Philippines’ autonomous Muslim region builds deradicalization center for former militants

Philippines’ autonomous Muslim region builds deradicalization center for former militants
Philippine soldiers escort a hearse during the funeral of a victim killed in a cathedral bombing in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2022

Philippines’ autonomous Muslim region builds deradicalization center for former militants

Philippines’ autonomous Muslim region builds deradicalization center for former militants
  • More than 860 members of ASG have surrendered to the military in Sulu since 2017
  • Such centers and their programs are essential for ‘lasting peace,’ an expert says

MANILA: A center aimed at helping former militants reintegrate into the community is being built in the southern Philippines as part of government efforts to sustain peace in one of Southeast Asia’s most conflict-torn regions, officials said on Monday.

Bangsamoro, a region covering predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao, has undergone a peace process for nearly a decade since the government struck a permanent cease-fire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after almost four decades of conflict.

As part of the peace process, the region’s inhabitants voted for greater autonomy in a referendum held in 2019. This followed the months’-long battle in Mindanao’s Marawi City in 2017 between the Philippine army and pro-Daesh militants, including members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The threat from ASG has declined since then; the Philippine military said in April that its operations had decreased the risk from militants affiliated with Daesh. As more ASG members surrender to the military, the government in Bangsamoro is aiming to help them rejoin society.

“This facility is part of the commitment we’ve made to the Western Mindanao Command and the local government . . . as we join them in rebuilding the lives of (the former) ASG members,” Naguib Sinarimbo, who heads the department responsible for local governance in Bangsamoro, said in a statement.

The $469,000 facility will be located in Barangay Langhub in the southwestern Sulu province, which was a stronghold of ASG.

Once it is established, the center will conduct programs to ensure that former militants “will become productive citizens as they return to the community.”

The regional military spokesperson, Col. Alaric Delos Santos, stressed the importance of the center “for the deradicalization of the former ASG members.”

“We all know that inside the ASG, what they were taught was an extremist point of view on Islam. So this time, they will go through the process and get a proper study and understanding of Islam. We will also be able to see their potential to determine the kind of livelihood that should be provided to each of them,” Delos Santos told Arab News.

Since 2017, more than 860 members of the ASG have surrendered to the military in Sulu, according to official data. More than half will join the first batch of programs run at the center, Delos Santos said.

The center, according to security expert Rikard Jalkebro, is essential to sustain peace in Sulu.

“It’s something that has to be done otherwise you can’t really have lasting peace or any kind of sustainable peace situation in Sulu,” Jalkebro told Arab News.

To build trust between former fighters and the local community, Jalkebro said that it was important “to integrate these people into society” by teaching them skills and providing vocational training, adding that these processes take time.

“It’s very difficult, and it’s very easy for them to simply slip back into the old ways.”


Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
Updated 10 sec ago

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on Tuesday on police escorting a team of polio workers in northwestern Pakistan, killing two policemen, authorities said.
None of the polio workers were harmed, said Mohammad Imran, a local police official. The four polio workers and their police escort were all traveling on motorcycles.
The assailants fled the scene and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Gomal, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.
The attack came on the second day of Pakistan’s latest anti-polio campaign in the province. Pakistan has registered 14 new polio cases since April, all from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The outbreak has been a blow to the Islamic nation’s efforts to eradicate the disease, which can cause severe paralysis in children.
Pakistan’s anti-polio campaigns are regularly marked by violence as Islamic militants often target polio teams and police protecting them, falsely claiming that the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. In 2021, Pakistan reported only one case, raising hopes it was close to eradicating polio.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
Updated 28 min 19 sec ago

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
  • ‘The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict’
  • ‘We see this as a carefully planned provocation’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine and of fueling conflicts elsewhere in the world, including with the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fueling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Putin said in televised remarks, addressing the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow via videolink.
“The American adventure in relation to Taiwan is not just a trip of an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilize and make chaotic the situation in the region and the world,” he added.
He said the visit was a “brazen demonstration of disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and for its (Washington’s) international obligations.”
“We see this as a carefully planned provocation,” Putin said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been in tatters since Russia in late February launched a military intervention in pro-Western Ukraine.
Pummeled by a barrage of unprecedented Western sanctions, Putin has sought to bolster ties with countries in Africa and Asia, especially with China.
Moscow was in full solidarity with key ally Beijing during Pelosi’s August visit to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers its territory.


Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges
Updated 16 August 2022

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

DUBAI: A Swedish citizen detained in Iran on suspicion of espionage might face other charges, Iranian judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi said on Tuesday in a televised news conference.
The suspect, who remains unnamed, had been under surveillance by the intelligence ministry during several previous trips to Iran because of “suspicious behavior,” the official IRNA news agency reported in July.


Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
Updated 16 August 2022

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
  • The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi
  • Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws

MULTAN, Pakistan: A passenger bus rammed into a fuel truck on a highway in eastern Pakistan before dawn on Tuesday, igniting a fire that killed at least 20 people, police and rescue officials said.
According to the officials, the accident happened near the town of Jalalpur Peerwala in Punjab province. The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi.
Tahir Wattoo, a local government official in Multan, the nearest district, said early indications were that the bus driver’s negligence had caused the collision. The driver, who was also killed, slammed into the back of the fuel truck, according to photographs from the scene.
The injured were taken to hospital and at least six passengers were reported in critical condition, he added.
Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and DNA tests will be conducted to identify the remains before the bodies are handed over to the families, Wattoo also said.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif offered his condolences in a statement and asked health authorities to provide the best possible treatment to the injured.
Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws.


Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
Updated 16 August 2022

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
  • Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people
  • Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack

YEREVAN: The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia’s emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.
Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people after it caused a fire and the collapse of a building.
“Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing.
Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.
The cause has not yet been established, but local news reports, citing witnesses, said the explosion went off at a place that stored fireworks.
Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack and prosecutors have already launched a probe into violations “on stocking inflammable goods,” breaches in fire safety standards and the death of people “due to negligence.”
The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.
Shortly after Sunday’s blast, officials evacuated people from Yerevan metro stations after a bomb threat, but authorities found no explosive device.