Philippine forces report killing Daesh ‘spokesperson’

Philippine forces report killing Daesh ‘spokesperson’
Col. Christopher Panapan, provincial police commander, said Alimuden died of multiple gunshot wounds after his vehicle was intercepted by security forces on a highway. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 June 2022

Philippine forces report killing Daesh ‘spokesperson’

Philippine forces report killing Daesh ‘spokesperson’
  • Military identifies suspect as member of Dawlah Islamiyah, a Daesh affiliate
  • Abdulfatah Omar Alimuden believed to have served as the group’s finance officer 

MANILA/DAVAO CITY: Philippine security forces said on Tuesday they had killed a Daesh spokesperson and “money man” in the southern province of Maguindanao.

The Western Mindanao Command, which oversees military operations in the country’s south, identified the suspect as Abdulfatah Omar Alimuden, alias Abu Huzaifah, a Philippine national and member of Dawlah Islamiyah, a militant organization that pledged allegiance to the Daesh in 2015.

Maj. Andrew Linao, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, told Arab News that Alimuden was killed in an operation in Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipality on Monday.

“The neutralization of the personality is a big blow to the organization,” Linao said, adding that Alimuden was a “spokesperson of ISIS (Daesh)” and “finance officer of the Dawlah Islamiyah Philippines conduit to ISIS (Daesh) central.”

Linao added that the suspected finance officer will no longer be able to “extort or generate more funds to buy bomb materials, improvised explosive devices, which would wreak havoc on the Filipino people, especially here in central Mindanao.” 

Col. Christopher Panapan, provincial police commander, said Alimuden died of multiple gunshot wounds after his vehicle was intercepted by security forces on a highway.

“Minutes after we arrived at the scene, we rushed him to the nearest hospital, but he was declared dead by doctors,” Panapan said, but did not confirm the suspect’s role or position within the militant group.

“He was reportedly holding a key position in the ISIS-EA (Daesh-East Asia) group,” he added. “We are digging more information about his role in their organization.”

Dawlah Islamiyah, also known as the Maute group, was one the organizations that along with another Daesh affiliate, the Abu Sayyaf, took control of the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines in 2017.

After five months of fighting and widespread destruction, the Philippine army reclaimed the city, killing the main leadership of both groups.

But following the battle, attacks increased in the country and Daesh became a major cause of concern.

In 2018, the US Department of State designated Daesh-Philippines on its list of foreign terrorist organizations amid concerns that the group, which  originated in the Middle East, was expanding its operations in Southeast Asia.

At the same time, the Philippine military stepped up its crackdown on Daesh affiliates in the country.

The latest operation comes a week after a series of bomb attacks in Koronadal, South Cotabato province and Tacurong in Sultan Kudarat province, which the military has blamed on Dawlah Islamiyah.

Ramon Beleno III, head of the department of political science at Ateneo De Davao University in Davao City, told Arab News that the killing of the suspected Daesh finance chief “will result in difficulties for their group in seeking financial support.”

But it may also lead to a rise in attacks.

“They might retaliate,” Beleno said. “It’s like a house of ants. Once you ruin it, they will strike back.”


Afghan migrants continue to face abuse from Iranian border guards, traffickers

Afghan migrants continue to face abuse from Iranian border guards, traffickers
Updated 13 sec ago

Afghan migrants continue to face abuse from Iranian border guards, traffickers

Afghan migrants continue to face abuse from Iranian border guards, traffickers
  • ‘We were forced to do hard labor and if we didn’t, they would hit us,’ one man says
  • Allegations of mistreatment of Afghans in Iran have been on the rise since last year

KABUL: When Mohammad Parwiz was trying to cross from Iran to Turkey in search of a better life, he was caught by Iranian police guards and subjected to forced labor before being deported back to Afghanistan.

Parwiz is just one among hundreds of Afghans trying to cross the Iranian border every day to find employment abroad. He is also one of an increasing number to face abuse in the process.
Iran has for decades hosted millions of Afghans fleeing armed conflict in their war-torn country. The number jumped to 5 million from nearly 4 million last year, according to Iranian Foreign Ministry data, as economic restrictions imposed on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in August 2021 triggered unprecedented levels of poverty.
“As embassies closed in August last year, I had no other way but to go to Iran illegally,” Parwiz, a 22-year-old from the northern Baghlan province, told Arab News.
“I stayed in Iran for three months working at my relative’s bakery. My friends and I were caught by a border police patrol close to Turkey’s border.
“We were kept in jail for 12 days where we were forced to do hard labor and if we didn’t, they would hit us. We wouldn’t get proper food during that time. They constantly threatened us that if we come to Iran again, we may get killed. After 12 days of forced labor, humiliation, abuse and torture by Iran’s police, we were sent back to Afghanistan.”
Allegations of mistreatment of Afghans in Iran have been on the rise since last year. Reports include abuse not only by the Iranian police, but also human traffickers.
Ahmad Jalil, a 19-year-old from Laghman province, tried to leave Afghanistan and go via Iran to Turkey, from where he wanted to reach Europe with a group of 15 other teenagers.
“We paid a lot of money to the trafficker here but when we entered Iran through the border in Nimroz province during the night, we were received by another person after walking in the desert for hours,” he said.
The second smuggler asked them for more money.
“The trafficker would abuse us and would beat some of us,” Jalil said. “He even threatened us with death.”
Eventually, Jalil was abandoned and managed to return to Afghanistan on his own.
“We have cases of Afghan migrants being abused, beaten up and even killed,” Sayed Hazratullah Zaeem, a commissioner at Islam Qala, a border town in Herat province, near the Afghanistan–Iran border, told the Afghan media on Thursday.
Abdullah Qayoum, an official of the Department of Refugees and Repatriation in Herat, confirmed the reports of abuse.
“Afghans who want to go there (Iran), some of them are sent back after being tortured,” he said.
In April, videos circulated on social media showing civilians being manhandled by men dressed like Iranian security forces sparked a wave of demonstrations targeting Iranian diplomatic missions in Kabul and Herat, and a diplomatic protest by Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities.
“The border police in Iran are so brutal. For them we are not even humans,” said Mohammad Karim, a recent graduate from Kabul, who tried to cross from Iran to Turkey earlier this year.
He did not manage to reach his destination after he was injured in a car accident as his traffickers tried to evade Iranian police.
“If they saw our vehicle in the desert, they would shoot at us,” he said.


Polio detected in NYC’s sewage, suggesting virus circulating

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
Updated 14 min 32 sec ago

Polio detected in NYC’s sewage, suggesting virus circulating

This 2014 illustration made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts a polio virus particle. (AP
  • New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines

NEW YORK: The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the disease, which hadn’t been seen in the US in a decade, is quietly spreading among unvaccinated people, health officials said Friday.
The presence of the poliovirus in the city’s wastewater suggests likely local circulation of the virus, the city and New York state health departments said.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said the detection of poliovirus in wastewater samples in New York City is alarming but not surprising.
“The risk to New Yorkers is real but the defense is so simple — get vaccinated against polio,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. “With polio circulating in our communities there is simply nothing more essential than vaccinating our children to protect them from this virus, and if you’re an unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adult, please choose now to get the vaccine. Polio is entirely preventable and its reappearance should be a call to action for all of us.”

FASTFACT

New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines.

New York City is being forced to confront polio as city health officials are struggling to vaccinate vulnerable populations against monkeypox and adjusting to changing COVID-19 guidelines.
“We are dealing with a trifecta,” Mayor Eric Adams said Friday on CNN. “COVID is still very much here. Polio, we have identified polio in our sewage, and we’re still dealing with the monkeypox crisis. But the team is there. And we’re coordinating and we’re addressing the threats as they come before us, and we’re prepared to deal with them with the assistance of Washington, DC.”
The announcement about the discovery of the polio virus in New York City comes shortly after British health authorities reported finding evidence the virus has spread in London but found no cases in people. Children ages one through nine in London were made eligible for booster doses of a polio vaccine Wednesday.
In New York, one person suffered paralysis weeks ago because of a polio infection in Rockland County, north of the city. Wastewater samples collected in June in both Rockland and adjacent Orange County were found to contain the virus.


UN humanitarian agencies face record funding gap this year

In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
Updated 24 min 35 sec ago

UN humanitarian agencies face record funding gap this year

In this Sept. 21, 2018 file photo, men deliver UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. (AP)
  • Armed conflict, climate change emerge as key drivers of ‘mega crises’ that threaten livelihoods of communities

GENEVA: UN humanitarian projects face a record funding gap this year, with only a third of the required $48.7 billion secured so far as global needs outpace pledges, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The money is needed to help around 204 million people worldwide as armed conflict and climate change, such as the war in Ukraine and the drought in the Horn of Africa, emerge as key drivers of “mega crises” that threaten the livelihoods of whole communities.
“More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6 billion, our biggest funding gap ever,” said Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman.
“The needs in the world are rising much faster than the donor funding is coming in,” he added.

More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6 billion, our biggest funding gap ever.

Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman

So far $15.2 billion has been collected by the mid-year mark, also a record, Laerke said, in a year of soaring humanitarian needs.
According to OCHA’s website, the US is the top donor, contributing just over $8 billion, while the World Food Programme was the largest recipient.
The nearly $50 billion needed includes all the UN coordinated appeals worldwide, like the annual humanitarian response plans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, as well as flash appeals in Ukraine and regional appeals for refugees in Afghanistan.
The money is meant for all UN humanitarian agencies and some NGOs, but does not cover appeals from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC because they have independent appeal processes, Laerke said.
The UN’s humanitarian agency earlier said nearly 900,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been displaced since the start of the year amid rebel fighting in the country’s east.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report that more than 877,000 people had been displaced between January and June.
Over 446,000 people had also returned home during that period, OCHA said.
There are currently 4.86 million people displaced within the DRC, according to OCHA, with women representing 51 percent of that number.
“More than 80 per cent of the displacement is due to armed attacks and clashes,” the report said.
The majority of displaced people are located in Congo’s turbulent east, a mineral-rich region plagued by over 120 armed groups.
Late last year, the M23 rebel group resumed fighting in eastern Congo after lying mostly dormant for years. It has since captured swaths of territory, including the strategic border town of Bunagana.
The clashes have destabilized regional relations in central Africa, with DRC accusing its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the militia.
Despite denials from the Rwandan government, an unpublished report for the UN seen by AFP also pointed to Rwandan involvement.


Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
Updated 12 August 2022

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital

Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage, rushed to hospital
  • Police said that a male suspect stormed the stage and attacked Rushdie
  • He was rushed by helicopter to a local hospital, police said, adding that his condition was not known

NEW YORK: British author Salman Rushdie, whose writings have made him the target of Iranian death threats, was attacked and stabbed in the neck at a literary event on Friday in western New York state.
Police said that a male suspect stormed the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer, with the writer suffering “an apparent stab wound to the neck.”
He was rushed by helicopter to a local hospital, police said, adding that his condition was not known.
New York governor Kathy Hochul said Rushdie was alive, and hailed him as “an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power.”
“We condemn all violence, and we want people to be able to feel (the) freedom to speak and to write truth,” she said.
A state trooper assigned to the event at the Chautauqua Institution, where Rushdie was due to give a talk, immediately took the suspect into custody.
Police gave no details about the suspect’s identity or any probable motive.
Social media footage showed people rushing to Rushdie’s aid and administrating emergency medical care. The interviewer also suffered a head injury in the attack.
The Chautauqua Institution — which puts on arts and literary programming in a tranquil lakeside community seventy miles (110 kilometers) south of Buffalo — said in a statement that it was coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials.
Rushdie, 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel “Midnight’s Children” in 1981, which won international praise and Britain’s prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.
But his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” brought attention beyond his imagination when it sparked a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of the Prophet Muhammad.
Rushdie, who was born in India to non-practicing Muslims and today identifies as an atheist, was forced to go underground as a bounty was put on his head — which remains today.
He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.
He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving houses repeatedly and being unable to tell his children where he lived.
Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran in 1998 said it would not support his assassination.
Now living in New York, he is an advocate of freedom of speech, notably launching a strong defense of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.
The magazine had published drawings of Muhammad that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.
Threats and boycotts continue against literary events that Rushdie attends, and his knighthood in 2007 sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said the honor justified suicide bombings.
The fatwa failed to stifle Rushdie’s writing and inspired his memoir “Joseph Anton,” named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person.
“Midnight’s Children” — which runs to more than 600 pages — has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
Suzanne Nossel, head of the PEN America organization, said the free speech advocacy group was “reeling from shock and horror.”
“Just hours before the attack, on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help with placements for Ukrainian writers in need of safe refuge from the grave perils they face,” Nossel said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and passions now lie with our dauntless Salman, wishing him a full and speedy recovery. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.”


UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
Updated 12 August 2022

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments

UK PM front-runner Liz Truss slammed over civil service ‘antisemitism’ comments
  • MP accuses service of having ‘woke culture’ in its approach to Jewish community
  • But workers’ union chief says comments are ‘inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent’

LONDON: The front-runner to replace Boris Johnson as UK prime minister has been criticized for voicing “inflammatory” comments about the British civil service’s approach to the Jewish community.

Liz Truss, the favorite to take over as Conservative Party leader and head of government, accused the civil service of having a “woke culture” that “strayed into antisemitism,” according to Sky News.

“Every organization has its culture, but it’s not fixed, it can be changed,” she said in a statement after speaking at a synagogue in Manchester.

“That’s what ministerial leadership is about. It’s about making sure that the policies we represent, the values we stand for, are reflected in what we do.

“I’ve been very clear with our officials about the positions we take on Israel, and that will continue if I become prime minister.”

The current foreign secretary has also been targeted after saying that setting up your own business was a “Jewish value.”

Following a show of support at the UN Human Rights Council for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who she called “a good friend,” Truss told the Jewish Chronicle that not enough was being done to educate children and teachers about antisemitism and that university campuses must be “ridded” of the issue.

“So many Jewish values are Conservative values and British values too. For example, seeing the importance of family and always taking steps to protect the family unit, and the value of hard work and self-starting and setting up your own business,” she said.

“The British Jewish community is incredibly proud of this country and so are Conservatives.”

Her comments have been described as “inflammatory, insulting and abhorrent” by the FDA Union, which represents British civil servants.

Truss provided “no evidence for her accusation,” according to FDA general secretary Dave Penman, who said Truss’ comments went “further than the usual dog-whistle politics” of the ongoing Conservative leadership election.

“The Conservatives have been in government for more than 12 years now and for most of that time Liz Truss has been a minister,” he said. “So accusations of ‘civil service wokeism’ are a little ironic, given it’s essentially a criticism of their own leadership.”

He continued: “A prime minister is also minister for the civil service, and throwing around such unfounded inflammatory accusations illustrates a lack of leadership, the very thing that she claims to be demonstrating.”

Her remarks have also been criticized by the British Jewish community, including a Jewish Labour Party member of parliament.

Charlotte Nichols, an MP in the north of England, accused Truss of “using the Jewish community as spurious pretext for another baseless attack on the civil service.”

Fellow Labour MP, Sarah Owen, said on Twitter: “Using the serious issue of antisemitism in schools and universities to peddle your anti ‘woke’ war against civil servants is not the solution you think it is.

“Either you’re woke — simply alert to social injustice and inequality (including antisemitism) — or you're not.”