Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Amira Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power. (File/AP)
Short Url
Updated 11 February 2022

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
  • The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests
  • It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house

CAIRO: Amira Osman, a Sudanese women’s rights activist, was getting ready for bed a few minutes before midnight when about 30 policemen forced their way into her home in Khartoum last month.
The men, many in plainclothes and armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and batons, banged on her bathroom door, ignoring her mother’s pleas to at least allow her to get dressed before they took her away.
“It was like they were engaging in a battle or chasing a dangerous terrorist, not a disabled woman,” said Osman’s sister, Amani, a rights lawyer.
Osman, who uses crutches since a 2017 accident, was imprisoned twice under Sudan’s former autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir for violating strict Islamic laws governing women’s behavior and dress. This time, she was detained for speaking out against military rule.
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power.
The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests, sparking fears of an all-out return to the oppressive tactics of Al-Bashir. The coup upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of international isolation under Al-Bashir, who was removed from power in 2019 after a popular uprising.
“The military delivers one message to international diplomats, that they are interested in a political dialogue and fundamental reform of the state, but then they do nothing to hide their blatant efforts to maintain the status quo and undermine efforts to unseat them,” said Cameron Hudson, a former US State Department official and Sudan expert at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.
Following the coup, security forces launched a deadly crackdown on protesters. They fired live ammunition and tear gas at crowds on the streets and knocked the country’s Internet and mobile signal offline — all in efforts to keep people from gathering. Around 80 people, mostly young men, have been killed and over 2,200 others injured in the protests, according to a Sudanese medical group.
Sudanese security forces have also been accused of using sexual violence against women taking part in the demonstrations. The ruling, military-led Sovereign Council said a probe was launched into the allegations of rape and gang rape on Dec. 19, after the United Nations called for an investigation. It is not the first time security forces have been accused of using rape — such attacks occurred under Al-Bashir and also under the military during the transitional period.
The US, UK, and Norway, along with the European Union, Canada and Switzerland, called the recent pattern “troubling,” and urged the release of “all those unjustly detained.”
“We remind Sudan’s military authorities of their obligations to respect the human rights and guarantee the safety of those detained or arrested and the need to ensure that due process is consistently followed in all cases,” the group said in a statement released by the US State Department.
Osman’s detention drew condemnation and concern internationally. She was finally released on Sunday.
But for nearly a week after the arrest, her family didn’t know where she was held. Then, they received a phone call asking them to send clothes to a prison in Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, according to her sister, who also is her lawyer.
Osman said she spent the first three days in solitary confinement in “very bad and humiliating conditions.” Then another activist, Eman Mirghani, joined her in the cell. Mirghani remains in detention.
Authorities accused Osman of possession of illegal weapons and ammunition — the “five old bullets” found in her wardrobe, she said, souvenirs from the 2016 national shooting championship in which she competed.
It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house. During the raid, they said they were from a drug-combating force, but Amani Osman, the sister-lawyer, said she believes they were actually from the country’s feared General Intelligence Service.
Formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service, the agency was for decades a tool used by Al-Bashir’s government to clamp down on dissent. After the coup, the military reinstated the agency’s powers, which include detaining people without informing their families. They are known to keep many of their detainees in secret prisons called “Ghost Houses.”
Gibreel Hassabu, a lawyer with the Darfur Bar Association, a legal group that focuses on human rights, said the exact number of those detained across the county is still unknown — a situation reminiscent of Al-Bashir’s rule.
Hassabu says he knows of over 200 activists and protest leaders detained in the Sudanese capital alone. Many activists were taken from their homes or snatched from the streets, according to documents he provided to The Associated Press.
At least 46 activists are held in Khartoum’s Souba Prison, the documents show. Some female activists — including Amira Osman — are sent to the women’s prison in Omdurman.
The wave of arrests has expanded following the killing of a senior police officer during a Jan. 13 protest close to the presidential palace in Khartoum. The officer was stabbed to death, according to local media. Security forces raided a Khartoum hospital and arrested six, including an injured protester and women who were visiting him, accusing them of being responsible for the killing.
And on Jan. 29, paramilitary troops from the Rapid Support Forces, another security body with a reputation for brutality, grabbed Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Naqdalla, an activist and physician, from a Khartoum street, his family said.
A spokesman for the RSF did not answer requests for comment. The force is largely comprised of former militiamen and has been implicated in atrocities under Al-Bashir in the the western region of Darfur. It is headed by the country’s second most powerful general, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and runs its own detention centers in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.
This week, authorities rearrested Khalid Omar, a minister in the ousted transitional government. Omar had been detained in the Oct. 25 coup and was released a month later as part of a deal between the military and civilian leaders. His party, the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, said he was taken Wednesday at the party’s headquarters.
Also arrested Wednesday was Wagdi Saleh, a member of a government-run agency tasked with dismantling the legacy of Al-Bashir’s regime, according to the pro-democracy Forces of Freedom and Change alliance.
The trend has frustrated diplomats working to bring the military and civilian leaders to some sort of an agreement.
“Arbitrary arrests and detention of political figures, civil society activists and journalists undermine efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis,” said Lucy Tamlyn, US chargé d’affaires in Sudan.


Yemeni troops launch campaign against Al-Qaeda

Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
Updated 03 July 2022

Yemeni troops launch campaign against Al-Qaeda

Yemeni troops managed to push Al-qaeda from key cities. (AFP)
  • Offensive in Abyan governorate aimed at preventing resurgence by terror group

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni special forces have launched an offensive against Al-Qaeda in the southern governorate of Abyan, amid reports that the terrorist group is attempting a comeback.
Elite counterterrorism troops have been deployed in mountains and valleys in Abyan to prevent Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its branch in Yemen, from turning those areas into safe havens or launch pads for strikes against government troops in the south.
Abdul Rahman Al-Shonini, commander of counterterrorism forces in Abyan, said the campaign was launched after receiving information that AQAP was gathering in remote valleys and mountains to launch attacks against government troops in the south. He vowed to thwart its attempts to resurge in Abyan.

SPEEDREAD

• Elite counterterrorism troops have been deployed in mountains and valleys in Abyan to prevent Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its branch in Yemen, from turning those areas into safe havens or launch pads for strikes against government troops in the south.

• Last month, local media and residents said masked AQAP terrorists appeared in some valleys and areas in Abyan, ambushing troops and kidnapping residents.

His forces have not encountered any resistance as AQAP terrorists have reportedly fled to their hideouts in mountains between Abyan and Al-Bayda governorate.
Last month, local media and residents said masked AQAP terrorists appeared in some valleys and areas in Abyan, ambushing troops and kidnapping residents.
Local security officials accuse AQAP of orchestrating a string of attacks that killed at least 10 soldiers in Abyan and Shabwa governorate last month.
In 2015, AQAP exploited instability stemming from the war in Yemen to seize large swaths of land in southern governorates, including Hadramout, Abyan and Lahj.
Thanks to military support from the Arab coalition, Yemeni troops managed to push AQAP from key cities, killing and capturing hundreds of terrorists.
Last month, various armed forces in Abyan, including government troops and the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council — which had fought each other in 2019 and 2020 — agreed to form a joint command room to confront AQAP.

 


Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute returns to the fore

An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
Updated 03 July 2022

Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute returns to the fore

An Israeli navy vessel is pictured off the coast of rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon
  • US mediator Amos Hochstein sent a proposal to Lebanon in March on the demarcation starting from Line 23, which was drawn in a zigzag form

BEIRUT: A maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel has returned to the fore following a security development on Saturday night.

Israel’s army spokesman Avichay Adraee said warplanes and an Israeli missile ship had intercepted three drones that approached from Lebanon’s side toward the airspace over Israel’s economic waters.

Hezbollah’s military wing, the Islamic Resistance, confirmed the incident in a statement: “A group affiliated with martyrs Jamil Skaff and Mahdi Yaghi launched three drones of different sizes toward the disputed area, over the Karish gas field, to carry out reconnaissance missions. The mission was accomplished and the message was conveyed.”

Lebanon mostly stayed silent on the development, although caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said there was a possibility of reaching an agreement on the border issue in September and that information from the US and UN showed there was progress in the negotiations.

FASTFACT

Israel’s army spokesman Avichay Adraee said warplanes and an Israeli missile ship had intercepted three drones that approached from Lebanon’s side toward the airspace over Israel’s economic waters.

US mediator Amos Hochstein sent a proposal to Lebanon in March on the demarcation starting from Line 23, which was drawn in a zigzag form.

Lebanon handed him an oral response, which he did not reveal, pending the Israeli response.

Lebanon has been unable to confirm that Line 29 — which includes the Karish gas field — is the maritime border of Lebanon due to the failure of President Michel Aoun to sign a draft amendment to Decree 6433.

It was issued in 2011 and specified that Line 23 was the point for negotiations with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders. However, Aoun considers Line 29 to be the point for negotiations.

Line 29 gives Lebanon an additional area estimated at 1,430 square km while, according to the decree deposited with the UN, Lebanon only gets 860 square km of the disputed area.

Mohammed Yazbeck, Ayatollah Khamenei’s legal representative in Lebanon, said on Sunday: “Lebanon’s preservation of its wealth can only be achieved by informing the enemy that we are strong. The message was delivered by drones. This message is not only for the Israeli enemy but also for the American mediator, to understand that Lebanon’s rights cannot be underestimated or ridiculed.”

Former MP Fares Souaid said: “Hezbollah’s drones over Karish are aimed at reminding all parties that Iran is present in the ongoing negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over border demarcation under American auspices and at the expense of the Lebanese interest.

“The incident confirmed by Hezbollah may take place once again, and more serious incidents may occur. Therefore, we call on the nation’s representatives to raise the issue of Iran’s occupation within Parliament.”

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that Hezbollah constituted an “obstacle” to an agreement between Lebanon and Israel.

“The party continues to walk the path of terrorism and undermines Lebanon’s ability to reach an agreement on the maritime borders.”

He said Israel would continue to protect itself, its citizens, and its interests.

Israel’s army said Hezbollah was trying to undermine the country’s sovereignty on the ground, in the air, and at sea. “The economic waters are part of Israel and are not a conflict zone. No discussion is necessary,” it added.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the drones were flown near the Karish gas field. One was downed by a fighter jet, and the other two were taken out by Barak 8 missiles launched from a missile ship.

It said Hezbollah had sent out different types of drones that flew at low altitudes. They were monitored and intercepted through coordination between the naval and air forces.

The newspaper quoted the Israeli army as saying: “Initial assessments indicated that the drones were not armed and did not pose any threat. This is an attempt to undermine negotiations with Lebanon regarding the maritime border, and Hezbollah wants to destroy Lebanon.”

The report said Hezbollah had previously sent out drones to Israeli territory, but Saturday night’s development was the first time that such an operation had been carried out on the floating gas platform in Karish, where no gas had yet been extracted.

“The incident is a message to Israel that Hezbollah can carry out the threats made by its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in recent weeks. By launching these drones, Hezbollah acted against the Lebanese interest, despite the progress made in the file of demarcating the maritime borders through the efforts of American mediator Amos Hochstein," it said. "What happened not only violates the negotiations but also indicates that Hezbollah violated its position regarding not taking any action without a Lebanese national agreement or consensus.”


Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces
Updated 03 July 2022

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces

Hundreds of anti-coup protesters in Sudan defy security forces
  • Protesters are demanding a restoration of civilian rule that was launched after the 2019 which the coup derailed

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of Sudanese protesters demanding an end to military rule took to the streets of the capital Khartoum and its suburbs for a fourth straight day Sunday, witnesses said.
A violent crackdown by security forces during mass rallies on Thursday killed nine people, according to medics, the deadliest day for several months in the long-running protests against a coup last October led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
Recent protests have seen crowds burn tires and barricade roads with bricks, while security forces have used live bullets, fired barrages of tear gas canisters and deployed powerful water cannons, according to medics and the United Nations.
Demonstrators are demanding a restoration of the transition to civilian rule that was launched after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and which the coup derailed.
“We will continue this sit-in until the coup is overturned, and we have a fully civilian government,” demonstrator Muayyad Mohamed told AFP in central Khartoum.
The death toll from protest-related violence has reached 114 since last year’s coup. The latest fatality came on Saturday when a demonstrator died from wounds sustained at a June 16 rally, according to pro-democracy medics.


“We will not compromise until the goals of our revolution are realized,” said Soha, 25, another protester, who only gave her first name.
“We are here in the street demanding freedom, peace, justice, a civil state and the return of the military to the barracks.”
Last year’s coup plunged Sudan further into political and economic turmoil that has sent consumer prices spiralling and resulted in life-threatening food shortages.
On Sunday, witnesses reported a heavy deployment of security forces on the streets of Khartoum, including army vehicles and those of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a feared paramilitary unit commanded by Burhan’s deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
The RSF incorporated members of the Janjaweed militia, which was accused by rights groups of atrocities during the conflict that erupted in 2003 in the western region of Darfur.
More recently, the RSF has been accused of taking part in crackdowns on protesters marching against military rule.
The international community has condemned the recent bloodshed, with the UN rights chief urging an independent probe into Thursday’s violence.


The UN, African Union and regional bloc IGAD have tried to facilitate dialogue between the generals and civilians, but the main civilian factions have boycotted.
On Friday, the three bodies jointly condemned the violence and “the use of excessive force by security forces and lack of accountability for such actions, despite repeated commitments by authorities.”
Yasser Arman from Sudan’s main civilian bloc the Forces for Freedom and Change on Sunday again expressed opposition to a return to negotiations with the military and its allies.
“The bullets that have cut down protesters have cut down the political process,” he told a press conference, adding, “It’s not us who broke it off.”
In the restive Darfur region, which has seen a recent resurgence in violence, General Daglo — known as Hemeti — on Sunday called “on all political forces, especially the youth,” to come to the table.
“Dialogue is the only way to guarantee stability in our country,” he said at a ceremony where 2,000 ex-rebels completed their training to join Sudanese security forces.
The integration of former fighters into the Sudanese army and police was part of a 2020 peace deal with rebel groups involved in decades of civil conflict, including in Darfur.
The first of its kind, the cohort “will confront the chaos in Darfur,” Daglo said.
Hundreds have been killed in recent months in Darfur, in a renewed spike of violence triggered by disputes mainly over land, livestock and access to water and grazing.


Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
Updated 03 July 2022

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordan govt blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port
  • The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Sunday blamed a lack of safety measures for the deadly gas leak in Aqaba last week.


A total of 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported.

Announcing the results of the investigation into the gas leak tragedy, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the reason behind the accident was the incompatibility of the metal wire that carried the gas tank with its weight.

During a press conference on Sunday, Al-Faraya said that the weight of the tank was “three times more than the cable load capacity.”

Al-Faraya also said that the required safety procedures in dealing with such hazardous material were not in place while loading the gas tank on the truck.

The minister said that the safety attendant was not present on the ship to check the loading and unloading protocols and procedures.

Al-Faraya said that the report into the Aqaba gas leak would be referred to the prosecutor-general for further investigation.

Faisal Shboul, minister of state for media affairs, said that the state institutions’ response to the incident was “professional and immediate,” which resulted in the gas leak being contained and the situation being brought under control.

He also commended the “high efficiency” of the health care system in Aqaba, saying that only eight injured in the accident were currently receiving treatment.

Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said that, as per the recommendations of the investigation team, the Cabinet had approved the termination of the services of the directors of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the Aqaba Company for Port Operation and Management and other officials.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Khasawneh also blamed the absence of the required safety measures for the gas leak.

In a statement to Arab News, the premier said that the “government’s professional and rapid response to the incident has greatly helped mitigate the disaster and its consequences on the port city and its residents.”

He said that the government had implemented the king’s directives to embark on a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak to be held accountable.

Chairing a meeting last Tuesday at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.”

Following the gas leak tragedy, employees at the port of Aqaba have been staging a sit-in, demanding better safety measures at their work sites and better living conditions.


Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
Updated 03 July 2022

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership

Minister stresses importance of continuing to develop Bahrain-UK partnership
  • British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling is on a visit to Manama
  • Bahrain’s minister of finance and national economy affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations

RIYADH: Bahrain’s finance minister has stressed the importance of continuing to develop the partnership between his country and the UK in order to create more ambitious investment opportunities, Bahrain News Agency reported on Sunday.

Minister of Finance and National Economy, Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, also affirmed the depth of UK-Bahraini relations which has strengthened economic cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

The minister also highlighted the importance of building on fruitful cooperation between the two countries and opening up new horizons so as to achieve common aspirations and goals.

The comments were made during the British Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Milling’s visit to Manama.

Milling said she was delighted to visit Bahrain and pleased to meet with British embassy officials to learn more about the “on-going work with the Bahrain government.”