UK government slammed over coronavirus inquiry

The UK government has come under fire for appointing Trevor Phillips (L) to an inquiry examining why ethnic minorities in the country are being disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 April 2020

UK government slammed over coronavirus inquiry

  • Phillips, former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, has been criticized for past remarks about British Muslims

LONDON: The UK government has come under fire for appointing Trevor Phillips to an inquiry examining why ethnic minorities in the country are being disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.
Phillips, former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, has been criticized for past remarks about British Muslims, whom he described as a “nation within a nation.”
On another occasion, he suggested that a Christian child being placed into Muslim foster care was “like child abuse.”
Sixteen black and minority ethnic (BAME) medical organizations wrote to Public Health England (PHE) and Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging them to “withdraw the participation of Mr.Phillips” in the inquiry.
Phillips’ appointment comes amid reports that 25 out of 26 UK doctors and two-thirds of overall National Health Service staff who have died from COVID-19 have been from BAME backgrounds.
Harun Khan, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said the appointment of Phillips “sends a clear signal to British Muslims that Public Health England is not taking this matter seriously.” The MCB said the appointment is “insensitive” and “wholly inappropriate.”
But Prof. Kevin Fenton, PHE’s regional director in London, said Phillips and Prof. Richard Webber “have been asked to support this critical work as their specialist consultancy has the right skills and experience.”


US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

Updated 18 September 2020

US accuses Hezbollah of storing explosive chemical in Europe

  • Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives
  • It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in Beirut

WASHINGTON: Militant group Hezbollah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, a senior State Department official said Thursday as he appealed to countries in Europe and elsewhere to impose bans on the organization.
Hezbollah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe, said Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used as a fertilizer, but it can be used to make explosives. It can also be dangerous in storage, as demonstrated by the huge explosion last month in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Sales, without offering evidence, said the U.S. believes that Iran-backed Hezbollah has since 2012 transported ammonium nitrate around Europe in first aid kits with cold packs that contain the compound. The United States believes these supplies are still in place throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy and Spain.
“Why would Hezbollah stockpile ammonium nitrate on European soil?" he said. “The answer is clear: Hezbollah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary."
Sales made the remarks in an online forum hosted by the American Jewish Committee, which has called upon more countries to ban Hezbollah and its operations.
The US has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997, but some countries distinguish between the organization's military wing and the political wing.
The EU lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years. Some individual countries, including Germany and the UK, have outlawed the group in its entirety. Sales called on more countries to do the same.
Hezbollah is a “unitary organization that cannot be subdivided into a military and so-called political wing," he said. Without a full ban, the group can still raise money and recruit operatives. “Hezbollah is one organization," he said. "It is a terrorist organization.”