India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush

India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush
A paramilitary soldier injured in a gun battle with Maoist guerrillas on Saturday is brought for treatment to a hospital in Raipur, India, Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 06 April 2021

India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush

India takes aim at Maoists after deadly jungle ambush
  • Home minister says fight against left-wing extremists will be intensified

NEW DELHI: India has said that it will step up its fight against Maoist guerrillas two days after left-wing extremists killed 23 security personnel in the jungles of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

In one of the deadliest attacks in years, Naxals, or Maoists, ambushed a combined central and state security agency force as government troops hunted for extremists.

The attack left 23 personnel dead and 30 wounded, while media reports say that about 27 Naxals were also killed in an encounter that lasted more than four hours.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said on Monday that the fight against Maoists will be intensified in the coming days.

“The lives of the security personnel will not be wasted,” he told a press conference in the Jagdalpur district of the state after paying tributes to the victims.

“In the past five or six years many security camps have been opened in Maoist areas in Chhattisgarh. This attack is a result of their desperation,” Shah said, adding that “the action against the extremists will take a decisive turn.”

In 2010, left-wing insurgents killed 76 paramilitary personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the state police force in Chhattisgarh. In 2013, 25 CRPF personnel were gunned down in the Sukma area of the state.

Security analysts believe that most of the losses are due to “negligence” on the part of the security forces.

“These attacks are periodic and there is some degree of negligence on the part of forces which exposes them to such high fatality attacks. There must the failure to follow the protocol procedures, too,” Ajay Sahni, New Delhi-based director of the Institute of Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal think tank, told Arab News.

However, the CRPF denied intelligence failures.

“Had it been some intelligence failure, forces would have not gone for the operation. And if there was some operational failure, so many Maoists would not have been killed,” a spokesperson said on Sunday.

Naxals have been active in India since the 1960s and believe in capturing power through violent intervention. They gained a foothold in tribal-dominated forest areas that still remain at the margin of development decades after the country’s independence.

In 2010, the movement was active in 223 districts out of 718 in India. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 called the left insurgency the biggest security challenge facing the country.

Since 2010 the government has carried out special operations against the guerrillas. Paramilitary forces began opening camps in Maoist areas and strengthened ties with tribal leaders through a range of community initiatives.

Chhattisgarh-based political activist Gautam Bandyopadhyay has called for a “deepening of democracy” to counter the Maoist threat.

“We have to understand why it is happening and how we can reduce the conflict. The state should make an effort to devise a participatory governance to improve people’s lives. They should deepen democracy,” he said.

New Delhi-based political analyst Rajbala Rana, of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes, said that the Maoists should hold talks with the government.

“The best approach would be to encourage dialogue to reduce the violence,” Rana told Arab News.

“Unfortunately, the Maoists have never shown sincerity in talks and the government is left with no option but to mount security operations to limit the power of the armed group,” Rana said, adding that the threat “is both a security issue and a sociopolitical problem, and we have to address this subject accordingly.”


Danish plan to repatriate Syrians sparks controversy

Danish plan to repatriate Syrians sparks controversy
Updated 36 min 14 sec ago

Danish plan to repatriate Syrians sparks controversy

Danish plan to repatriate Syrians sparks controversy
  • Speaking in fluent Danish, 19-year-old Aya Abu-Daher moved TV viewers as she asked, holding back tears, what she had ‘done wrong’
  • The ‘excellent student’ according to the headmaster of her high school in Nyborg is campaigning for her family to be allowed to stay

COPENHAGEN: Denmark is facing growing criticism for a decision last year to revoke residence permits for Syrian refugees, citing a “safe” situation around Damascus, but the country is sticking to its position.
The tough Danish stance is a new sign of the country now having one of Europe’s most restrictive migration policies.
“No other country in Europe has adopted such a policy,” Niels-Erik Hansen, a lawyer specializing in migration issues, told AFP.
In the last election in 2019, the Social Democrats, headed by Mette Frederiksen, adopted a restrictive line on immigration and managed to take power from the conservative government propped up by the far-right Danish People’s Party.
Widespread indifference toward the policy change in the Scandinavian country was upended in early April, after one of Hansen’s clients, a teenager about to graduate secondary school, pleaded for her case on Danish television.
Speaking in fluent Danish, 19-year-old Aya Abu-Daher moved viewers as she asked, holding back tears, what she had “done wrong.”
The “excellent student” according to the headmaster of her high school in Nyborg is campaigning for her family to be allowed to stay.
The young Syrian girl was recently told that her residence permit, which expired at the end of January, would not be renewed.
Like her, 189 Syrians have already had their residence permits revoked since the summer of 2020 after Copenhagen decided to re-examine the cases of around 500 Syrians from Damascus, under the control of Bashar Assad’s regime.
The revocations were on the grounds that “the current situation in Damascus is no longer such as to justify a residence permit or the extension of a residence permit.”
Some of the rejected applicants, who had originally been granted only a temporary permit, have been placed in a detention center.
“Being in a return center, you can’t work nor study and you get food three times a day. Basically they keep you there until you sign a paper saying that you’ll return voluntarily to Syria,” Hansen told AFP.
Under Danish immigration law, temporary residence permits are issued without an end date in cases of a “particularly serious situation in the country of origin characterised by arbitrary violence and attacks against civilians,” but can be revoked once conditions are deemed to have improved.
Some 35,500 Syrians currently live in Denmark, more than half of whom arrived in 2015, according to Statistics Denmark
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was concerned about Denmark’s decision, even with deportations currently suspended because of a lack of collaboration between Denmark and the Syrian regime after years of civil war.
UNHCR said it “does not consider that the recent improvements in security in parts of Syria to be sufficiently fundamental, stable or durable to justify ending international protection for any group of refugees.”
Rights group Amnesty International has also denounced the “worrisome development.”
“Denmark keeps sending signals that they don’t want any asylum seekers in the country and scaring the ones who are here into returning to their home countries even when they are not safe,” Lisa Blinkenberg, a senior adviser for Amnesty in Denmark, told AFP.
“Not only is Denmark the worst place in Europe but the country also shows a lack of solidarity with other European countries refusing to take a share in the burden,” Hansen said.
But, despite criticism even from within parliament, the government is sticking to its guns.
“The government’s policy is working, and I won’t back down, it won’t happen,” Social Democratic migration minister Mattias Tesfaye said after Aya Abu-Daher’s plea was broadcast.
“Denmark has been open and honest from day one. We have made it clear to the Syrian refugees that their residence permit is temporary and that the permit can be revoked if the need for protection ceases to exist,” Tesfaye told AFP on Friday.
The Nordic country has a stated goal of “zero asylum seekers,” and also offers special grants for voluntary returnees grants, which were accepted by 137 Syrians in 2020.


German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
German police found over 60,000 ammunition cartridges in raids against Nordkreuz members across the country. (File/Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2021

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists

German police suspected of supplying ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists
  • Extremist group Nordkreuz was stockpiling weapons to seize power during an expected armed Muslim uprising
  • Germany has struggled to contain rising violence from country’s far right

LONDON: At least 20 German police officers are suspected of stealing service-issue pistol, submachine gun and sniper rifle ammunition and giving it to a shooting range linked to a far-right extremist group.

Nordkreuz, the group at the center of the investigation, was stockpiling weaponry, ammunition and other supplies in the belief that Germany would collapse into civil war amid an armed Muslim uprising.

Its 50 or so members, thought to include army and police officers, had planned to exploit the chaos of civil war by seizing power through a military coup using weapons stashed in “safe houses” across the country, according to messages sent on an encrypted messaging app.

A police raid on one of the group’s founders, a police officer known as Marko G, 50, uncovered 55,000 cartridges for various weapons.

That stash included 90 sniper rifle bullets believed to have been stolen from a special forces armory in the south-eastern state of Bavaria.

In a separate raid on other Nordkreuz members, authorities found 7,000 more cartridges for various weapons stolen from a Saxony armory.

Prosecutors say the ammunition was handed to the Baltic Shooters range in the town of Gustrow, in the northeast of the country, in exchange for unauthorized firearms lessons.

Seventeen officers from the police special forces unit in Saxony, and at least three from its Bavarian counterpart, are under investigation.

Petric Kleine, president of Saxony’s state police force, said: “These allegations feel like a slap in the face for my agency. I’m furious and disappointed that a whole special operations unit not only deliberately ignored their orders, but that some of them abused our trust for their criminal activities.”

The Gustrow shooting range is said to have been used as a hub for Nordkreuz. Marko G periodically worked there as a firearms instructor, and was given a 21-month suspended sentence for violating weapon laws.

The investigation into Nordkreuz has also drawn in one of Germany’s top competitive shooters.

Frank Thiel, a 42-time national shooting champion across various events, ran classes at Baltic Shooters and has provided officially sanctioned training to elite police and army special operations units from Germany and across the world. One shooting magazine described him as a mentor to the “crème de la crème of elite units.”

Thiel was briefly a member of Nordkreuz but denied any extremist leanings. He was added to a Nordkreuz chat group in 2015, but left after a month after realizing that “the group is moving in a direction that isn’t mine.” Thiel is currently being treated as a witness, not a suspect, in the Nordkreuz investigation.

Germany has worked to counter the growing influence of the country’s far and extreme right. A 2019 report by the Interior Ministry warned of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists in the country, nearly 13,000 of them inclined toward violence.

In October 2019, a right-wing terrorist shot dead two people near a synagogue in the city of Halle, and in February 2020, a neo-Nazi committed two mass shootings at shisha bars in the town of Hanau, killing nine people, all of whom had an immigrant background.


Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge
Updated 12 April 2021

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

YANGON: Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, her lawyer said.
“She has been charged in six cases altogether — five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon,” Min Min Soe told AFP, saying the latest charge was under the country’s natural disaster management law.


US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
Updated 12 April 2021

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired

US cop accused of force against Black Army officer fired
  • Police officer caught on camera pepper-spraying army officer
  • Caron Nazario says he was also threatened with execution

RICHMOND, Virginia: One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black Army officer during a traffic stop has since been fired, a Virginia town announced late Sunday, hours after the governor called for an independent investigation into the case.
The town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter in which two Windsor officers were accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at US Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.
Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was also pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, according to the lawsuit he filed earlier this month against them.
The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop.” Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.
In the statement Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed. Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired.
Officials added that departmentwide requirements for additional training were also implemented beginning in January.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”
Northam called the December 2020 encounter “disturbing” in a tweet Sunday, adding that he directed State Police to review what happened.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Northam said in his statement calling for a review of the actions.
The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to messages sent through the police department’s Facebook page over the weekend.
Windsor is about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Richmond.


Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)
Updated 12 April 2021

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first

Afghan models highlight war stories on Kabul runway in fashion show first
  • Organizers wanted to show ‘bitter and harsh reality’ of conflict

KABUL: After nearly a week of planning, 12 Afghan models walked the runway on Saturday as part of the country’s first fashion show to highlight the impact of the decades-long conflict.

Dressed in blood-stained shrouds to resemble war victims, two women and 10 men took part in the first round of “The Shroud Fashion Show.”

Event organizer Ajmal Haqiqi said there were plans to host similar events in the future.

“Through this event, we wanted to show the bitter and harsh reality of the ongoing situation in our country, to show the impact of suicide bombers, blasts and attacks,” Haqiqi told Arab News on Sunday. “We will hold more of such programs among the public, on the streets, and in this way draw the attention of our leaders and the world that Afghans more than any other nation badly need and deserve peace.”

Haqiqi Fashion, which he set up 13 years ago, is the country’s first modelling agency.

He said the main idea behind the event was to draw attention to the “war’s calamities.”

“People want and need peace. It was a campaign to emphasise peace, not on modelling or peace for modelling,” Haqiqi added.

Some Afghans went on social media to show their support for the event.

“Afghans are tired of the war and use any medium to show that,” school student Sayed Sameer posted on Facebook. “The fashion show was one way.”

A group of Afghan models participated in Afghanistan's first fashion show in Kabul to depict the plight of war victims in the country. (Photo by Haqiqi Fashion)

There have been more than 40 years of fighting in Afghanistan, claiming the lives of an unknown number of people.

More than 100 civilians and members of the security forces died last week, according to estimates released by Tolo News on Saturday, and the US said in a February report that civilian casualties had seen a sharp uptick since peace negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives began in Doha last September.

According to a UN report, 3,035 Afghan civilians lost their lives last year. It blamed the Taliban for most of the deaths, but did not say how many insurgents and government forces had been killed during the same period.

The US, which has led a coalition of foreign troops since the Taliban’s ousting in 2001, has been trying for months to persuade the militants and the government to agree on a future political roadmap that would pave the way for the group to participate in an interim administration.

Later this week Turkey, at the request of the US, will host a major conference between the two sides to accelerate the peace process.

While Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has shown a willingness to attend the conference, the Taliban have yet to confirm their participation at the meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for April 16.

Ghani, whose second term will end in 2024, has vehemently rejected Washington D.C.’s proposal to form an interim government but, in recent months, it has offered to organize a snap election.

“One of our key goals was to draw the attention of participants in Turkey’s meeting that our only demand is peace,” Haqiqi added. “We want peace for everyone, not for our models alone.”