Lebanese scouts group investigated over Hezbollah link

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Updated 17 February 2020

Lebanese scouts group investigated over Hezbollah link

  • The Lebanese scouts have provided “honor guards” for the funerals of known Hezbollah terrorists, while photos show scouts posing with armed fighters

LONDON: Famous for their fleur-de-lis symbol, nonpolitical education and focus on outdoor adventure, scouting groups have been established all over the world.
But Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper has reported that the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is investigating a Lebanese scouting outfit for alleged links with terror group Hezbollah.
The Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts, which has 45,000 young male and female members, stands accused of training young Lebanese to become terrorists.
The Lebanese group has adopted the world-famous fleur-de-lis symbol, which was introduced by Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant general in the British Army in the early 20th century. The young scouts also wear the movement’s traditional scarves and uniforms.
But they differ from other scouting organizations by being the youth wing of Hezbollah, which has carried out terror attacks throughout the Middle East.
Hezbollah was last year proscribed “in its entirety” by the British government, having previously only faced legal sanctions for its military wing.
An investigation by the Mail on Sunday appears to show that young recruits to the Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts are indoctrinated from the age of four to become fighters for Hezbollah, which receives Iranian financial and military backing. Iran has been banned from World Scouting since 1999.
The Lebanese scouts have provided “honor guards” for the funerals of known Hezbollah terrorists, while photos show scouts posing with armed fighters.
Despite the strictly nonpolitical nature of the scouting world, some of the photographed youngsters are seen wearing military uniforms.
Despite the revelations, the Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts remain an official member of the Lebanese Scouting Federation and the WOSM.
Membership of the group is limited to Shiite Muslims in Hezbollah’s heartlands in southern Lebanon, Beirut and the Beqaa Valley.
On Saturday, the WOSM said it had launched an investigation into the group. Spokesman David Venn said: “WOSM disapproves of any practices that misuse the Scout program to involve children and youth in political recruitment or in using the Scout program for affiliation with any political party.”


Turkey plans to resume flights with 40 countries in June

Updated 22 min 44 sec ago

Turkey plans to resume flights with 40 countries in June

  • Turkey largely sealed off its borders as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak
  • Domestic flights resumed on Monday to some provinces

ANKARA: Turkey plans to resume flights with around 40 countries in June and has reached preliminary agreements for reciprocal air travel with 15 countries, Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said on Thursday.
Turkey largely sealed off its borders as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Domestic flights resumed on Monday to some provinces as Ankara eased restrictions after a significant drop in infection rates.
Karaismailoglu said flights would resume in five stages in June, adding Turkey was in talks with 92 countries on resuming flights in a safe manner.
“We believe that we have left behind an important point in the battle against the virus globally. Now, we have to continue our global ties and trade,” he said in a written statement.
Flights to Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece will resume on June 10, he said. Flights to 17 destinations, including Germany, Austria, Croatia, and Singapore will restart on June 15. Flights to a further 16 countries will begin on June 20, 22 and 25, including to South Korea, Qatar, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium, he added.
The 15 countries with which Ankara has reached a preliminary agreement to resume reciprocal flights include Italy, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Albania, Belarus, Jordan and Morocco.
Germany said on Wednesday it was talking to Ankara about reviewing travel restrictions but was awaiting a recommendation from the European Union.
The virus has killed 4,609 people in Turkey, with more than 165,000 infections so far.