updated 20 January 2020

Bangladesh sentences 10 to death for 2001 political bombings

  • Six of the defendants sentenced to death have absconded
  • inHarkat-ul Jihad al-Islami’s former chief Mufti Abdul Hannan was executed in 2017

DHAKA: A court in Bangladesh on Monday sentenced 10 members of a banned militant group to death for a bomb attack on a Communist Party rally in 2001.
Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Court’s Judge Mohammed Rabiul Alam made the order in a crowded courtroom while four of the defendants were in the dock. Six of the defendants sentenced to death have absconded. The court acquitted two others who fled. All of them belong to the banned group Harkat-ul Jihad Al-Islami.
The group considers the Communist Party an anti-Islamic force. On Jan. 20, 2001, bomb attacks on a party rally in Dhaka killed five people and wounded 50 others.
Alam said investigators found Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami’s former chief Mufti Abdul Hannan responsible for the party attack but his name was dropped from the case because he was executed in 2017. He was hanged for a separate case involving a grenade attack on a British high commissioner in Bangladesh.