UN to evacuate families of staff in Ethiopia as alarm grows

In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. (AP)
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In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. (AP)
People gather behind a placard showing PM Abiy Ahmed at a rally to show support for the Ethiopian National Defense Force in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (AP file photo)
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People gather behind a placard showing PM Abiy Ahmed at a rally to show support for the Ethiopian National Defense Force in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (AP file photo)
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Updated 24 November 2021

UN to evacuate families of staff in Ethiopia as alarm grows

In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. (AP)

ADDIS ABABA: International alarm mounted on Tuesday over the escalating war in Ethiopia as Tigrayan rebels claimed to be edging closer to the capital Addis Ababa and more foreign citizens were told to leave.
US envoy Jeffrey Feltman spoke of some progress in efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement to end the brutal year-long conflict but warned it risked being jeopardized by “alarming developments” on the ground.
The United Nations said it had ordered the immediate evacuation of family members of international staff while France became the latest Western government to tell its citizens to leave Ethiopia.
The rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed this week it had taken a town just 220 kilometers (135 miles) from the capital, although battlefield claims are hard to verify because of a communications blackout.
On Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed he would head to the battlefront to lead his soldiers in what the government has described as an “existential war” in Africa’s second most populous nation.
“We are now in the final stages of saving Ethiopia,” said Abiy, who only two years ago was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for securing a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea.
Thousands of people have been killed since fighting erupted in November 2020, triggering a desperate humanitarian crisis that the UN says has left hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine and displaced more than two million.
The latest developments cast doubt on hopes of an end to the conflict, which has stoked fears it could sow wider instability in the Horn of Africa region.
“While there’s some nascent progress, that is highly at risk of being outpaced by the military escalation on the two sides,” said Feltman, in Ethiopia this week along with his African Union counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo to broker a cease-fire.

A scramble to evacuate foreigners was continuing, three weeks after the government declared a state of emergency and ordered residents to prepare to defend the capital.
An internal UN security order seen by AFP said family members of international staff should be evacuated by November 25.
“Given the security situation in the country and out of an abundance of caution, the United Nations has decided to reduce its footprint in the country by temporarily relocating all eligible dependents,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, putting the number of people affected at a few hundred.
France also advised its citizens to leave “without delay,” following similar adviseries by the US and the UK.
But officials in Addis Ababa said at a briefing to diplomats that security forces were working to keep the city safe.
“The propaganda and terror talk being disseminated by the Western media fully contradicts the peaceful state of the city on the ground, so the diplomatic community shouldn’t feel any worry or fear,” said Kenea Yadeta, head of the Addis Ababa Peace and Security Bureau.
The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF after months of seething tensions with the party that had dominated national politics for three decades before he took power in 2018.
Abiy said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray including its capital Mekele.
Since then the TPLF has pushed into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions and joined forces with a number of other groups including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).
Earlier this week the TPLF claimed control of Shewa Robit, just 220 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa by road.
The government has not responded to requests about the status of the town.
Some TPLF fighters were also believed to have reached Debre Sina, about 30 kilometers closer to Addis Ababa, diplomats briefed on the security situation said.

In Pretoria, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta added to calls for the warring parties to commit to an immediate cease-fire.
But Abiy himself has cast doubts on the prospects for a peaceful solution.
“Starting tomorrow, I will mobilize to the front to lead the defense forces,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let’s meet at the front.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations on Tuesday launched a major drive to deliver food aid to two towns in northern Ethiopia despite the looting of warehouses.
The UN’s World Food Programme said the operation would serve more than 450,000 people over the next two weeks in the towns of Kombolcha and Dessie which lie at a strategic crossroads on the main highway to Addis Ababa.


Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread

Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread
Updated 10 sec ago

Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread

Germany orders 40,000 vaccine doses as precaution against monkeypox spread
Germany has ordered 40,000 doses of a Bavarian Nordic vaccine to be ready to vaccinate contacts of those infected with monkeypox if an outbreak in Germany becomes more severe, but officials are banking on other precautionary measures for now.
Speaking at a press conference, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Tuesday that measures such as an isolation period of at least 21 days recommended for infected people would suffice for now to contain the outbreak.
“If infections spread further we will want to be prepared for possible ring vaccinations that are not yet recommended at this point but might become necessary,” said Lauterbach, referring to the strategy of vaccinating contacts of an infected person.
He said the outbreak of monkeypox could be contained and did not signal the start of a new pandemic, adding that early intervention can prevent the pathogen from becoming firmly established in communities.
So far, five cases have been registered in Germany, all men, said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, also speaking at the press conference.
A World Health Organization official on Monday issued similar guidance, saying the outbreak does not require mass vaccinations because measures like hygiene and safe sexual behavior will help control the spread.
The WHO has registered more than 250 confirmed and suspected monkeypox infections, with a geographic spread that is unusual for the disease which is endemic in parts of west and central Africa but rare elsewhere.
US health officials said this week that there are more than 1,000 doses of the Bavarian Nordic vaccine in the national stockpile and they expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks.
The vaccine is branded Jynneos in the United States where it is approved for use against smallpox and monkeypox. It is also approved for smallpox in Europe, where it is called Imvanex, but has been provided for off-label use in response to monkeypox cases.
The Danish company said last week it secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply Imvanex in response to new cases of monkeypox.

Pakistan bans Imran Khan’s rally, cracks down on supporters

Pakistan bans Imran Khan’s rally, cracks down on supporters
Updated 35 min 41 sec ago

Pakistan bans Imran Khan’s rally, cracks down on supporters

Pakistan bans Imran Khan’s rally, cracks down on supporters
  • Imran Khan urges supporters to converge on Islamabad on Wednesday for a massive rally

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday banned ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan from holding a massive, planned rally in the capital of Islamabad and cracked down on his supporters in overnight raids across the country, arresting hundreds.
The ban came hours after a policeman was killed during one of the raids, when a supporter of the former premier opened fire after officers entered his home in the city of Lahore.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah warned Khan that he would “not be allowed to disrupt peace in Islamabad” and would be arrested if needed, should the rally go ahead. Sanaullah earlier in the day accused Khan of seeking to create a civil war-like situation.
The former cricket star turned Islamist politician, Khan served as prime minister for over three and half years until he was ousted by a no-confidence vote in parliament in April.
Khan has remained defiant, demanding early elections and claiming his removal was the result of a US-organized plot in collusion with his successor, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Washington denies any role in Pakistan’s internal politics.
Earlier this week, Khan urged supporters to converge on Islamabad on Wednesday for a massive rally to pressure Sharif’s government. The demonstration, he said, would continue until a date for snap elections was announced.
Sanaullah, the interior minister, said the decision to ban the rally was taken after Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party failed to assure the administration in writing that the rally would be peaceful.
Earlier Tuesday, authorities stepped up security in Islamabad, deploying additional officers and paramilitary Rangers. Large shipping containers were placed on a key road leading to the parliament building, to prevent Khan’s supporters from getting close and possibly staging a sit-in there.
According to Fawad Chaudhry, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, police raids against their supporters started shortly after midnight Monday. Homes were still being raided on Tuesday morning and at least 400 supporters of the party were arrested across the country, Chaudhry said. Khan condemned the arrests on Twitter.
Authorities confirmed the raids but refused to share details about any arrests.
At a news conference in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, Khan vowed to carry on with the rally in the Pakistani capital as planned.
“I tell my supporters to reach Islamabad and I will also be there,” he said, insisting he was not afraid of death and urging his followers to “get ready for sacrifices” for the sake of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Several other prominent figures from Khan’s party warned police they could face violent resistance if raids on their homes continued.

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Militants kill 11 in northern Burkina Faso

Militants kill 11 in northern Burkina Faso
Updated 41 min 39 sec ago

Militants kill 11 in northern Burkina Faso

Militants kill 11 in northern Burkina Faso
  • Villages of Tiekaledji and Demniol, in Seno province ‘came under terrorist attack’ on Sunday

OUAGADOUGOU: Suspected militants have killed 11 people, including three volunteer army auxiliaries, in attacks on two villages in northern Burkina Faso, the Sahel regional governor said Tuesday.
The villages of Tiekaledji and Demniol, in Seno province “came under terrorist attack” on Sunday said Lt. Col. Rodolphe Sorgho in a statement.
“The provisional toll from the attacks unfortunately lists 11 civilians killed, including three from the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP),” he added.
The security forces backed by VDP auxiliaries were combing the area, the statement added.
The army lost five soldiers during clashes on Saturday that it said also left 30 suspected militants dead after a raid on a military base in the north.
And last Thursday, 11 soldiers and 15 gunmen died in another attack, this time in the east of the nation, the army said.
Burkina Faso has been battered by militant raids since 2015, with movements linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group.
More than 2,000 people have been killed and 1.8 million displaced.
Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrew elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January, accusing him of being ineffective in the face of militant violence.
The new leader says he has made the security crisis his priority, but after a relative lull in violence, a surge in attacks has claimed more than 200 lives.


Iraqi migrants shot amid people-smuggling gang fight in France

Iraqi migrants shot amid people-smuggling gang fight in France
Updated 24 May 2022

Iraqi migrants shot amid people-smuggling gang fight in France

Iraqi migrants shot amid people-smuggling gang fight in France
  • 2 hospitalized after gunfire erupts between rival groups in Dunkirk

LONDON: Two Iraqi migrants have been hospitalized in serious conditions after rival people-smuggling gangs fired on each other in northern France.

Fighting erupted at the Grande Synthe camp in Dunkirk after gangs quarreled over territory for launching their small boats into the English Channel.

The camp, the largest in France, is reportedly controlled by Kurdish gangs, who organize territory and allocate migrants spaces on small boats. Up to 500 people are expected to live there, though this can fluctuate rapidly according to trips on the Channel.

The Times newspaper was told by a migrant that he saw men with rifles and pistols during the fighting on Sunday, with gunshots also heard on Friday. Bullet casings were found on the scene after the authorities came in.

The Dunkirk public prosecutor’s office has started investigating the incidents, but few expect any witnesses to come forward and provide evidence. The rapidly changing population also adds problems for the police, with many witnesses at risk of fleeing for Britain at any moment. The two men in hospital are so critically injured that they cannot give statements.

The witness said: “I saw men with guns, one a pistol, another with a rifle. It was many, many shots fired. Previously we’ve had fights but it was very small. This time there were a lot of gunshots. The volunteers ran away.”

Another witness told Le Parisien that they “heard gunshots,” which sounded like “bursts of Kalashnikovs.” They added: “Everyone got down on the ground.”

Volunteer worker association Utopia 56 announced that “at least three people” were rushed to hospital after the violence. A helicopter was destroyed in the clashes, as police and ambulances rushed to the scene.

The violent gangs in northern France have long been a concern for British authorities receiving migrants.

UK Border Force officials told The Times that migrants were regularly facing threats of violence, often at gun or knifepoint, if they questioned the seafaring quality of the small boats.

Richard Lederle, from the crime and financial investigations unit in the Home Office, said: “It often isn’t an option of choosing to get into the boats. It will affect their profit margins and business models as gangs are competing with each other.”

Christopher Tilley, chief of staff at the unit dealing with Channel crossings, said: “A lot of their business relies on word of mouth — they don’t want people saying, ‘Don’t go with that gang because it’s unsafe’ so they force them to board even when the boats are unsafe. They are pushing people across to maximise the profits. It’s ruthless and cut-throat.”


Europe needs migration pact to deal with staggering flow of refugees: WEF panel

Europe needs migration pact to deal with staggering flow of refugees: WEF panel
The WEF— running from May 22 to 26 — will see global business, technology and political leaders come together. (Supplied)
Updated 24 May 2022

Europe needs migration pact to deal with staggering flow of refugees: WEF panel

Europe needs migration pact to deal with staggering flow of refugees: WEF panel
  • Europe needs a holistic migration pact to deal with the growing number of Ukrainian refugees, Vice President for Promoting the European Way of Life in the European Commission says
  • The war has displaced 8 million within Ukraine and forced more than 6 million others to flee elsewhere

DAVOS: Europe must enact a stable and holistic migration pact to deal with the growing number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, Vice President for Promoting the European Way of Life in the European Commission Margaritis Schinas said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum session entitled “Responding to New Migration Flows in Europe,” Schinas said: “Europe will always remain an asylum destination for those who are fleeing war and persecution. This is the model of society we stand for. We have welcomed more than 5 million Ukrainian refugees, but we do not yet have a migration pact. This forces us to very often function like firefighters rather than architects.”

A future EU migration policy would need a holistic approach that includes strong relations with origin and transit countries, a collective and uniform border system and procedures within EU countries, and solidarity across all levels of society to deal with the burdens of global crises, the vice president said.

Moldova is one example of how joint border controls and communication on all levels can help facilitate the movement of refugees, according to Prime Minister of Moldova Natalia Gavrilița.

About half a million people have crossed the border from Ukraine into Moldova, the prime minister said, adding that contingency plans in place allowed thousands of migrants who had fled in a hurry to enter the country without sufficient documents. 

Hundreds of Moldovans also scurried to provide aid and volunteer their services to help facilitate the influx of Ukrainians coming into the country, she said. 

The WEF session came after the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, announced Monday that the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution around the world had crossed the bleak milestone of 100 million for the first time. 

The war in Ukraine alone has displaced 8 million within the country and forced more than 6 million others to flee elsewhere, according to the new data from UNHCR. 

By the end of 2021, about 90 million people were forcibly displaced around the world as a result of conflicts and new waves of violence in countries that include Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Burkina Faso. 

The WEF— running from May 22 to 26 — will see global business, technology and political leaders come together for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss climate, technology and geopolitical issues, including the consequences of the outbreak and the Ukraine crisis.