Alleged Daesh supporter who rapped about Lee Rigby on trial for planning terror attack in UK

Sahayb Abu, 27, on trial at the Old Bailey in London for allegedly planning a terror attack rapped about British soldier Lee Rigby (L) who was murdered in 2013 by two Islamist extremists. (AFP/Shutterstock/File Photos)
Sahayb Abu, 27, on trial at the Old Bailey in London for allegedly planning a terror attack rapped about British soldier Lee Rigby (L) who was murdered in 2013 by two Islamist extremists. (AFP/Shutterstock/File Photos)
Short Url
Updated 10 February 2021

Alleged Daesh supporter who rapped about Lee Rigby on trial for planning terror attack in UK

Sahayb Abu, 27, on trial at the Old Bailey in London for allegedly planning a terror attack rapped about British soldier Lee Rigby (L) who was murdered in 2013 by two Islamist extremists. (AFP/Shutterstock/File Photos)
  • Sahayb Abu, 27, whose two brothers were killed fighting for Daesh in Syria, ordered knives and a bulletproof vest online while allegedly planning an attack

LONDON: A man who allegedly planned a Daesh-style terror attack involving an 18-inch sword and recorded a rap about “sending bombs” has gone on trial in the UK.

The Old Bailey in London heard how Sahayb Abu, 27, ordered a sword-like “Qama” knife, another smaller blade and a bulletproof vest online, while allegedly planning for an attack to be carried out in Britain during the coronavirus pandemic.

The court also heard how Abu, whose two brothers were killed fighting for Daesh in Syria, sent his surviving brothers raps about “eliminating foes” and seeing “many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground.”

British soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in London in 2013 by two Islamist extremists.

Abu is on trial along with one of his brothers, Muhamed Abu, 32, who denies knowing that Sahayb was planning an act of terror and failing to report it to the police.

Jurors in the trial were told how Sahayb discussed targeting a Shiite Muslim cleric in an extremist chat group online and allegedly praised the September 11 attacks, posting in the group: “We need a Sept. 11 2.0,” the Independent reported.

Prosecutor John McGuinness told the court that Sahayb had searched online for Daesh as well as terror attacks in the UK, France and Germany dozens of times, and had written that Islam was about “killing infidels.”

Last June, he also searched for embassy locations, including the US, Russian and Israeli embassies in London, jurors were told.

According to the prosecution, Sahayb made contact with an undercover police officer through an extremist chat group on the Telegram chat app called “Servants of the Unseen,” where he discussed purchasing guns, which were referred to in code as “toys” and “sweets.”

McGuinness added that Sahayb and his brother shared “extremist views and violent mindsets” and that they supported the “beliefs, aims and methods” of Daesh.

Following his arrest, Sahayb denied preparing for an act of terror and supporting Daesh.

He claimed to police he had ordered the knife because “it looked cool” and that he wanted to use it in rap videos known as “drill videos.”

The court also heard how Sahayb told detectives he had joined the extremist chat group to “flirt with girls,” and had been searching for Daesh online to find out what happened to his “martyred” brothers in Syria.

The trial continues.


Libyan coastguard vessel that shot Italian fisherman was gift from Rome

The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
Updated 59 min 22 sec ago

Libyan coastguard vessel that shot Italian fisherman was gift from Rome

The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
  • Italy and Libya signed cooperation deal in 2017 to stem flow of migrants from North Africa
  • Italian navy intervened to escort fishing vessels, which were searching for red prawns, to safety

LONDON: A Libyan coastguard vessel involved in the shooting of a Sicilian fisherman on May 6 was given to Tripoli by Italy to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, it has emerged.

Col. Massoud Abdalsamad of the Libyan coastguard told Italian media that the ship “fired warning shots into the air against vessels which had allegedly trespassed into Libyan waters.” Three Italian fishing boats had entered its territorial waters without permission in search of red prawns.

Giuseppe Giacalone, captain of one of the fishing boats, told Italian news agency ANSA: “It is a miracle we are alive. We were shot at. The cabin of our boat is full of holes.

“It was 2 p.m. on Thursday when it happened. While we were sailing towards the northeast, a Libyan patrol boat caught up with us and started shooting. The shots hit us and the dashboard glass shattered.”

An Italian navy vessel intervened in the skirmish, escorting the fishermen to safety and rescuing one who had been shot in the arm. The Italian navy later confirmed that the ship involved in the shooting, formerly known as the Ubari, was given to Libya in 2018.

READ MORE

The Libyan coast guard on Thursday fired on three Italian fishing boats, injuring the captain of one of the vessels, Italian authorities said. Click here for more.

In 2017 former Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti and the head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez Al-Sarraj had signed a deal in which Italy agreed to train and equip Libyan authorities in an effort to prevent migrants and refugees traveling from North Africa to Europe.

But several agencies have warned many people who attempt to flee Libya face human-rights abuses — and have accused officials of complicity.

In April the Guardian revealed Abdalsamad had been wiretapped by Italian prosecutors investigating people-smuggling operations. In June 2017, he reportedly told Italian coastguard officials who called to ask for his help to rescue a group of migrants in distress: “It’s a day off. It’s a holiday here. But I can try to help. Perhaps, we can be there tomorrow.”

The International Organization for Migration said 126 people died in the waters of the Mediterranean that weekend.

And on April 22 this year, the Ubari allegedly ignored a distress call from a vessel before 130 asylum seekers died.

Skirmishes between Libyan authorities and Italian fishermen searching for prized red prawns have been common since the 1990s. They intensified after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi unilaterally extended the boundary of his country’s territorial waters from 12 to 74 miles offshore in 2005.

According to the Distretto della Pesca fishing cooperative, more than 60 Italian boats have been seized or confiscated by Libya in the past 25 years, with at least 40 people detained and several injured.

In September 2020, two Sicilian fishing boats, the Antartide and the Medinea, were intercepted and escorted to Benghazi. The 18 crew members, including eight Italians, six Tunisians, two Indonesians and two Senegalese, were held for more 100 days, causing a major diplomatic incident.


Manila allows emergency entry to Filipino seafarers on virus-hit ship

Manila allows emergency entry to Filipino seafarers on virus-hit ship
This file photo taken on April 27, 2021 shows Philippine coastguard personnel aboard their ship BRP Cabra monitoring Chinese vessels (R) at Sabina Shoal west of the Philippine island of Palawan. (AFP)
Updated 07 May 2021

Manila allows emergency entry to Filipino seafarers on virus-hit ship

Manila allows emergency entry to Filipino seafarers on virus-hit ship
  • Half of Philippine crew on board Panamanian-flagged ship test COVID-19 positive after 2-day stop in India
  • Philippine authorities allow transfer of 2 critically ill crew members to hospital despite country’s travel ban

MANILA: Philippine authorities are providing emergency assistance to 12 members of an all-Filipino-crewed container ship who tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after making a two-day port stop in India.

According to a report by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Panamanian-flagged MV Athens Bridge departed from India on April 22 and arrived in Haiphong, Vietnam on May 1 where the ship’s crew took a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.

The results showed that of the 21 crewmen, 12 were positive for the virus prompting Vietnamese authorities to refuse them entry.

The ship then sailed to Manila to seek refuge despite an existing travel ban being in place in the Philippines. After arriving in the capital on Thursday, two of the seafarers were evacuated to a hospital, both in a critical condition.

The rest of the crew have remained onboard the vessel off Sangley Point in Cavite but will be moved to a quarantine facility.

The exception was granted to the MV Athens Bridge by the country’s Department of Health after an emergency meeting with the Bureau of Quarantine, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Department of Transportation.

Filipino Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said: “Considering the growing concern of this recent variant first detected in India, we were made aware that the vessel had travel history to the country.

“But in deciding our action steps, our guiding principle was that those were our hardworking countrymen aboard and we would never leave any Filipino behind.”

He pointed out that the rescue operation had been carried out in accordance with strict health protocols on handling COVID-19 cases.

“We recognize the risk that this act of compassion brings, but we assure Filipinos that we complied with the protocols in handling COVID-19 patients and have coordinated with other government agencies to deliver urgent assistance to our countrymen. We also thank everyone who assisted the crew of MV Athens Bridge,” Duque added.


In Pakistan’s largest date producing region, Middle Eastern varieties bear fruit

In Pakistan’s largest date producing region, Middle Eastern varieties bear fruit
Updated 07 May 2021

In Pakistan’s largest date producing region, Middle Eastern varieties bear fruit

In Pakistan’s largest date producing region, Middle Eastern varieties bear fruit
  • Experiment conducted by a 70-year-old date grower in Khairpur shows Arabian varieties of dates offer better yield
  • Growing Arabian dates could help farmers harvest their crops before seasonal monsoon rains destroy them

KHAIRPUR: Five years ago, 70-year-old Ghulam Qasim Jiskani, a farmer in Khairpur, Pakistan’s largest date-producing region, experimented with Middle Eastern varieties of the fruit to see if he could increase his yield.

Today, he is spearheading a successful campaign to produce Arabian dates at home.

Pakistan is one of the top date producers and exporters in the world, with annual date production of more than 535,000 tons, according to data from the Trade Development Authority.

The main region for date cultivation is Khairpur district in southern Sindh province, Jiskani’s hometown.

On his farmland in Kot Diji village, Jiskani has planted date palm varieties that are grown in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Morocco.

“It can be a game-changer for the area’s date production and export,” Jiskani told Arab News last week, saying by planting foreign varieties of the fruit, Pakistani farmers could earn up to 15 times more from their harvest.

“I brought 400 tissues of 15 date palm varieties from Dubai five years ago,” he said.

“These trees are now laden with fruit and I plan to market the yield in July when they are ready for harvest. My experiment has been successful.”

Jiskani’s plantation covers two acres of land, but as his Arabian varieties of dates have grown so well on the land, he now plans to dedicate three more acres to the fruit and hopes other growers will follow suit.

Jiskani believes that with the Arabian varieties, local growers would be able not only to tap into domestic demand but also boost Pakistan’s date exports.

“Pakistani date farmers also have a good chance to penetrate the international market with their yield,” he said.

“With that in mind, we are striving to replace local varieties with foreign ones.”

Local farmers have already developed interest in growing the foreign varieties.

“After Jiskani’s experiment, a significant number of Khairpur’s date farmers want the government to facilitate the procurement of foreign palm tissues at feasible rates,” Mushtaq Soomro, a senior official at the Sindh Agriculture Extension Department, told Arab News.

“If they start cultivating today, 40 percent of the region’s date cultivation will transform, and we will see the exotic varieties of the fruit covering much of this land.”

One of the reasons for the growing interest was climate.

“Monsoon in Pakistan arrives in June and persists for a few months,” Soomro said.

“This is also the harvesting season for locally produced dates. Rainfall on the ready-to-rip crops is destructive, however. To get away from possible losses, growers opt for dried dates, though they are comparatively less lucrative for them. By growing the Middle Eastern varieties, though, date famers are hoping for a more exotic early monsoon crop.”

One problem with dried dates from Kahirpur is that their main export destination is India.

“For the past four years or so, however, direct trade of dried dates between India and Pakistan is on a halt, which has resulted in significant losses for local farmers,” Jiskani said. He added that another advantage of the Arabian dates was their longer shelf life and the fact that with higher fiber component they were also healthier.

Rustam Phulpoto, a representative of Khairpur’s KHajjoor Market, said by sticking to its native date types, Pakistan was not focusing on the value addition that the foreign varieties bring.

“This lack of value addition not only makes us import more but also limits our exports as well,” he told Arab News.

Under the Sindh administration’s Agriculture Growth Project 2015-2020, the government was required to import 3,000 exotic date tissues and provide them to local farmers at 70 percent subsidized rates. But that did not happen.

Jiskani, who was the focal person for the project from the growers’ side, thinks the failure was due to internal departmental rifts.

“The government should establish a laboratory for plant tissue culture or facilitate the initiative through public-private partnership,” he said.

“The growers are interested in this, but they lack the required investment.”


Myanmar shadow government’s militia gains popular support to fight military junta

Myanmar shadow government’s militia gains popular support to fight military junta
This handout photo taken on May 7, 2021 shows protesters holding up signs supporting the "People's Defence Force" during a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei. (AFP)
Updated 07 May 2021

Myanmar shadow government’s militia gains popular support to fight military junta

Myanmar shadow government’s militia gains popular support to fight military junta
  • People’s Defense Force is precursor to planned Federal Union Army aimed at bringing together armed anti-junta groups
  • Self-defense groups set up across country in wake of attacks, arrests, night raids by military

YANGON: A newly formed armed militia under Myanmar’s shadow government is gaining the support of community self-defense groups and ethnic armies against the military junta that seized control of the country more than three months ago.

Since the coup on Feb. 1, the junta has killed at least 772 civilians during nationwide protests against the army takeover and violence.

The National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government of former lawmakers of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) who were ousted by the junta, announced on Wednesday the formation of the People’s Defense Force (PDF), a precursor to the planned Federal Union Army that would bring together all groups involved in armed resistance.

The move has already been welcomed by community self-defense groups which have emerged throughout the country in the wake of constant attacks, arrests, and night raids by the military.

Zayar Win, from one of the self-defense groups in Yangon, told Arab News that in Myanmar’s largest city alone, there would be many hundreds or even thousands of people ready to take up arms.

“They are linked with each other but require leadership. With PDF leadership, I think a strong force would quickly emerge. As long as the regime is in power, there will be endless suffering of people. So, taking the military dictatorship to an end is the first priority,” he said.

Working as a construction engineer in Yangon, he used to operate a philanthropic organization that helped vulnerable groups when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hit the country. In April, the organization stopped its charity work and focused on supporting and fundraising for the anti-junta resistance, including those that produced explosives to attack the military.

“Sadly, we have postponed helping poor people, and shifted our focus to supporting those who are fighting the military,” he added.

Many of the civilians engaged in self-defense groups have been trained by militants from the country’s ethnic groups which also oppose the junta regime.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for the greater autonomy of the eastern Karen State that borders Thailand, and the Kachin Independence Army in the northern Kachin State and northeastern Shan State that border China, have been active supporters of anti-junta resistance.

The KNU provides military training and shelter to hundreds of dissidents and protesters who have fled army persecution.

“There are many hundreds of people receiving combat training here,” a spokesperson for the KNU’s Brigade 5 told Arab News on Thursday. “There were also many people who finished training here and returned to their places of origin waiting for this moment. The PDF would be growing very fast.”

While ethnic groups support the formation of the PDF, it is not yet clear if all of them would be willing to fight under one banner, as although opposed to the current regime, ethnic minorities do not entirely trust the shadow government whose members had alienated them when they were in power.

The KNU, however, might be willing to join the fight against the common enemy, the Tatmadaw — the armed forces of Myanmar. Since late March, the group has killed more than 200 government troops in a series of clashes.

The spokesperson said: “I personally view the PDF as the armed group representing the country’s majority Bamar ethnic people. And I personally see no hurdle in unifying the armed groups of different ethnic people to fight against our common enemy, the Tatmadaw.”

But KNU secretary-general, Saw Kwe Htoo Win, on Friday told Arab News: “There are still many issues we have to make clear before making the decision.”

In one ethnic state the decision has already been taken.

Members of the Chinland Defense Force (CDF), who with home-made rifles recently killed dozens of military personnel in the mountainous Chin State bordering India, said they would join the PDF.

“We welcome the formation of the PDF, and we would cooperate with them in fighting against the regime’s forces,” a CDF spokesman told Arab News.

He said that they would also engage with the Federal Union Army when it was formed.

“We, Chin people, just want a peaceful life. Once the revolution is over, we will return to our farmland,” he added.


New Delhi’s Sikh community opens oxygen station for COVID-19 patients

New Delhi’s Sikh community opens oxygen station for COVID-19 patients
Patients are seen at an 'oxygen langar' run by the Sikh community at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Indrapuram, New Delhi. (AN photo)
Updated 07 May 2021

New Delhi’s Sikh community opens oxygen station for COVID-19 patients

New Delhi’s Sikh community opens oxygen station for COVID-19 patients
  • At least 700 people being cared for daily

NEW DELHI: New Delhi’s Sikh community has opened an oxygen station at its temple, saving thousands of lives, as hospitals in the capital continue to be overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.

Recent weeks have seen the city’s hospitals unable to help people due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies.

Since late April, India has been reporting the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases.

It surpassed 414,000 new cases and 4,000 virus-related deaths on Friday. New Delhi is among the cities worst hit by the disease and has reported nearly 20,000 new cases and 400 COVID-19 deaths — many due to a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supplies.

The oxygen station has been set up at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in the suburban town of Indirapuram. It is based on the concept of langars, or free community kitchens, where Sikhs serve meals to all those in need, regardless of their religion or caste.

The lifesaving initiative started in the third week of April, helping 40 people every day. It has since expanded with 100 volunteers now caring for at least 700 patients daily.

“It all started when my father, a businessman with good contacts with local industries, started getting calls for help and oxygen support when the COVID-19 cases started escalating in the second week of April,” Gurpreet Singh Rummy, president of the gurdwara committee and founding member of Khalsa Help, told Arab News on Friday. “Initially we supported some individuals but later decided to mobilize all our resources and set up an ‘oxygen langar’ to help.”

The langar has already helped 12,000 people, he said.

Ravindra Ahuja, a 62 year-old-resident from the Ghaziabad neighborhood, was brought to the langar on Thursday night when his oxygen levels plummeted to 80. His family tried to admit him to a hospital, but no beds were available.

“We came here in despair when we did not see any hope in any hospital,” Ahuja’s brother Ravi told Arab News. “The langar was sent by God and it is really helping people like us.”

But Ahuja’s condition started to deteriorate, even as his family’s struggle was being recounted.

Dr. Gaurav Srivastva, one of the langar’s volunteers, asked the family to immediately find a hospital with a ventilator as the gurdwara’s facility did not have the specialist equipment to help.

“The problem is that we cannot do anything here except giving oxygen. I feel 70 percent of his lungs are damaged,” the doctor told Arab News. “What is happening is that the patients who could have been saved with timely medical intervention are dying because of the lack of medical support. Some patients move around different hospitals of Delhi from morning to evening looking for a bed and finally come here. Imagine a patient who travels the whole day in a tuk-tuk looking for a hospital and finally comes here. How can we save such a person?”

Health authorities warned the coronavirus situation was worsening across the country and that India’s medical infrastructure was unable to cope.

“The situation is worrisome, and the cases are increasing day by day. We are trying to improve the situation,” Dr. Rajni Kant, spokesperson for the Indian Council of Medical Research, told Arab News. “The sudden surge in cases has taken us by surprise, creating more pressures on an already inadequate medical infrastructure.”

Dr. Adarsh Pratap Singh, from the All India Institute of Medical Science, described the situation as “very alarming.”

“Data about the death and infection (rates) are not the real figure actually. The figure is much higher than what is shown,” he said. “We might be heading toward an unimaginable crisis. What the government should now do is to create field hospitals on a war footing to take care of the patients.”