Taliban mock Western evacuation efforts as Kabul airport chaos worsens

Afghans wait in hope of boarding a US military aircraft at Kabul airport. (AFP)
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Afghans wait in hope of boarding a US military aircraft at Kabul airport. (AFP)
US Marines provide assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 20, 2021. (AFP)
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US Marines provide assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 20, 2021. (AFP)
A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021. (Omar Haidari/via REUTERS)
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A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021. (Omar Haidari/via REUTERS)
Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar / AFP)
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Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar / AFP)
A US Marine provides fresh water to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021. (AFP Photo / US Marine Corps /File photo)
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A US Marine provides fresh water to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021. (AFP Photo / US Marine Corps /File photo)
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Updated 22 August 2021

Taliban mock Western evacuation efforts as Kabul airport chaos worsens

Taliban mock Western evacuation efforts as Kabul airport chaos worsens
  • Thousands still trying to flee Kabul despite Taliban promise to be fair and protect everyone’s rights
  • Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar arrives in Kabul for talks with other leaders to hammer out a new Afghan government

KABUL: The Taliban mocked Western attempts to organize evacuation flights out of Afghanistan on Saturday amid the worst scenes of chaos at Kabul airport since the militants took control a week ago.

The Taliban said the chaos was not their responsibility. “The West could have had a better plan to evacuate,” a spokesman said.

Security risks could not be ruled out but the group was “aiming to improve the situation and provide a smooth exit” for people trying to leave, the spokesman said.

Earlier, the US and Germany advised their citizens in Afghanistan not to travel to the airport as thousands of civilians crushed up against wire fences and concrete blast walls outside the terminal building in a desperate attempt to reach rescue aircraft.

The advisory came after Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar arrived in Kabul for talks with other leaders to hammer out a new Afghan government after the Taliban’s lightning advance across the country.

Images circulated on social media this week of Afghans rushing toward a US C-17 transport plane and clinging to its side. A separate video showed what appeared to be two people falling from a military plane as it flew out of Kabul.




A baby is handed over to US Army soldiers over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021. (Omar Haidari/via REUTERS)

Since then, crowds have grown at the airport where armed Taliban have urged those without travel documents to go home. At least 12 people have been killed in and around the single runway airfield since Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said.

“Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so,” the US Embassy advisory said.

Switzerland postponed a charter flight from Kabul because of the chaos.

“The security situation around Kabul airport has worsened significantly in the last hours. A large number of people in front of the airport and sometimes violent confrontations are hindering access,” the Swiss Foreign Ministry said after canceling a charter flight from Kabul.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was “mathematically impossible” for the US and its allies to evacuate the tens of thousands of Afghan personnel and families by Aug. 31, when US forces are due to quit Afghanistan and hand control of the airport to the Taliban.

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Borrell said his officials had complained to the Americans that their security at the airport was excessively strict, and was hampering attempts by Afghans who worked for the Europeans to enter.

British forces at the airport also complained that while their officers were empowered to make decisions on the ground, the Americans passed every issue up the chain of command and waited for a decision, which was causing paralysis.

The Pentagon said 3,800 people had been evacuated from Kabul on US military and chartered flights in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 17,000 since the Taliban takeover. It is not known how many people with Western passports remain in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia has called a special meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Riyadh on Sunday to discuss events in Afghanistan.

 

‘New model of government’

The Taliban completed their sudden advance across the country as US-led forces pulled out, coinciding with what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday was the “breathtaking collapse” of the Afghan army.

The Taliban official said the group planned to ready a new model for governing Afghanistan within the next few weeks, with separate teams to tackle internal security and financial issues.




This handout video grab taken from a footage released by Taliban-affiliated Al Hijrat TV shows Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar's arrival in Afghanistan on August 17, 2021. (AFP PHOTO / ESN - Al Hijrat TV)

“Experts from the former government will be brought in for crisis management,” he told Reuters.

The new government structure would not be a democracy by Western definitions, but “it will protect everyone’s rights,” the official added.

The Taliban, who follow an ultra-hard-line version of Sunni Islam, have presented a more moderate face since returning to power, saying they want peace and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.

When in power from 1996-2001, also guided by Islamic law, they stopped women from working or going out without wearing an all-enveloping burqa and stopped children from going to school.

Baradar will meet militant commanders, former government leaders and policy makers, as well as religious scholars among others, the official said.

 

US clueless

The White House said on Friday that the US government did not know exactly how many Americans were currently in Afghanistan, though officials have indicated that it is in the thousands.

Army Major General William Taylor, with the US military’s Joint Staff, told reporters that military transport planes carrying nearly 6,000 passengers left on Friday. Taylor said the United States had airlifted a total of about 13,000 evacuees during the operation.

Individual Afghans and international aid and advocacy groups have reported harsh retaliation against protests, and round-ups of those who had formerly held government positions, criticized the Taliban or worked with Americans.

“We have heard of some cases of atrocities and crimes against civilians,” said the Taliban official on condition of anonymity.

“If (members of the Taliban) are doing these law and order problems, they will be investigated,” he said. “We can understand the panic, stress and anxiety. People think we will not be accountable, but that will not be the case.”

Former officials told harrowing tales of hiding from the Taliban in recent days as gunmen went from door to door. One family of 16 described running to the bathroom, lights off and children’s mouths covered, in fear for their lives.




Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. (AP/File Photo)

Baradar, the chief of the Taliban’s political office, was part of the group’s negotiating team in the Qatar capital of Doha.

Reported to have been one of the most trusted commanders of the former Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, Baradar was captured in 2010 by security forces in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi and released in 2018.

The delay in forming a new Afghan government or even announcing who will lead a new Taliban administration underlines how unprepared the movement was for the sudden collapse of the Western-trained forces it had been fighting for years.

The Taliban, whose overall leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has so far been silent publicly, must also unite disparate groups within the movement whose interests may not always coincide now that victory has been achieved.

As Western nations have struggled to speed up evacuations, President Joe Biden confronted criticism about the planning for the withdrawal of US troops.

“I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies,” Biden told reporters on Friday. “As a matter of fact, the exact opposite ... we’re acting with dispatch, we’re acting, committing to what we said we would do.”

(With Agencies)


US school shooter’s parents charged with manslaughter, wanted by police

James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
Updated 56 min 22 sec ago

US school shooter’s parents charged with manslaughter, wanted by police

James, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are shown during the video arraignment of their son, Ethan Crumbley in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP)
  • “These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” McDonald said at a press conference

WASHINGTON: The parents of a 15-year-old who shot dead four students at a US high school with a gun bought by his father were preparing Friday to turn themselves in to authorities after being charged with involuntary manslaughter, their lawyers said.
The whereabouts of James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, remained unknown Friday, prompting authorities in Oakland County, Michigan to consider them fugitives.
But the Crumbley’s lawyers Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman told AFP that after leaving town on the night of the shooting “for their own safety,” the parents “are returning to the area to be arraigned.”
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, in a rare move by law enforcement, had announced that each of the parents face four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” McDonald said at a press conference.
“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30 and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” she said.
A law enforcement official told CNN that the parents withdrew $4,000 from a money machine near Oxford on Friday, heightening the mystery over their disappearance.
But County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he expected them in custody soon. “They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”
Four students, aged 14 to 17, were killed in the shooting at Oxford High School north of Detroit and six more were wounded, along with a teacher.
Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with state murder and terror charges.
While school shootings carried out by teens occur frequently in the United States, it is unusual for parents to face charges.
Four days before the shooting, James Crumbley bought the 9mm Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun used by his son.
Ethan was with his father at the time of the purchase at a local firearms store and the teen posted a picture of the gun on his Instagram account, writing “just got my new beauty today” along with a heart emoji.
According to police, Ethan Crumbley recorded a video on his cell phone the night before the attack saying he was planning a shooting at the school the next day, but it was not posted online.
That same day, a teacher at the school had observed Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to school officials.

In this file photo taken on December 02, 2021 this booking photo released by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office in Michigan shows shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley.  (AFP)

His mother was contacted by the school but did not respond to voicemail or email messages.
McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley did exchange a text message about the incident with her son that day, writing: “lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

The parents were summoned to the school on the day of the shooting itself after a teacher was “alarmed” by a note she found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, McDonald said.
It featured a drawing of a gun and the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
It also had a picture of a bullet, a person who had been shot and the words “my life is useless” and “the world is dead,” she said.
The parents were shown the drawing at a meeting with school officials and advised that they needed to get the boy into counselling within 48 hours.
McDonald said they resisted taking their son home and he returned to class. He later entered a bathroom, emerged with the gun, which he had concealed in his backpack, and opened fire.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable and I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said.
“I am angry,” she said. “I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as the prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county.
“We need to do better in this country,” she said. “We need to say enough is enough for our kids, our teachers, parents, for all of us in this community and the communities across this nation.”
Ethan Crumbley fired off at least 30 rounds, reloading as fellow students fled.
Students and teachers barricaded themselves in classrooms, as they had been taught to do in drills, and some escaped through windows.
McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley, when she heard about the shooting, had texted her son, saying, “Ethan don’t do it.”
James Crumbley drove home and called the emergency line 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and that he believed his son may be the shooter, McDonald said.


US intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
Updated 04 December 2021

US intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

Attache of the Land Forces at the US Embassy in Ukraine Colonel Brandon Presley looks at the map during the visit by a delegation of the US Embassy in Ukraine. (AP file photo)
  • The president offered the measured warning to Putin in response to growing concern about a Russian buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the Kremlin

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden pledged on Friday to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine as US intelligence officials determined that Russian planning is underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as soon as early 2022.
The new intelligence finding estimates that the Russians are planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already deployed along various points near Ukraine’s border, according to a Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the finding.
It comes as Russia has picked up its demands on Biden to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance.
The official added that the plans call for the movement of 100 battalion tactical groups along with armor, artillery and equipment.
Intelligence officials also have seen an uptick in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to denigrate Ukraine and NATO ahead of a potential invasion, the official said.
Asked about the intelligence finding as he set out for the presidential retreat at Camp David on Friday evening, Biden reiterated his concerns about Russian provocations.
“We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden said.
The risks of such a gambit for Putin, if he actually went through with an invasion, would be enormous.
US officials and former US diplomats say while Putin clearly is laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in past years, and the sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to Russia’s economy. It remains unclear if Putin intends to go through with what would be a risky offensive, they say.
Earlier Friday, Biden pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Putin to take military action in Ukraine and said new initiatives coming from his administration are intended to deter Russian aggression.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden told reporters.
The Kremlin said Friday that Putin would seek binding guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine during the call with Biden. But Biden sought to head off the demand.
“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials also warned that Russia could invade next month. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told lawmakers Friday that the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, warning that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January. US intelligence officials estimate closer to 70,000 troops are deployed near the border, according to an unclassified intelligence document obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
The intelligence findings were first reported by The Washington Post.
There are signs that the White House and Kremlin are close to arranging a conversation next week between Biden and Putin. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters Friday that arrangements have been made for a Putin-Biden call in the coming days, adding that the date will be announced after Moscow and Washington finalize details. The Russians say a date has been agreed upon, but declined to say when.
Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have also tentatively agreed to have a call next week, according to a person close to the Ukrainian president who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials have “engaged in the possibility” of a Biden-Putin call. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on the expected Zelenskyy call.
“It certainly would be an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric, about the military buildup that we’re seeing on the border of Ukraine,” Psaki said of a potential Biden-Putin call.
Biden did not detail what actions he was weighing. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Thursday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Sweden, said the US has threatened new sanctions. He did not detail the potential sanctions but suggested the effort would not be effective.
“If the new ‘sanctions from hell’ come, we will respond,” Lavrov said. “We can’t fail to respond.”
Psaki said the administration would look to coordinate with European allies if it moved forward with sanctions. She noted that bitter memories of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that had been under Ukraine’s control since 1954, are front of mind as the White House considers the way forward.
“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki said. “We see that he is putting in place the capacity to take action in short order.”
Deep differences were on display during the Blinken-Lavrov meeting, with the Russia official charging the West was “playing with fire” by denying Russia a say in any further NATO expansion into countries of the former Soviet Union. Zelenskyy has pushed for Ukraine to join the alliance, which holds out the promise of membership but hasn’t set a a timeline.
Blinken this week said the US has “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”
He did not detail what sanctions were being weighed, but one potentially could be to cut off Russia from the SWIFT system of international payments. The European Union’s Parliament approved a nonbinding resolution in April to cut off Russia from SWIFT if its troops entered Ukraine.
Such a move would go far toward blocking Russian businesses from the global financial system. Western allies reportedly considered such a step in 2014 and 2015, during earlier Russian-led escalations of tensions over Ukraine.
Then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would be tantamount to “a declaration of war.”
But some US government officials say Putin also could be seeking attention and concessions from Biden and other Western leaders, using the military escalation to force Russia back into a central role in world affairs as it had in the days of the Soviet Union.
“They are seriously envious for superpower status and ... the parity to the United States that existed during the Cold War. That’s what this is all about,” said John Herbst, a former US ambassador to Ukraine.
An invasion is possible, but more likely, “they provoke a crisis, they get concessions from us, and then they reduce the crisis. Right? And that, I think, is probably their objective,” Herbst said Friday.
 


WHO says no omicron deaths yet, as variant spreads worldwide

Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

WHO says no omicron deaths yet, as variant spreads worldwide

Rebecca Gonzales embraces her mother Nimia before saying goodbye at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on December 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images/AFP)
  • The emergence of Omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates, Red Cross head Francesca Rocca said

GENEVA: The omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported, the WHO said on Friday, as authorities worldwide rushed to stem the heavily mutated Covid-19 strain’s spread amid warnings that it could damage the global economic recovery.
The United States and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant, as omicron infections pushed South Africa’s total cases past three million.
The World Health Organization has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
The WHO said on Friday it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to omicron, but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.
The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.
“Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,” she said.
“A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.”
A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first reported on November 24, suggests it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.
The emergence of omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates, Red Cross head Francesca Rocca said.
South African doctors said there had been a spike in children under five admitted to hospital since omicron emerged, but stressed it was too early to know if young children were particularly susceptible.
“The incidence in those under-fives is now second-highest, and second only to the incidence in those over 60,” said Wassila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
In the US, two cases involved residents with no recent international travel history — showing omicron is already circulating inside the country.
“This is a case of community spread,” the Hawaii Health Department said.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his plans to battle Covid-19 during the winter, with new testing requirements for travelers and a surge in vaccination efforts.

All incoming travelers will need to test negative within a day of their flights, and rapid tests that cost $25 will be covered by insurance and distributed free to the uninsured.
Australia on Friday reported three students in Sydney had tested positive for the variant, despite a ban on non-citizens entering the country and restrictions on flights from southern Africa, with multiple countries rushing to limit travel from the region in the past week.
“It’s quite a kick in the nuts,” said Sabine Stam, who runs a South African tour company and whose customers are demanding refunds. “Everyone is too scared to set a new travel date,” she said.
In Norway, officials said at least 13 people who contracted Covid-19 after an office Christmas party in Oslo last week had the omicron variant — though so far they have only had mild symptoms, city health official Tine Ravlo told AFP.
But the government ushered in restrictions in greater Oslo after fears of the cluster surfaced.
On Friday, Malaysia also reported a first omicron infection in a foreign student arriving from South Africa on November 19. Sri Lanka also announced its first case, a citizen returning from South Africa.
Russia’s federal statistics agency Rosstat, meanwhile, said that nearly 75,000 people died of coronavirus in the country in October, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic.

The new variant poses a major challenge to ending the pandemic.
Rising Delta cases had already forced European governments to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, curfews or lockdowns, leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.
Belgian authorities said on Friday that primary schools would close a week early for the Christmas holidays.
Germany’s regional leaders agreed new measures including a ban on fireworks at new year parties to discourage large gatherings.
Ireland said it will close nightclubs and reintroduce social distancing in some settings over Christmas and the New Year.
In the UK, ministers have been expressing divergent opinions, not only on the idea of hosting parties, but also on the kind of conduct deemed acceptable.


Mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy: Pakistan police

A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Mob kills Sri Lankan over alleged blasphemy: Pakistan police

A damaged vehicle is seen near the premises of a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021 after a Sri Lankan man was killed for blasphemy. (AFP)
  • Charges of blasphemy carry the death penalty under Pakistani law
  • Amnesty International said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot

LAHORE, Pakistan: A Muslim mob descended on a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Friday, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy, police said.
Armagan Gondal, a police chief in the district of Sialkot, where the killing occurred, said factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Police said initial information shows the Sri Lankan, later identified as Priyantha Kumara, a manager at the facility, was lynched inside the factory. Videos circulating on social media showed the mob dragging his heavily bruised body outside, where they burned it, surrounded by hundreds of others who cheered on the killers.
Senior police officer Omar Saeed Malik said police were still trying to determine what exactly prompted the mob to attack Kumara, whose body was sent to hospital for an autopsy. A thorough investigation was underway, he said.
In Colombo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sugeeswara Gunaratne said their embassy in Islamabad was verifying details of the incident with Pakistani authorities.
“Sri Lanka expects that the Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice,” he said.
Hours after the attack, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that the “horrific vigilante attack on factory & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan.” He promised a thorough investigation and said those responsible will be severely punished according to the law.
In a statement, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa denounced the killing, saying the “cold-blooded murder” by a mob in Sialkot was “extremely condemnable and shameful.”
“Such extra-judicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost,” Bajwa added.
According to police, more than 100 suspects were arrested over involvement in the attack, widely condemned by many Pakistanis. They included at least two suspects who according to police openly said they took part in the attack to kill the Sri Lankan.
Amnesty International said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, allegedly due to a blasphemy accusation.” The watchdog also demanded an investigation and punishment for the attackers.
In the videos, some in the mob are heard chanting a popular slogan of a radical Islamist party, Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan, which last month held a violent rally over the publications of caricatures of Islam’s prophet in France. The party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on the single issue of defending the blasphemy law.
Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in this Islamic nation, although such attacks on foreign nationals are rare. Charges of blasphemy carry the death penalty under Pakistani law. International and Pakistani rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
Punjab’s chief minister Usman Buzdar tweeted that he ordered a probe into the attack. Khan’s special adviser on religious affairs, Tahir Ashrafi, condemned the killing and promised stern punishment for those involved.
Friday’s attack comes less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwestern Pakistan, after officers refused to hand over a mentally unstable man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan’s government has long been under pressure to change the country’s blasphemy laws, something the Islamists strongly resist.
A Punjab governor was shot and killed by his own guard in 2011, after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and, following threats, left Pakistan for Canada to join her family.

 

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White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 December 2021

White House says it isn’t trying to weaken bill on China’s Uyghurs

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s administration is not lobbying against a US bill that would ban some Chinese imports over concern about forced labor among Uyghurs, which Republicans have accused Democrats of stalling, the White House said on Friday.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region, is set to be considered by the House of Representatives as soon as next week, the bill’s sponsor, congressman Jim McGovern, told reporters on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded to a Washington Post report https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/02/congress-needs-act-xi-jinpings-genocide-now that suggested the Biden administration was telling lawmakers to slow the bill down while the White House pursues a more targeted approach, rather than a blanket ban on goods from the region, and support from other countries.
The Post article said Biden administration sources had confirmed that in an October call between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a co-sponsor of the bill, Sherman made it clear the administration preferred such an approach.
It said she told Merkley that getting buy-in of allies was critical and more effective than unilateral action.
Sherman was asked at a Brookings Institution event with the chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service on Friday whether the administration supported a bill banning goods from Xinjiang on the assumption they were tainted by forced labor.
“Secretary Blinken, very early on, and I have as well, have called what has occurred in Xinjiang genocide,” she replied, referring to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We are quite concerned, and remain concerned, about the horrific human rights abuses that have taken place. And the particular amendment that you’re discussing, the administration does not oppose this amendment,” she said.
“We need to stand in solidarity with the Uyghurs, with religious minorities all over the world, to make sure that they can live in security and dignity.”
Merkley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Washington Post report and Sherman’s remarks.
Republicans have accused Biden’s Democrats of stalling the legislation because it would complicate the president’s renewable energy agenda, which requires Chinese cooperation. The Democrats deny this.
If the Uyghur measure becomes law, the sponsors have said it would create a “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslims, were made with forced labor.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, which supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been demanding that the measure be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, delaying the Senate’s consideration of the massive annual bill setting policy for the Pentagon.