Air strikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray: sources

Air strikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray: sources
Above, a damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2021

Air strikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray: sources

Air strikes hit capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray: sources
  • First reported air raids in Mekele since the conflict erupted in November last year

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian forces hit the Tigrayan capital of Mekele with air strikes on Monday, humanitarian officials and diplomats said, in a new phase of the nearly year-long war in the country’s north.
They are the first reported air raids in Mekele since the conflict erupted in November last year, although there have been others in the Tigray region.
“Air strike now in Mekele,” one humanitarian official in the city said via SMS to AFP on condition of anonymity, describing attacks also confirmed by a second humanitarian source, two diplomats and a rebel spokesman.
The first air raid occurred in the morning on the outskirts of Mekele near a cement factory, the sources said.
The second took place around midday in the city center near the Planet Hotel, often used by top officials from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the region’s former ruling party and the target of a government military operation since November 2020.
The TPLF said the aerial assaults were designed to inflict civilian casualties.
“Monday is market day in Mekelle & the intention is all too palpable,” TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter.
The reports could not be independently verified and government officials could not be reached for comment.
Medical officials in Mekele could not immediately be reached to provide information on casualties.
The strikes come as the government appeared to be pursuing a new offensive in the war against the TPLF, which dominated national politics before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.
There were reports last week of fresh clashes between government and rebel forces in Afar, a region bordering Tigray, where fighting has also spread.


Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race
Updated 3 sec ago

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race
  • Making the ‘supreme sacrifice for the good of the country and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders’

MANILA: Philippine Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, the preferred successor of Rodrigo Duterte, said on Tuesday he was withdrawing his candidacy for presidency.
Go, President Duterte’s long-time aide, had recently hinted he may drop out of the race and his withdrawal leaves the administration without a presidential candidate. It was not clear yet who Duterte will now support. “I and President Duterte are ready to support whoever will truly serve and can continue and protect Duterte’s legacy toward a more comfortable and safe and prosperous life for our children,” Go said in a short speech streamed on Facebook.
Go said he was making the “supreme sacrifice for the good of the country and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders.” Duterte’s daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for the deputy post alongside the son of late Philippine dictator and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has emerged as an early frontrunner. The Southeast Asian nation of 110 million people holds elections in May 2022 for positions from president down to governors, mayors and local officials.
Duterte, 76, is barred by the constitution from seeking re-election but he will run for a seat in the senate next year.


Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Updated 21 min 36 sec ago

Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
  • Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: A court in military-ruled Myanmar deferred on Tuesday verdicts in the trial of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Dec. 6, a source familiar with the proceedings said.
The court had been due to rule on charges of incitement and violations of a law on natural disasters, accusations that Suu Kyi has rejected.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give a reason for the deferral.
The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals ousted her government in the early hours of February 1, ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief democratic interlude.
More than 1,200 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
Suu Kyi faces three years in prison if found guilty of incitement against the military — although analysts say it is unlikely she will be taken away to jail on Tuesday.
Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital Naypyidaw and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.
The courtroom will remain off-limits to reporters for the verdict, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun recently said.
Days after the coup Suu Kyi was hit with obscure charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, and for violating coronavirus restrictions during elections her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in 2020.
The junta has since added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud.
Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health.
Suu Kyi’s long spells of house arrest under a previous junta were spent at her family’s colonial-era mansion in Yangon, where she would appear before thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.
Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has confined her to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers.
At her first court appearance, she used them to send a message of defiance, vowing the NLD would endure and asking the party faithful to remain united.
But in October her team were hit with a gag order after they relayed vivid testimony from deposed president Win Myint describing how he rejected a military offer to resign to save himself during the coup.
In recent weeks the trials of other ranking members of Suu Kyi’s NLD have wrapped up, with the junta doling out harsh sentences.
A former chief minister was sentenced to 75 years in jail earlier this month, while a close Suu Kyi aide was jailed for 20.


Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth
Updated 25 min 44 sec ago

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth
  • Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared

BRIDGETOWN: Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.

At the strike of midnight, the new republic was born to the cheers of hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown. A 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.

After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’s first president in the shadow of Barbados’s parliament.

“Full stop this colonial page,” Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet told the ceremony. “Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.”

“It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history,” he said. “End all that she mean, put a Bajan there instead.”

The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.

It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year reign and the future accession of Charles.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony. Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.

“Tonight’s the night!” read the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.

“I’m overjoyed,” Ras Binghi, a Bridgetown cobbler, said ahead of the ceremony. Binghi said he would be saluting the new republic with a drink and a smoke.

Prince Charles will give a speech highlighting the continuing friendship of the two nations despite England’s central role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

While Britain casts slavery as a sin of the past, some Barbadians are calling for compensation from Britain.

Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic but said he opposes the visit by Prince Charles, noting the royal family for centuries benefited from the slave trade.

“Our movement would also like the royal family to pay a reparation,” Denny said in an interview in Bridgetown.

The English initially used white British indentured servants to toil on the plantations of tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar, but Barbados in just a few decades would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.

Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage, ended up toiling on plantations.

Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Outside the lavish official ceremony, some Barbadians said they were uncertain what the transition to a republic even meant or why it mattered.

“They should leave Queen Elizabeth be — leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.

The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic.


Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia
Updated 30 November 2021

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia
  • The US Defense Department will be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia

WASHINGTON: The US military will re-inforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, while maintaining forces in the Middle East adequate to deter Iran and jihadist groups, the Pentagon said Monday, referencing results of a review.
The US Defense Department will be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia, underscoring its focus on China as the country's leading defense rival, officials said.
The details of the "global posture review," commissioned by President Joe Biden's administration early this year, would remain classified, the officials added, so as not to reveal plans to rivals.
The move comes in the wake of the formation of a new defense alliance, dubbed AUKUS, between the United States, Britain and Australia to counter a rising China, which has been building up its own navy and testing decades of US military dominance across Asia.
That pact was formed as Beijing solidifies its control over the disputed South China Sea and intensifies its military threats towards Taiwan, for which the United States is a key ally and arms supplier.
The review confirmed the priority region for the US military was the Indo-Pacific, said Mara Karlin, a top Pentagon policy official.
The review "directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea," she told reporters.
In addition, it "strengthens the combat-credible deterrent against Russian aggression in Europe and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively," she said.
The Middle East, however, remains an area of flux for the Pentagon after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Global responsibilities "require us to make continuous changes to our Middle East posture, but we always have the capability to rapidly deploy forces to the region based on the threat environment," Karlin said.
Speaking separately, a senior Pentagon official who declined to be identified, downplayed any idea of radical shifts.
"In the first year of an administration, it's not the time when we would develop a major strategic-level change to our posture," the official said.
However, the official added, the Biden team felt the review necessary after the disruptive approach of his predecessor Donald Trump, who altered US commitments abruptly.
Under Trump, "there were oftentimes a devaluing of ally and partner input and engagement, which eroded US credibility and hard-won trust," the official said.
The officials declined to answer questions on how the global posture review sees US force presence in ongoing conflict zones like the Middle East, East and West Africa, and Eastern Europe.
But they confirmed previously announced plans to do more in Guam and Australia.
"In Australia, you'll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you'll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation," said Karlin.
In Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia there will also be upgrades to airports and fuel and munitions storage facilities, she said.
Asked if the review foresaw more increases in the US presence in the Pacific region, Karlin said: "We're moving the needle a bit."
"And what I'd like to think is, over the coming years, you will see that needle move more," she said.


Argentina to probe Myanmar war crimes claims

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 30 November 2021

Argentina to probe Myanmar war crimes claims

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the UN’s International Court of Justice

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s justice system will investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the Myanmar military against that country’s Rohingya minority under a court ruling upholding the principles of “universal justice.”
The appeals court decision, which AFP has seen, overturns a lower court ruling rejecting a request for an investigation by the British-based Burmese Rohingya Organization (BROUK).
A 2017 army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which the UN says could amount to genocide, has triggered an exodus of more than 740,000 members of the community, mainly to Bangladesh.
The legal premise of “universal justice” holds that some acts — including war crimes and crimes against humanity — are so horrific they are not specific to one nation and can be tried anywhere.
Argentina’s courts have taken up other universal jurisdiction cases in the past, including in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.
Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the UN’s International Court of Justice.
Six Rohingya women, refugees in Bangladesh, had given remote testimony to the court in Argentina.
One of the complainants said they “had all been sexually assaulted and that many of their family members had died as a result of the repression they had suffered” in August 2017, the court recalled.
In their decision, the appeals judges said that “the investigation and eventual judgment of this type of crime is the primary responsibility of states.”
BROUK president Tun Knin in a statement said the ruling represented hope “not just for us Rohingya but for oppressed people everywhere.”
He added: “The decision in Argentina shows that there is nowhere to hide for those who commit genocide — the world stands firmly united against these abhorrent crimes.”