Afghan refugees in UAE protest at halt to US relocation process

Afghans hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
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Afghans hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
Afghan children hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
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Afghan children hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
Afghans hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
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Afghans hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
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Updated 11 February 2022

Afghan refugees in UAE protest at halt to US relocation process

Afghan children hold a rally at a Gulf facility in in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to protest the lengthy US relocation process. (Rise to Peace/via REUTERS)
  • The UAE has agreed to provide temporary homes for thousands of Afghans evacuated last year when the Taliban seized power in their country

DUBAI: Hundreds of Afghans have launched a rare protest at a United Arab Emirates facility where they have been housed since fleeing their homeland last year, holding banners pleading for freedom and demanding to be sent to the United States to be resettled.
Thousands of Afghans were last year evacuated to the Gulf Arab state on behalf of the United States and other Western countries amid the chaotic US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and return to power of the hard-line Islamist Taliban movement.
The UAE, a close US partner, agreed to provide Afghans with temporary housing as they waited to be resettled elsewhere.
Six months later, however, many are still in the UAE, living in tightly controlled facilities.
Protests started on Wednesday and continued on Thursday, two demonstrators told Reuters on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from authorities for speaking out.
Videos sent to Reuters showed men, women and children calling on Washington to welcome them to their second home.
Similar videos and images were widely shared on social media.
The two protesters, one of whom shared the videos, said the rally was triggered by the persistent lack of information on when Afghans would be resettled.
One of those protesters told Reuters by phone that some Afghans were detained by Emirati authorities as demonstrations began.
The UAE government and the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi had no immediate comment on the protests.
Shawn VanDiver, a US Navy veteran and president of #AfghanEvac, a coalition of volunteer groups, said the Afghans were understandably frustrated and that there was a shared, global responsibility of being open and honest with them.
“The coalition is going to do everything they can to hold the US government and others to clear, concize and accurate communications,” he said.
It is unclear how many Afghans are being housed in the UAE, which last September said it had evacuated 9,000 Afghan nations who were on their way third countries.
Advocates and protesters estimate there are 12,000 housed across two facilities in Abu Dhabi.
One of the protesters said conditions in the facilities were prison-like.
Two sources familiar with the process told Reuters the United States was prioritising those in Abu Dhabi who had visas or applications to go the United States but many there had neither.
A protest sign at one of the Abu Dhabi facilities read: “When we were evacuated, the (US) dept (department) of defense had the control of the (Kabul) airport. No-one came by themselves.”
Ahmad Mohibi, a former US counter-terrorism adviser in Afghanistan who has assisted those fleeing Afghanistan, said US flights carrying Afghans from the UAE stopped in November.
Some Afghans had threatened to go on a hunger strike in protest as they wait for resettlement, while a small group had asked to return to Afghanistan, he said.
“There is no transparency,” Mohibi said, criticizing the US resettlement process for the Afghans in the UAE facilities. 


Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
Updated 7 sec ago

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
  • Russia launched its ‘special military operation’ to demilitarize and ‘denazify’ its neighbor
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that remarks by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggesting NATO should launch preventive strikes on Russia confirmed the need for what it calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.
“By doing so, (he) essentially presented the world with further evidence of the threats posed by the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said. “This is why a special military operation was launched to neutralize them.”
In a discussion with an Australian think tank on Thursday, Zelensky said he believed strikes were necessary to preclude any use of nuclear weapons.
He did not go into detail about what kind of strikes he meant, and made no reference to any need for nuclear strikes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced Zelensky’s comments as “an appeal to start yet another world war with unpredictable, monstrous consequences,” according to RIA news agency.
Russia launched its “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for invasion.

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
Updated 30 min 7 sec ago

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions

Armenia, Azerbaijan hold talks in efforts to ease tensions
  • Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides

PRAGUE: The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia have held talks in Prague in efforts to ease tensions between the two longtime adversaries.
Armenia agreed to “facilitate a civilian EU mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan,” according to a joint statement released early Friday, following a meeting on the margins of a European summit in the presence of the EU Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Azerbaijan “agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned,” the statement said.
Last month, Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiated a cease-fire to end a flare-up of fighting that killed 155 soldiers from both sides.
The EU mission will start in October for a maximum of two months, with the aim to “build confidence” and “contribute” to the border commissions that have been set earlier this year to address questions related to the delimitation of the border, the statement said.
The ex-Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
The move comes after the leaders of historic foes Turkey and Armenia on Thursday held their first face-to-face meeting since the two countries agreed to improve relations.
The discussions have been held on the sidelines of a summit by the leaders of 44 countries to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across Europe.


Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others
Updated 07 October 2022

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others

Sri Lanka top court allows proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, others
  • The case calls for accountability for the island nation’s leadership for its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s top court has granted permission for proceedings against former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the rights group which filed the case against him said in a statement on Friday.
The court also agreed to allow proceedings against the country’s former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, its former finance minister and two of its former central bank governors.
The case, filed by rights group Transparency International, calls for accountability for the island nation’s leadership for its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades.


Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip
Updated 22 min 52 sec ago

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip

Police: 2 dead, 6 injured in stabbings along Las Vegas Strip
  • The names of those wounded in the attack were not immediately released
  • Police described the suspect as a man in his 30s and said they were working to confirm his identity

LAS VEGAS: An attacker with a large kitchen knife killed two people and wounded six others in stabbings along the Las Vegas Strip before he was arrested Thursday, police said.
Three people were hospitalized in critical condition and another three were in stable condition, according to Las Vegas police, who said they began receiving 911 calls about the stabbings around 11:40 a.m. across the street from the Wynn casino and hotel.
Yoni Barrios, 32, was booked on two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder late Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Barrios, who is not a Las Vegas resident, was detained by Sands security guards and Metropolitan Police Department officers while running on a Strip sidewalk, police said.
“This was an isolated incident,” Metro Police Deputy Chief James LaRochelle said in a statement. “All evidence indicates Barrios acted alone and there are no outstanding suspects at this time.”
Police said they were continuing to investigate the motive but do not believe there was an altercation before the attacks.
The Clark County coroner’s office identified the victims who were killed as Brent Allan Hallett, 47, and Maris Mareen Digiovanni, 30, both Las Vegas residents, the Review-Journal reported.
The names of those wounded in the attack were not immediately released.
The initial stabbing was unprovoked and on the eastern sidewalk of Las Vegas Boulevard. The suspect then headed south and stabbed others, LaRochelle said.
The man fled and was followed by 911 callers before he was taken into custody, authorities said. Police recovered the “large knife with a long blade” believed to have been used, LaRochelle said, calling the case a “hard-to-comprehend murder investigation.”
There were no other suspects in the case and “the Strip is secure,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.
“Locals and tourists are the victims of this crime,” Lombardo said.
Witnesses told Las Vegas TV stations that some of the victims appeared to be showgirls or street performers who take pictures with tourists on the Strip.
The suspect told a woman that he was a chef who wanted to take a picture with some of the showgirls with his knife, but he started stabbing people when the group declined the man’s offer, the woman told KTNV.
Jason Adams told KLAS that he witnessed the attack on a showgirl.
“This guy came, ran up, and started stabbing this lady in front of me and she ran around the escalators and she tried to get up under the bridge and her girlfriend was trying to help her,” Adams said, adding that the attack happened very quickly.
Pierre Fandrich, a tourist from Canada, told KTNV that he did not see the stabbing suspect as he was walking along the Strip. But he said he thought he heard “three or four showgirls laughing,” and it turned out to be screaming.
Fandrich said he saw “a lot of blood” as one woman ran across a bridge, one was on the ground, and another had a stab wound on her back as she tried to help the fallen woman.
Fandrich also told KTNV that he thought one of the victims fell from the bridge because there was so much blood on the ground.
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak posted a message on social media saying, “Our hearts are with all those affected by this tragedy.”
“At the State level, we will continue to work with partners in law enforcement to make resources available on the ground and ensure the Las Vegas Strip remains a safe and welcoming place for all to visit,” Sisolak said.


Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer
Updated 07 October 2022

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer

Thailand mourns children, others slain by ex-police officer
  • Police speculated the gunman targeted the center because it was near his home

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand: Friends hugged sobbing family members struggling with staggering loss Friday in a rural northeastern Thailand community mourning the children and other victims slain by a fired police officer in the nation’s deadliest shooting rampage.
At least 24 of the 36 people killed in the assault Thursday in the small town of Uthai Sawan were children.
On Friday morning, royal and government representatives in white, military-style coats stood in lines to lay wreaths at ceremonial tables in front of the Young Children’s Development Center’s main door. They were followed by weeping family members, who gathered their hands in prayer before laying white flowers on the wooden floor.
“I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes. They are running through my heart,” said Seksan Sriraj, 28, whose pregnant wife was a teacher at the center and was due to give birth this month. “My wife and my child have gone to a peaceful place. I am alive and will have to live. If I can’t go on, my wife and my child will be worried about me, and they won’t be reborn in the next life. That’s about it.”
Many relatives were gathered in front of the child care center to start the process of claiming compensation and psychologists were also sent to the site to help them. Seven of the 10 people who were wounded were still hospitalized Friday.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were expected later Friday to visit two hospitals treating the wounded, and Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-ocha was expected to visit the daycare center and the hospitals.
When asked whether he thought the child care center was secure enough, Seksan noted the attacker had been a police officer. “He came to do what he had in his mind and was determined to do it. I think everyone did the best they could.”
Police speculated the gunman targeted the center because it was near his home. They identified him as Panya Kamrap, 34, a former police sergeant fired earlier this year because of a drug charge involving methamphetamine. He had been due to appear in court Friday.
Witnesses said the attacker got out of a car and shot a man eating lunch before pausing to reload. Staff at the child care center locked the door, but the gunman shot his way through it. The children, mainly 2- and 3-year-olds, had been taking an afternoon nap, and photos taken by first responders showed their tiny bodies still lying on blankets.
Panya took his own life after killing his wife and child at home.
Nopparat Langkapin, a local official in Uthai Sawan, said the victims were “all children of our community.”
“Relatives, families and close friends are deeply saddened by this incident. And we all felt this across the community very quickly. Most of us are feeling depressed and sad because they are our children,” he said.
The attack took place in Nongbua Lamphu province, one of the country’s poorest regions.
A video taken by a first responder arriving at the scene showed rescuers rushing into the single-story building past a shattered glass front door, with drops of blood visible on the ground in the entryway. Photos showed slashes to the victims’ faces and gunshots to their heads.
In footage posted online after the attack, frantic family members wept outside the building. The floor was smeared with blood, and pictures of the alphabet and other colorful decorations adorned the walls.
Mass shootings are rare but not unheard of in Thailand, which has one of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in Asia, with 15.1 weapons per 100 population compared to only 0.3 in Singapore and 0.25 in Japan. That’s still far lower than the US rate of 120.5 per 100 people, according to a 2017 survey by Australia’s GunPolicy.org nonprofit organization.
The US and Australia expressed sympathy and solidarity. “All Australians send their love and condolences,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted. “This violence is both senseless and heartbreaking,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Thailand’s previous worst mass shooting involved a disgruntled soldier who opened fire in and around a mall in the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima in 2020, killing 29 people and holding off security forces for some 16 hours before eventually being killed by them.
Nearly 60 others were wounded in that attack. Its death toll surpassed that of the previously worst attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at a shrine in Bangkok that killed 20 people. It was allegedly carried out by human traffickers in retaliation for a crackdown on their network.
Last month, a clerk shot co-workers at Thailand’s Army War College in Bangkok, killing two and wounding another before he was arrested.