Aid reaches Mozambique’s insurgent-hit Palma after 6 month hiatus

Aid reaches Mozambique’s insurgent-hit Palma after 6 month hiatus
People wait on the outskirts of Pemba Port for the possible arrival of family members evacuated from the coasts of Afungi and Palma after an attack by Daesh-linked militants, Mar. 24, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 20 September 2021

Aid reaches Mozambique’s insurgent-hit Palma after 6 month hiatus

Aid reaches Mozambique’s insurgent-hit Palma after 6 month hiatus
  • Palma — the operational hub of a multi-billion-dollar gas project — had been off bounds since it was attacked by Daesh-linked militants
  • Locally referred to as Al-Shabab, Mozambique’s insurgents have been troubling the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since 2017

MAPUTO: Aid has reached Mozambique’s northern coastal town of Palma for the first time since it was overrun by extremists in March, the United Nations said on Monday, even as beheadings were reported in another area.

Palma — the operational hub of a multi-billion-dollar gas project of France’s TotalEnergies — had been off bounds since it was attacked by Daesh-linked militants earlier this year.

Dozens of people were killed, some beheaded, and thousands fled through surrounding forests, joining hundreds of thousands already displaced by the violence.

Humanitarian access to the town remained difficult as local troops worked alongside soldiers sent by several other African countries to stem the insurgency.

“For the first time since March, humanitarian aid reached people in Palma,” tweeted the UN’s Word Food Programme (WFP) in Mozambique, adding that 2,150 families had received emergency food, hygiene and shelter kits.

Many of those displaced from Palma had sought refuge in the nearby village of Quitunda, close to the gas project, where rights groups say they were trapped by troops and ongoing fighting.

WFP’s announcement was made days after suspected militants beheaded five civilians in the village of Namaluco, around 150 kilometers (about 90 miles) south of Palma, military and local sources told AFP.

The victims were reportedly brewing a traditional alcoholic beverage when they were murdered.

Locally referred to as Al-Shabab, Mozambique’s insurgents have been troubling the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since 2017 in a bid to establish a caliphate.

The goup grew bolder last year, escalating attacks that culminated with the raid on Palma on March 24, which forced Total to evacuate its staff and suspend operations.

But they have lost ground since several African countries deployed troops to help overwhelmed local forces.

They suffered a major defeat in August, when Mozambican troops backed by Rwandan soldiers drove them out of their de-facto headquarters in Mocimboa da Praia.


One dead, two missing after building collapses in France

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France
Updated 4 sec ago

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France

One dead, two missing after building collapses in France
SANARY-SUR-MER,France: French rescue workers on Tuesday recovered a man’s body from the rubble of a residential building destroyed overnight in a suspected gas explosion, and were scrambling to find two other people still missing after extracting a woman and a baby alive.
The woman and baby as well as three others were injured in the blast in the Mediterranean coastal city of Sanary-sur-Mer, which was heard from as far as eight kilometers (five miles) away.
“It’s very likely that the victim is the father of the baby,” Houda Vernhet, director of the government’s regional authority for the Var region, told AFP.
He was unconscious when located and declared dead after rescue workers spent more than two hours removing him from the unsteady wreckage of the three-story building.
The two people still missing “are a mother, an elderly woman, and her son” who lived on the ground floor, Vernhet said.
“For now, we haven’t yet found any signs of life from the rubble, but we didn’t hear the baby right away, either,” said Col. Eric Grohin, director of the fire service for the Var department.
Authorities said rescue workers smelled gas when they arrived at the site.
“The causes aren’t known for now. There was smell of gas, but we can’t say anything more while the police inquiry is underway,” the regional authorities said in a statement.
Two adjacent buildings were also heavily damaged in the blast that occurred in the port at Sanary, a city of around 15,000 people southeast of Marseille.

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities
Updated 27 sec ago

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities

Hedge fund founder Steinhardt will return looted antiquities
  • Among the billionaire's collection were items from Egypt, Turkey and Iraq

NEW YORK: Billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt has agreed to turn over $70 million worth of stolen antiquities and will be subject to an unprecedented lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities, the Manhattan district attorney announced Monday.
In return, Steinhardt, a philanthropist who is chair of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life and co-founder of Birthright Israel, an organization that sends young Jews on free trips to Israel, will not face criminal charges for acquiring pieces that were illegally smuggled out of 11 countries including Iraq, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Syria and Turkey, prosecutors said.
“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a news release. “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection."
Steinhardt said in a prepared statement issued by his attorneys that he was "pleased that the District Attorney’s years-long investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries.”
Attorneys Andrew J. Levander and Theodore V. Wells Jr. said that many of the dealers from whom Steinhardt bought the items “made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance.”
According to prosecutors, while complaining about a subpoena requesting documentation for an antiquity in May 2017, Steinhardt pointed to a small chest from Greece and said to an investigator, “You see this piece? There’s no provenance for it. If I see a piece and I like it, then I buy it.”
Many of the pieces Steinhardt acquired were removed from their countries of origin during times of war or civil unrest, prosecutors said.
Steinhardt, who turns 81 on Tuesday, founded the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He came out of retirement in 2004 to head Wisdom Tree Investments.
New York University named its Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development after Steinhardt in recognition of two $10 million donations.
Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Steinhardt's collection of ancient artifacts in 2017 and raided his office and his Manhattan home in 2018, seizing several artworks that investigators said had been looted.
The items surrendered by Steinhardt include a stag’s head in the form of a ceremonial vessel for libations, dating from to 400 B.C., which prosecutors say appeared without provenance on the international market after rampant looting in Milas, Turkey. The stag's head is valued at $3.5 million, the district attorney said.
There was also the chest for human remains from the Greek Island of Crete, called a larnax and dating from around 1300 B.C., which prosecutors said was purchased from a known antiquities trafficker.


Whistleblower: As Afghanistan fell, UK abandoned supporters

Whistleblower: As Afghanistan fell, UK abandoned supporters
Updated 9 min 9 sec ago

Whistleblower: As Afghanistan fell, UK abandoned supporters

Whistleblower: As Afghanistan fell, UK abandoned supporters
  • Thousands of pleas for help via email were unread between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25
  • ‘These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as ‘please save my children’

LONDON: Britain’s Foreign Office abandoned many of the nation’s allies in Afghanistan and left them to the mercy of the Taliban during the fall of the capital, Kabul, because of a dysfunctional and arbitrary evacuation effort, a whistleblower alleged Tuesday.
In devastating evidence to a parliamentary committee, Raphael Marshall said thousands of pleas for help via email were unread between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25. The former Foreign Office employee estimated that only 5 percent of Afghan nationals who applied to flee under one UK program received help. At one point, he was the only person monitoring the inbox.
“There were usually over 5,000 unread emails in the inbox at any given moment, including many unread emails dating from early in August,” he wrote to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. “These emails were desperate and urgent. I was struck by many titles including phrases such as ‘please save my children’.”
Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was moved from the Foreign Office to become Justice Secretary after his handling of the crisis, defended his actions.
“Some of the criticism seems rather dislocated from the facts on the ground, the operational pressures that with the takeover of the Taliban, unexpected around the world...” he told the BBC. “I do think that not enough recognition has been given to quite how difficult it was.”
The Taliban stormed across Afghanistan in late summer, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the US and its allies melted away. The Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15.
Many who had worked for Western powers or the government worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against them.
Many also feared the Taliban would reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. At the time, women had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers.


Australians to create ‘black box’ to hold world accountable for climate crisis

Australians to create ‘black box’ to hold world accountable for climate crisis
Updated 07 December 2021

Australians to create ‘black box’ to hold world accountable for climate crisis

Australians to create ‘black box’ to hold world accountable for climate crisis

MELBOURNE: Australian scientists and artists are looking to hold the world accountable for the Earth’s future by creating an “indestructible” storage device to record humanity’s handling of the climate change crisis.
Inspired by an aeroplane’s flight recorder, the “Earth’s Black Box” will be built in 2022 on the remote west coast of Tasmania, an area deemed geographically and politically stable, its creators, ranging from marketing communications company Clemenger BBDO to the University of Tasmania, said in a statement.
It comes after UN climate talks in Glasgow ended last month with a deal that kept alive hopes of capping global warming at 1.5 Celsius.
“Earth Black Box is a structure and device that will record every step that humanity takes toward or away from the impending climate catastrophe,” said Jim Curtis, the executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO, which came up with the idea for the black box.
He said not only would the box provide the world with a wealth of data on climate change, the information recorded would help hold leaders accountable and leave lessons for future generations.
“If the worst is to happen and as a civilization we crash as a result of climate change, this indestructible box will be there and will record every detail of that,” Curtis said.
“So whoever’s left, or whoever finds it afterwards, learns from our mistakes.”
The 10-meter-long steel monolith was designed to withstand natural disasters and will be powered by solar and thermal energy.
The device, which will be connected to the Internet, will use an algorithm to regularly scrape data relating to climate change using a set of 500 metrics and will store it automatically.
It will be filled with storage drives containing climate-change related data such as average temperatures and global energy consumption.


Kenyan ‘rogue’ policeman kills five in rampage – police

Kenyan ‘rogue’ policeman kills five in rampage – police
Updated 07 December 2021

Kenyan ‘rogue’ policeman kills five in rampage – police

Kenyan ‘rogue’ policeman kills five in rampage – police
  • Three of the men who were killed were mourners who had just attended preparations for a funeral

NAIROBI: A Kenyan police officer shot dead five people in a rampage through the capital, Nairobi, on Tuesday and then shot and killed himself, the police Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said.
The officer first shot and killed his wife at their home before setting off with his service-issued AK-47 rifle to shoot dead another four people, the directorate said on its Twitter account, describing the shooter as a “rogue officer.”
Three of the men who were killed were mourners who had just attended preparations for a funeral, the DCI said.
“After killing the three, the cop then turned his rifle at two boda boda (motorcycle) riders, one of whom lost his life while undergoing treatment,” police said.
Francis Wahome, the officer in charge of Nairobi’s Dagoretti area, had earlier confirmed the incident and put the number of people the officer killed at six. A police report had also put the number of dead at six.
Angry residents near where the incident took place later set fire to tires on a road in a protest against the violence, a Reuters witness said.
In a 2010 incident, a police officer in Siakago town, 120km northeast of Nairobi, shot 10 people dead including two of his colleagues.
A police spokesman said at the time the officer tried to shoot himself but had run out of ammunition, forcing him to surrender to police.