Houthis committed 2,158 violations against mosques in Yemen in 4 months

Houthis committed 2,158 violations against mosques in Yemen in 4 months
A rights group documented Houthi religious violence in 14 Yemeni governorates. (AFP)
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Updated 04 May 2022

Houthis committed 2,158 violations against mosques in Yemen in 4 months

Houthis committed 2,158 violations against mosques in Yemen in 4 months
  • The two-month ceasefire, which began at the start of Ramadan, has been repeatedly violated by the Iran-backed militia

DUBAI: The Houthi militia committed 2,158 transgressions against religious leaders, mosques and other places of worship in Yemen during the first four months of this year, according rights group Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms.

The group documented Houthi religious violence in 14 Yemeni governorates: Sana’a capital city, Amran, Hajjah, Saada, Al-Jawf, Marib, Dhamar, Ibb, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhalea, Taiz, Raymah and Al-Mahwit, including the killing of imams and preachers, as well as causing injuries, beating worshipers, kidnapping imams and worshipers, torture and prohibiting Tarawih prayers in the month of Ramadan.

The rights organization also reported that the Iran-backed group imposed on preachers Houthi ideologies as well as converted mosques into schools for sectarian radicalization of children.

Rashad Al-Alimi, who was appointed head of the Presidential Leadership Council on April 7 after former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi transferred his powers to the council, had called on the Houthis to keep to the UN-brokered truce.

The two-month ceasefire, which began at the start of Ramadan, has been repeatedly violated by the Iran-backed militia, particularly in Marib where they used the cessation of hostilities to gain strategic advantage in the area.

The truce received a heavy blow when the first commercial flight from Sanaa airport was postponed as the Houthis insisted on adding dozens of passengers with unofficial passports.


Visit by far-right Israeli lawmaker sparks Jerusalem unrest

Visit by far-right Israeli lawmaker sparks Jerusalem unrest
Updated 5 sec ago

Visit by far-right Israeli lawmaker sparks Jerusalem unrest

Visit by far-right Israeli lawmaker sparks Jerusalem unrest
JERUSALEM: A far-right Israeli lawmaker, joined by scores of ultranationalist supporters, entered Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site early Sunday, prompting a crowd of Palestinians to begin throwing rocks and fireworks toward nearby Israeli police.
The unrest erupted ahead of a mass ultranationalist Israeli march planned later Sunday through the heart of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Some 3,000 Israeli police were deployed throughout the city ahead of the march.
Israel says the march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. But Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as their capital, see the march as a provocation. Last year, the parade helped trigger an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Sunday’s unrest took place in a contested hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. The compound is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. It also the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount and revere it as the home of the biblical Temples. The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have triggered numerous rounds of violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of a small ultranationalist opposition party in party and a follower of the late racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, entered the compound early Sunday along with dozens of supporters.
Palestinians shouted “God is great” as Ben-Gvir, accompanied by Israeli police, shouted “the Jewish people live.” Later, a crowd of Palestinians barricaded inside the mosque threw fireworks and stones toward police, who did not immediately respond.
Sunday’s march comes at a time of heightened tensions. Israeli police have repeatedly confronted stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators in the disputed compound in recent months, often firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
At the same time, some 19 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks, while over 35 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank. Many of those killed were Palestinian militants, but several civilians were also among the dead, including Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known correspondent for the Al Jazeera satellite channel.
Jerusalem police were widely criticized for beating mourners at Abu Akleh’s funeral two weeks ago.
Under longstanding arrangements known as the “status quo,” Jewish pilgrims are allowed to enter the hilltop compound but they are not allowed to pray. In recent years, however, the number of Jewish visitors has grown significantly, including some who have been spotted quietly praying.
Such scenes have sparked Palestinian fears that Israel is plotting to take over or divide the area. Israel denies such claims, saying it remains committed to the status quo.

Libya’s security threatened by foreign fighters, say UN experts

Libya’s security threatened by foreign fighters, say UN experts
Updated 29 May 2022

Libya’s security threatened by foreign fighters, say UN experts

Libya’s security threatened by foreign fighters, say UN experts
  • Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group singled out for violating international law
  • 7 other armed groups accused of using unlawful detention to settle scores

 

UNITED NATIONS: Libya faces a serious security threat from foreign fighters and private military companies, especially Russia’s Wagner Group which has violated international law, UN experts said in a report obtained by The Associated Press.
The experts also accused seven Libyan armed groups of systematically using unlawful detention to punish perceived opponents, ignoring international and domestic civil rights laws, including laws prohibiting torture.
In particular, “migrants have been extremely vulnerable to human rights abuses and regularly subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture,” the panel said in the report to the UN Security Council obtained late Friday by the AP.
The oil-rich North African nation plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. It then became divided between rival governments — one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-supported administration in the capital of Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
In April 2019, Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the UN-supported government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
An October 2020 cease-fire deal led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021 and elections were scheduled for last Dec. 24 aimed at unifying the country. But they were canceled and the country now has rival governments with two Libyans claiming to be prime minister.
The cease-fire agreement called for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries but the panel said “there has been little verifiable evidence of any large-scale withdrawals taking place to date.”
The report said Chadian opposition groups operate from Libya and Sudanese fighters have been recruited by Haftar. Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have been seen by the panel in government military camps in Tripoli while Haftar-affiliated Syrian fighters operate alongside the Wagner Group’s fighters in the strategic northern city of Sirte and nearby Jufra. At least 300 of these Syrians have returned home and not been replaced by Haftar, the report said.
The panel said it continues to investigate the deployment of Wagner fighters and the transfers of arms and related materiel to support its operations.
The Wagner Group passes itself off as a private military contractor and the Kremlin denies any connection to it. But the United States identifies Wagner’s financer as Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The panel said it considers a Samsung electronic tablet left on a Libyan battlefield by a Wagner mercenary and obtained by the BBC in early 2021 to be authentic. It contained maps of the locations of 35 unmarked anti-personnel mines in the Ain Zara area of south Tripoli that was then a frontline area under Haftar’s control, supported by Wagner.
Several mines had never been reported as being in Libya before and their transfer therefore violated the UN arms embargo, the panel said. It added that a booby-trapped mine exploded during a mine clearance operation killing two civilian mine clearers.
Experts also received information about the recovery of anti-tank mines from positions primarily occupied by Wagner in south Tripoli.
The panel said the failure to visibly mark the anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and issue warnings of their locations to civilians in the areas was a violation of international humanitarian law by Wagner.
The Wagner tablet also contained a list of requested items including drones and tanks that would violate the arms embargo if delivered, the panel said, but it didn’t know if any of it had.
The panel said it identified 18 arms transfers and four examples of military training between March 2021 and late April 2022 that violated the UN arms embargo. Among the examples it cited was the Luccello, a ship flying the Comoros flag that delivered 100 armored vehicles to Haftar in Benghazi.
The experts said four migrants suffered human rights abuses in secret detention facilities controlled by human traffickers in the areas of Tazirbu in the Libyan desert and Bani Walid near the northwest coast. They said victims were enslaved, severely beaten, deliberately starved and denied medical care.
“Two former female detainees, who were 14- and 15-year-old girls at the time, further testified to the panel that multiple perpetrators repeatedly raped them, subjected them to sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence during the period of over 18 months in a secret detention facility in Bani Walid,” the report said.
The panel said it also found that guards responsible for protecting the most vulnerable migrants in the government-run Shara Al-Zawiya detention center “took a direct part in or turned a blind eye to consistent acts of rape, sexual exploitation and threats of rape against women and girls” detained there between January and June 2021.

 


13 Albanians, others from Kosovo are repatriated from Syria

American forces patrol near the countryside of Rumaylan in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province near the border with Turkey.
American forces patrol near the countryside of Rumaylan in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province near the border with Turkey.
Updated 29 May 2022

13 Albanians, others from Kosovo are repatriated from Syria

American forces patrol near the countryside of Rumaylan in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province near the border with Turkey.
  • Hundreds of people from Albania and Kosovo joined Daesh and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in the early 2010s

TIRANA: Albania’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday that four Albanian women and nine children, all related to Albanians who joined extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, have been repatriated from a Syrian camp.
The group, which landed at the Pristina Adem Jashari Airport in neighboring Kosovo, was joined by “other Kosovar citizens leaving the hell camps,” the statement said, without disclosing the number. At least one man’s blurred face was seen in a video distributed by the ministry.
Speaking at the airport, Albanian Interior Minister Bledi Cuci thanked US authorities and Lebanese Gen. Abass Ibrahim, who has played a key role in the repatriation efforts.
Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Zvecla did not give details on the Kosovar citizens repatriated but assured that specialized institutions would take care to “rehabilitate” and “de-radicalize” them.

BACKGROUND

Albanian Interior Minister Bledi Cuci thanked US authorities and Lebanese Gen. Abass Ibrahim, who has played a key role in the repatriation efforts.

Cuci said 43 Albanian women and children whose husbands and fathers joined Daesh and most often have been killed in fighting have been brought back in four missions since 2018.
Cuci said Albania had a list of citizens still in the camps and would continue efforts to bring them back.
Kosovo has repatriated at least 121 people since 2019.
“I would like to assure Albanians that we are determined to bring back from those camps any Albanians who remained there, every child and every woman,” said Cuci.
Hundreds of people from Albania and Kosovo joined Daesh and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in the early 2010s.
Many were killed, and their widows and children are stuck in Syrian camps.


Turkey shows off drones at Azerbaijan air show

A Bayraktar Akinci unmanned combat aerial vehicle is exhibited at Teknofest aerospace and technology festival in Baku.
A Bayraktar Akinci unmanned combat aerial vehicle is exhibited at Teknofest aerospace and technology festival in Baku.
Updated 29 May 2022

Turkey shows off drones at Azerbaijan air show

A Bayraktar Akinci unmanned combat aerial vehicle is exhibited at Teknofest aerospace and technology festival in Baku.
  • Turkey’s drones first attracted attention in 2019 when they were used during the war in Libya to thwart an advance by rebel commander, General Khalifa Haftar, against the government in Tripoli

BAKU: Looping in the air at lightning speed, Turkish drones like those used against Russian forces in Ukraine draw cheers from the crowd at an air show in Azerbaijan.
Turkey is showcasing its defense technology at the aerospace and technology festival “Teknofest” that started in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku this week.
Turkey’s TB2 drones are manufactured by aerospace company Baykar Defense, where  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly prominent son-in-law Selcuk Bayraktar is chief technology officer.
On Wednesday, Bayraktar flew over Baku aboard an Azerbaijani air force Mikoyan MiG-29 plane. One of his combat drones, the “Akinci,” accompanied the flight.
A video showing Bayraktar in command of the warplane, dressed in a pilot’s uniform decorated with Turkish and Azerbaijani flag patches, went viral on social media.
“This has been a childhood dream for me,” Bayraktar told reporters after the flight.
Turkey’s drones first attracted attention in 2019 when they were used during the war in Libya to thwart an advance by rebel commander, General Khalifa Haftar, against the government in Tripoli.
They were then again put into action the following year when Turkey-backed Azerbaijan in recapturing most of the land it lost to separatist Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijani audience members at the aviation festival applauded during a display of TB2 drones, which are now playing a prominent role against invading Russian forces in Ukraine.
A senior official from the Turkish defense industry said his country was facing a wide spectrum of “threats,” including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and Daesh.
The PKK is listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
But with NATO allies — including the US — having imposed embargoes on Turkey, Ankara was forced to take matters into its own hands to build defense equipment, the official said. “The situation is changing now with the war in Ukraine,” the official said.
Turkey has been looking to modernize its air force after it was kicked out of the F-35 fighter jet program because of its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
But Ankara’s role in trying to mediate an end to the Ukraine conflict through direct negotiations may have helped improve its relations with Washington in the past months.
In April, US President Joe Biden’s administration said it now believed that supplying Turkey with F-16 fighter jets would serve Washington’s strategic interests.
Michael Boyle, of Rutgers University-Camden in the US, said Turkish drones such as Bayraktar TB2 drones were “increasingly important to modern conflicts because they have spread so widely.”


One killed in Sudan anti-coup protests: medics

One killed in Sudan anti-coup protests: medics
Updated 28 May 2022

One killed in Sudan anti-coup protests: medics

One killed in Sudan anti-coup protests: medics
  • The killed protester died after "taking a bullet to the chest" during rallies in Khartoum
  • The latest death brings to 97 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces killed Saturday a protester during the latest mass demonstrations against last year’s military coup, medics said.
The killed protester, yet to be identified, died after “taking a bullet to the chest” during rallies in the capital Khartoum, the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said.
The latest death brings to 97 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests which have taken place regularly since the October 25 military putsch led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the committee said.
Thousands took to the streets on Saturday in several parts of Khartoum to protest the military power grab and renew demands for civilian rule.
The coup upended a transition to civilian rule after the 2019 ouster of autocratic president Omar Al-Bashir, following mass protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been reeling from a plunging economy due to decades of international isolation and mismanagement under Bashir.
The United Nations, along with the African Union and regional bloc IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis.
But civilian forces have refused to enter negotiations involving the military, while Burhan has repeatedly threatened to expel UN envoy Volker Perthes, accusing him of “interference” in the country’s affairs.
Sudan has suffered from international aid cuts and economic turmoil since the coup.