Myanmar junta kills more protesters, adds Suu Kyi accusation

Myanmar junta kills more protesters, adds Suu Kyi accusation
An anti-coup protester uses a fire extinguisher behind a line of women's clothing hanged across a road to deter security personnel from entering the protest area in Yangon, Myanmar on March 9, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 12 March 2021

Myanmar junta kills more protesters, adds Suu Kyi accusation

Myanmar junta kills more protesters, adds Suu Kyi accusation
  • Military alleges that Aung San Suu Kyi illegally received $600,000 and gold bars from political ally in 2017-18
  • A total of 60 people had been killed since protests erupted after the junta toppled Suu Kyi's government

MANDALAY, Myanmar: Myanmar’s security forces shot to death at least 10 people protesting the military’s coup Thursday, spurning a UN Security Council appeal to stop using lethal force and as an independent UN expert cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity.
The military also lodged a new allegation against the deposed government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alleging that in 2017-18 she was illegally given $600,000 and gold bars worth slightly less by a political ally. She and President Win Myint have been detained on less serious allegations and the new accusation was clearly aimed at discrediting Suu Kyi and perhaps charging her with a serious crime.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said at a news conference in the capital that former Yangon Division Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein had admitted giving the money and gold to Suu Kyi, but presented no evidence.
Myanmar has been roiled by protests, strikes and other acts of civil disobedience since the coup toppled Suu Kyi’s government Feb. 1 just as it was to start its second term. The takeover reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.
Local press reports and posts on social media on Thursday said there were six deaths in Myaing, a town in the central Magway Region, and one each in Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Taungoo. In many cases, photos of what were said to be the bodies of the dead were posted online.
Security forces have attacked previous protests with live ammunition as well, leading to the deaths of at least 60 people. They have also employed tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and stun grenades. Many demonstrators have been brutally beaten.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council unanimously called for reversing the coup and strongly condemned the violence against peaceful protesters. It also called for “utmost restraint” by the military.
An independent UN rights expert focusing on Myanmar told the the UN-backed Human Rights Council on Thursday that violence against protesters and even “people sitting peacefully in their homes” was rising. He said the junta was detaining dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people every day.
Thomas Andrews, a former US lawmaker, also pointed to growing evidence of crimes against humanity being committed by security forces, citing murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture and imprisonment against basic rules of international law. He acknowledged a formal determination requires a full investigation and trial. He is working under a mandate from the council and does not speak for the UN
The human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday issued a report saying Myanmar’s military “is using increasingly lethal tactics and weapons normally seen on the battlefield against peaceful protesters and bystanders across the country.”
The London-based group said its examination of more than 50 videos from the crackdown confirmed that “security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies including the ramped-up use of lethal force. Many of the killings documented amount to extrajudicial executions.”
“These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions. These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open,” Joanne Mariner, its director of crisis response, said in a statement.
As widespread street protests against the coup continue, the junta is facing a new challenge from the country’s ethnic guerrilla forces, which until recently had limited themselves to verbal denunciations of last month’s coup.
Reports from Kachin, the northernmost state, said guerrilla forces from the Kachin ethnic minority attacked a government base on Thursday and were in turn attacked. The armed wing of the Kachin political movement is the Kachin Independence Army, or KIA.
“This morning in Hpakant township, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO/KIA) attacked a military council battalion based in Sezin village, and the KIO/KIA’s Hpakant-based 9th Brigade and 26 battalions were attacked by helicopter. Both sides are still investigating,” The 74 Media reported on Twitter.
A Facebook page for the Kachin Liberation Media said the KIA had overrun the government outpost and seized ammunition. It warned the government against using lethal force to break up anti-coup protests in the Kachin capital, Myitkyina, where two demonstrators were killed this week.
The reports could not be independently confirmed, and ethnic guerrilla armies as well as the government often release exaggerated information. However, even making such an announcement amounts to a sharp warning to the government.
The Kachin actions come a few days after another ethnic guerrilla force belonging to the Karen minority announced it would protect demonstrators in territory it controlled. The Karen National Union deployed armed combatants to guard a protest in Myanmar’s southeastern Tanintharyi Region.
Myanmar has more than a dozen ethnic guerrilla armies, mostly in border areas, a legacy of decades-old struggles for greater autonomy from the central government. Many have formal or informal cease-fire agreements with the government, but armed clashes still occur.
There has been speculation that some ethnic groups could form a de facto alliance with the protest movement to pressure the government.


Afghan survivors of US drone strike: Sorry ‘is not enough’

Afghan survivors of US drone strike: Sorry ‘is not enough’
Updated 18 September 2021

Afghan survivors of US drone strike: Sorry ‘is not enough’

Afghan survivors of US drone strike: Sorry ‘is not enough’
  • The driver of the targeted vehicle, Zemerai Ahmadi, was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization
  • US Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, called the strike a ‘tragic mistake’

KABUL, Afghanistan: Sorry is not enough for the Afghan survivors of an errant US drone strike that killed 10 members of their family, including seven children.
Emal Ahmadi, whose 3-year-old daughter Malika was killed on Aug. 29, when the US hellfire missile struck his elder brother’s car, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the family demands Washington investigate who fired the drone and punish the military personnel responsible for the strike.
“That is not enough for us to say sorry,” said Ahmadi. “The USA. should find the person who did this.”
Ahmadi said the family is also seeking financial compensation for their losses and demanded that several members of the family be relocated to a third country, without specifying which country.
The AP and other news organizations in Kabul reported after the strike that the driver of the targeted vehicle, Zemerai Ahmadi, was a longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization and cited an absence of evidence to support the Pentagon’s assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.
The missile struck as the car was pulling into the family’s driveway and the children ran to greet Zemerai.
On Friday, US Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, called the strike a “tragic mistake,” and after weeks of denials, said that innocent civilians were indeed killed in the attack and not a Daesh extremist as was announced earlier.
The drone strike followed a devastating suicide bombing by the Daesh group — a rival of the Taliban — that killed 169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel at one of the gates to the Kabul airport. For days, desperate Afghans had swarmed the checkpoints outside the airport, trying to leave the country amid the chaotic US and NATO troops pullout, fearing for their future under the Taliban.
McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.
Emal Ahmadi, who said he heard of the apology from friends in America, insisted that it won’t bring back members of his family and while he expressed relief for the US apology and recognition that his family were innocent victims, he said he was frustrated that it took weeks of pleading with Washington to at least make a call to the family.
Even as evidence mounted to the contrary, Pentagon officials asserted that the strike had been conducted correctly, to protect the US troops remaining at Kabul’s airport ahead of the final pullout the following day, on Aug. 30.
Looking exhausted, sitting in front of the charred ruins of Zemarai’s car, Ahmadi said he wanted more than an apology form the United States — he wanted justice, including an investigation into who carried out the strike “and I want him punished by the USA.”
In the days before the Pentagon’s apology, accounts from the family, documents from colleagues seen by The AP and the scene at the family home — where Zemerai’s car was struck by the missile — all sharply contradicted the accounts by the US military. Instead, they painted the picture of a family that had worked for Americans and were trying to gain visas to the US, fearing for their lives under the Taliban.
Zemerai was the family’s breadwinner had looked after his three brothers, including Emal, and their children.
“Now I am then one who is responsible for all my family and I am jobless,” said Emal Ahmadi. The situation “is not good,” said Ahmadi of life under the Taliban. International aid groups and the United Nations have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis that could drive most Afghans below the poverty level.
McKenzie said the decision to strike a white Toyota Corolla sedan, after having tracked it for about eight hours, was made in an “earnest belief” — based on a standard of “reasonable certainty” — that it posed an imminent threat to American forces at the Kabul airport. The car was believed to have been carrying explosives in its trunk, he said.
But Ahmadi wondered how the his family’s home could have been mistaken for a Daesh hideout.
“The USA. can see from everywhere,” he said of US drone capabilities. “They can see that there were innocent children near the car and in the car. Whoever did this should be punished.”
“It isn’t right,” he added.


Indonesia's most wanted militant killed in shootout

Indonesia's most wanted militant killed in shootout
Updated 18 September 2021

Indonesia's most wanted militant killed in shootout

Indonesia's most wanted militant killed in shootout
  • The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians
  • Security operations in Central Sulawesi have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network

PALU, Indonesia: Indonesia’s most wanted militant with ties to Daesh was killed Saturday in a gunbattle with security forces, the military said, in a victory for the counterterrorism campaign against extremists in the jungles of Sulawesi island.
Ali Kalora was one of two militants killed in the shootout, said Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief Brig. Gen. Farid Makruf. He identified the other suspected extremist as Jaka Ramadan.
The two men were fatally shot during a raid late Saturday by a joint team of military and police officers in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district, Makruf said. It borders Poso district, considered an extremist hotbed in the province.
“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and leader of MIT,” Makruf said, referring to the Indonesian acronym of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, a militant group that claims allegiance to Daesh. He said that security forces were searching for the four remaining members of the group.
The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians.
Security operations in Central Sulawesi have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network, particularly targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader. 

Kalora had eluded capture for more than a decade. He took over from Abu Wardah Santoso, who was killed by security forces in July 2016. Dozens of other leaders and members of the group have been killed or captured since then.
In May, the militants killed four Christians in a village in Poso district, including one who was beheaded. Authorities said the attack was in revenge for the killing in March of two militants, including Santoso's son.
Makruf said that rugged terrain and darkness have hampered efforts to evacuate the two bodies from the scene of the shootout in the forested village of Astina. He said the bodies of Kaloran and his follower will be taken by helicopter on Sunday morning for further investigation and identification.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has kept up a crackdown on militants since bombings on the tourist island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Attacks on foreigners have been largely replaced by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, police and anti-terrorism forces.

 


At least 2 dead in blasts in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad: health official, media

At least 2 dead in blasts in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad: health official, media
Updated 18 September 2021

At least 2 dead in blasts in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad: health official, media

At least 2 dead in blasts in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad: health official, media

JALALABAD: At least two people were killed and 19 more were wounded in separate explosions in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Saturday, according to a health official and local media.
The attacks, which targeted Taliban vehicles, are the first deadly blasts since the new government was established in Afghanistan.
A health official at a hospital in the city confirmed the death toll to AFP.

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France says Australia-US submarine deal ‘huge mistake’

France says Australia-US submarine deal ‘huge mistake’
Updated 18 September 2021

France says Australia-US submarine deal ‘huge mistake’

France says Australia-US submarine deal ‘huge mistake’
  • The deal scraps a 90 billion Australian dollar contract with French majority state-owned Naval Group,

CANBERRA, Australia: France’s ambassador to Australia has described as a “huge mistake” Australia’s surprise cancelation of a major submarine contract in favor of a US deal, as the diplomat prepared to leave the country in an unprecedented show of anger among the allies.
French envoy Jean-Pierre Thebault delivered his comments Saturday as he left his residence in the capital of Canberra.
“This has been a huge mistake, a very, very bad handling of the partnership,” Thebault said, explaining that the arms agreement between Paris and Canberra was supposed to be based “on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity.”
Paris recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the United States on Friday to protest a deal among the United States, Australia and Britain to supply Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-power submarines.
The deal scraps a 90 billion Australian dollar ($66 billion) contract with French majority state-owned Naval Group, signed in 2016, to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
“I would like to be able to run into a time machine and be in a situation where we don’t end up in such an incredible, clumsy, inadequate, un-Australian situation,” the French ambassador added.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office earlier had issued a statement responding to the diplomat’s recall and noting Canberra’s “regret” over its ally’s withdrawal of its representative.
“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” the statement said. It added that Australia values its relationship with France and looked forward to future engagements together.
Payne and Defense Minister Peter Dutton are currently in the United States for annual talks with their US counterparts and their first with President Joe Biden’s administration.
Before he was recalled, French envoy Thebault said on Friday he found out about the US submarine deal: “Like everybody, thanks to the Australian press.”
“We never were informed about any substantial changes,” Thebault said. “There were many opportunities and many channels. Never was such a change mentioned.”
After the US deal was made public this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he told French President Emanuel Macron in June that there were “very real issues about whether a conventional submarine capability” would address Australia’s strategic security needs in the Indo-Pacific.
Morrison has not specifically referred to China’s massive military buildup which had gained pace in recent years.
Morrison was in Paris on his way home from a Group of Seven nations summit in Britain where he had talks with soon-to-be-alliance partners Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Thebault said he had also been at the meeting with Macron and Morrison.
Morrison mentioned “there were changes in the regional situation,” but gave no indication that Australia was considering changing to nuclear propulsion, Thebault said.
“Everything was supposed to be done in full transparency between the two partners,” he added.
Thebault said difficulties the project had encountered were normal for its scale and large transfers of technologies.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement on Friday that recalling the two ambassadors, on request from Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.
Le Drian said Australia’s decision to scrap the submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with US technology is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”
Senior opposition lawmaker Mark Dreyfus called on the Australian government to fix its relationship with France.
“The impact on our relationship with France is a concern, particularly as a country with important interests in our region,” Dreyfus said.
“The French were blindsided by this decision and Mr. Morrison should have done much more to protect the relationship,” he added.


Australian police clash with anti-lockdown protesters, arrest nearly 270

Australian police clash with anti-lockdown protesters, arrest nearly 270
Updated 18 September 2021

Australian police clash with anti-lockdown protesters, arrest nearly 270

Australian police clash with anti-lockdown protesters, arrest nearly 270
  • In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrol, detectives and general duties police were deployed

MELBOURNE: Australia’s police arrested 235 people in Melbourne and 32 in Sydney on Saturday at unsanctioned anti-lockdown rallies and several police officers were injured in clashes with protesters.
Victoria police said six officers required hospitalization. Several officers were knocked to the ground and trampled, the police said and television footage showed.
About 700 people managed to gather in parts of Melbourne, as 2,000 officers made the city center virtually a no-go zone, setting up checkpoints and barricades. Public transport and ride shares into the city were suspended.
In Sydney, riot squad officers, highway patrol, detectives and general duties police were also deployed to the streets, preventing large gatherings.
Australia has been grappling with an outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus since mid-June, with both Sydney and Melbourne, and the capital Canberra, in strict lockdowns for weeks now. On Saturday, there were 1,882 new coronavirus cases reported, most of them in Sydney.
Most of the restrictions in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are to remain until at least 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, which based on the current pace of inoculations could be in late October or early November.
A high rate of compliance with public health orders has helped Australia keep the number of infections relatively low, with just under 85,000 total cases and 1,145 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The vast majority of Australians support vaccinations and the public health measures, but there have been sporadic and sometimes violent protests against the management of the pandemic.
“It was extremely disappointing to see another example of a small minority of the community showing a complete disregard for the health and safety of not only police, but each and every other Victorian,” Victoria Police said in a statement.