France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
Above, the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp which holds relatives of suspected Daesh group fighters in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh governorate. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 05 July 2022

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
  • The French government had long refused mass repatriations of the hundreds of French children detained in Kurdish-controlled camps, dealing with them on a case-by-case basis

PARIS: France repatriated 35 children and 16 mothers from camps in Syria holding family members of suspected Daesh terrorists on Tuesday in the largest such operation by Paris after pressure from campaigners.

The French government had long refused mass repatriations of the hundreds of French children detained in Kurdish-controlled camps, dealing with them on a case-by-case basis that rights groups criticized as deliberately slow.

“France has today undertaken the return to the country of 35 French minors who were in camps in northeast Syria. This operation also includes the return of 16 mothers from these same camps,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.

It added that the minors were handed over to child protection services while the mothers would face judicial proceedings that lawyers expect to lead to their prosecution for terror offenses.

One of the women was 37-year-old Emilie Konig, a Muslim convert from northwest France who became a notorious recruiter for the group and urged supporters in the West to carry out attacks, a security source told AFP.

Family members of the returnees said that French officials had entered the sprawling and squalid Roj camp on Monday to select orphans and women with medical problems for the flight home.

“It’s a 180-degree turn from the French government to repatriate women as well. It gives us hope, but there are still a lot of children over there,” the aunt of one of the repatriated women told AFP, asking not to be named.

Western countries have faced a dilemma over how to handle their citizens detained in Syria since the end of military operations against the Daesh group there in 2019.

Thousands of extremists in Europe decided to join the group as fighters, often bringing their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” declared in territory conquered in Iraq and Syria.

Until now, France had prioritized its security over welfare concerns for the detained, pointing to a series of attacks by Daesh militants, including the November 2015 assaults on Paris that left 130 people dead.

In a 2019 poll by Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting, seven out of 10 people surveyed were opposed to bringing back the children of jihadists to France.

Before Tuesday’s operation, Paris had repatriated 126 children since 2016.

The decision to return 51 people in a single operation points to a change in policy that came after Germany and Belgium announced that they would bring back all of their minors from Syria.

Around 150 remain in Syria, lawyers and campaigners said on Tuesday.

“Our country has isolated itself more and more by choosing inhumanity and irresponsibility, unlike Germany, Belgium and many other European countries,” the French campaign group Collective for United Families said in a statement on Tuesday.

A UN watchdog also increased  the pressure in February when it said that France had violated the rights of children by leaving them for years in inhuman and life-threatening conditions.

The president of the Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris, where many previous returnees have been housed, said it was important to make a distinction between Daesh fighters and children, many of whom are orphans.

“Whenever this issue becomes a news story, I’m aware of the fantasies that it can create,” Stephane Troussel told AFP recently. “The images of children indoctrinated by Daesh, weapons in their hands, are deeply ingrained.”

But “the children are not guilty. They are above all the victims of the deadly excesses of their parents and what they need more than anything is an opportunity to rebuild themselves if we want them to rejoin society,” he added.

A statement from France’s anti-terror prosecutor’s office said the mothers repatriated on Tuesday were aged between 22 and 39 and had been taken into custody.

In addition to Konig, there is also a mother-of-four with colon cancer whose mother, Pascale Descamps, went on hunger strike to campaign for her return on humanitarian grounds.

She left France in 2015 with her husband and three children. He was killed in combat, leading her to re-marry another Daesh extremist, who also died.

One of the minors, who is nearly 18, was also detained because “evidence exists likely to prove his association with a terrorist organization,” the statement from anti-terror prosecutors added.

Daesh declared a caliphate in 2014 in territory stretching across Iraq and Syria, but was progressively beaten back by a coalition of Western-backed local forces, losing its last territory in March 2019.


Egypt Parliament approves cabinet reshuffle during extraordinary session

Egypt Parliament approves cabinet reshuffle during extraordinary session
Updated 31 min 12 sec ago

Egypt Parliament approves cabinet reshuffle during extraordinary session

Egypt Parliament approves cabinet reshuffle during extraordinary session
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: Egypt’s Parliament held a session on Saturday during which it approved a presidential decision of a cabinet reshuffle, local media said. 

President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi said the “cabinet reshuffle comes to develop government performance internally and externally.”

The reshuffle saw 12 ministers get replaced, including the ministers of education, health, culture, tourism and immigration. 

Earlier, the Parliament’s 596 MPs were invited to attend the meeting without disclosing further information.

“All members should be keen to attend the session,” the invitation by Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa said.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly — who has served since June 2018 — would retain his position, while about 10 cabinet ministers would be reshuffled, Al-Shorouk daily reported, citing informed government sources.

A new minister of information would also be named, reports said.

The last time the Egyptian House of Representatives held an extraordinary meeting was in July 2020. At the time, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi asked MPs to provide him with a mandate to send elements of the Egyptian Armed Forces in combat missions outside the country in order to defend national security.

The mandate came days after El-Sisi met in Cairo with Libyan tribal leaders, who called on the Egyptian president “to intervene to protect the national security of Libya and Egypt,” according to Ahram Online.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.


Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
Updated 12 August 2022

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program

Tunisian government, unions agree to talks on IMF reform program
  • Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labour union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a "social contract" to tackle national challenges
  • The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page

TUNIS: Tunisia’s government and both its main labor and commerce unions agreed on Friday to start talks on Monday over economic reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue program.
State news agency TAP reported that Prime Minister Najla Bouden, UGTT labor union chief Noureddine Taboubi and UTICA commerce union chief Samir Majoul had agreed a “social contract” to tackle national challenges, citing a government statement.
The UGTT reposted the statement on its Facebook page.
The labor union, which represents a vast syndicate of workers, has been a staunch critic of IMF economic reforms proposed by the government, including subsidy cuts, a public sector wage freeze and the restructuring of state-owned companies.
It previously said, such reforms would increase the suffering of Tunisians and lead to an imminent social implosion.
Tunisia is seeking $4 billion in IMF support amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, though diplomat sources told Reuters any IMF program approved would be unlikely to reach that level.
The IMF wants the UGTT, a powerful union that has a million members and has previously paralyzed parts of the economy in protest, to formally agree to government reforms.
Efforts to secure the IMF bailout have been complicated by Tunisia’s political upheavals since President Kais Saied seized most powers a year ago, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree.
Last month, he pushed through a new constitution formalising many of the expanded powers he has assumed in a referendum. Official figures showed that 31 percent of Tunisians took part, but opposition groups have rejected the figure, calling it inflated.