French commander accuses Wagner of ‘preying’ on Mali

French commander accuses Wagner of ‘preying’ on Mali
General Laurent Michon, Commander of Barkhane Force, speaks during a press conference, in Ouagadougou, on July 21, 2022. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 21 July 2022

French commander accuses Wagner of ‘preying’ on Mali

French commander accuses Wagner of ‘preying’ on Mali
  • General Laurent Michon: ‘The mining code in Mali has changed and now... a certain number of measures have been taken to exploit three gold sites for Wagner’
  • The French general accused the group of acting like a drug ‘dealer,’ ‘giving Mali a first dose for free: protection against the nasty French’ and quick fixes, before looking out for its own interests

OUAGADOUGOU: The commander of French anti-extremist force Barkhane, General Laurent Michon, on Thursday accused “mercenaries” from Russian group Wagner of “preying” on Mali.

French-Malian relations started to nosedive after a military coup ousted Mali’s elected president in August 2020.

The junta snubbed French appeals for an early return to civilian rule and then turned to Russian military operatives — “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group, in France’s view — to help its anti-extremist fight.

Michon spoke as French forces finalize a withdrawal from Mali, bringing out military equipment via neighboring Niger.

“The mining code in Mali has changed and now... a certain number of measures have been taken to exploit three gold sites for Wagner,” he alleged.

“It’s called preying, plain and simple.”

The French general accused the group of acting like a drug “dealer,” “giving Mali a first dose for free: protection against the nasty French” and quick fixes, before looking out for its own interests.

“In central Mali, they took 200 people prisoner, who were all executed soon afterwards,” he said, criticizing one such “rapid result by mercenaries.”

But Michon said France’s withdrawal from the Sahel country had nothing to do with “Wagner’s arrival in Mali.”

It was rather due to Bamako expressing its wish to “see us leave without delay,” he said.

After leaving Mali, Barkhane would offer help only to countries requesting it — “on-demand support, adapted with flexibility to suit the intentions of such or such country.”

Once France’s pullout from Mali is done, only 2,500 French troops are to remain in the Sahel region.
Instead of acting in the place of local forces, French soldiers are to take on more of a supporting role, and the host country will take the lead, they say.

A 2019 report by International Crisis Group estimated that up to 700,000 people worked in small-scale gold mining in Mali, producing 20 to 50 tons of the precious metal per year.


Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
Updated 9 sec ago

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
  • Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state”
  • Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state

TOKYO: Japan Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Friday said Japan “will continue to comprehensively examine whether Palestinian state recognition will contribute to the progress of the peace process.”

In reply to a question from Arab News Japan, Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state” and Japan supports the two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The state of Palestine has “the right to self-determination,” Hayashi said, adding: “We support the Palestinians’ efforts to establish an independent state from the political and economic perspective.”

Meanwhile, Arab News Japan learned that when former Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, former Prime Minister of Palestine met with Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio last week, he asked for Japan to recognize Palestine as a state.

Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state.


Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
Updated 19 min 19 sec ago

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
MALANG: Indonesians gathered for Friday prayers mourned 131 people killed in a soccer stampede six days ago, amid calls for a prompt investigation into one of the world’s most deadly stadium disasters to enable its victims to rest in peace.
Most of those killed after the match in the town of Malang, in East Java province, died of asphyxiation, caught in a panicked crush as they tried to flee after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse a rowdy crowd.
At Al Fatih Mosque near Malang an Islamic preacher led a tearful recital of tahlilan, or special prayers for the dead.
“Many of the supporters demand the case be immediately resolved so the souls of those who died can rest in peace,” said 53-year-old soccer fan Widodo after joining the prayer.
Widodo, who like many Indonesians uses one name, had been at Saturday’s match but left early fearing things could turn bad.
Police have named six suspects in an investigation into the stampede, including match organizers and three officers who were present.
The deadly incident has fueled accusations of heavy-handed policing in the soccer-mad Southeast Asian nation, with the use of tear gas inside the stadium — prohibited by world soccer body FIFA — widely criticized.
Messages and posters have been plastered on the stadium’s doors and walls, some demanding an end to “police brutality,” and Amnesty International Indonesia said on Friday that the tragedy “shows what can happen when excessive use of force by security forces is allowed to go on with impunity.”

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize
Updated 07 October 2022

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

OSLA: Jailed Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski, Russian organization Memorial and Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, highlighting the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.
She called on Belarus to release Byalyatski from prison.
The prize will be seen by many as a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is celebrating his 70th birthday on Friday, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, making it one of the most politically contentious in decades.
The award was not an anti-Putin prize, however, Reiss-Andersen said.
“We always give the prize for something and to something and not against someone,” she told reporters.
Belarusian security police in July last year raided offices and homes of lawyers and human rights activists, detaining Byalyatski and others in a new crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko.
Authorities had moved to shut down non-state media outlets and human right groups after mass protests the previous August against a presidential election the opposition said was rigged.
“The (Nobel) Committee is sending a message that political freedoms, human rights and active civil society are part of peace,” Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Reuters.
The prize will boost morale for Byalyatski and strengthen the hand of the Center for Civil Liberties, an independent Ukrainian human rights organization, which is also focused on fighting corruption, he said.
“Although Memorial has been closed in Russia, it lives on as an idea that it’s right to criticize power and that facts and history matter,” Smith added.
The award is recognition for the whole Belarusian people in standing up to Lukashenko, opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said.
He told Reuters that Byalyatski was jailed in inhuman conditions and he hoped the prize, shared with Russian and Ukrainian human rights organizations, would lead to his release.
“That’s a huge sign of recognition for the Belarusian people, because the Belarusian people deserves it for their bravery in countering the tyranny of Lukashenko .... they deserve all the prizes in the world,” said Viacorka, chief of staff to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who is a close friend of Byalyatski.
The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or about $900,000, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.
“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.
“They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”


UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup
Updated 07 October 2022

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup

UN: More than 1 million displaced since Myanmar coup
  • The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year

YANGON: More than one million people have been displaced in Myanmar since the military coup last year, the United Nations children’s agency has said.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government last year, sparking widespread armed resistance.
The junta has responded with a crackdown that rights groups say includes razing villages, mass extrajudicial killings and airstrikes on civilians.
Since the coup and as of last month, 1,017,000 people have been internally displaced, UNICEF said in a statement on Thursday.
It added that more than half of those forced to flee are in the country’s northwest Sagaing region, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting.
There were “significant challenges” to delivering humanitarian assistance in the region, UNICEF said.
Sagaing is crisscrossed by junta troops, pro-military militias and anti-coup fighters and where authorities regularly cut Internet access.
More than 12,000 civilian properties were thought to have been burned or destroyed across Myanmar since the coup, the UN humanitarian agency UNOCHA said in May.
Last month, at least 11 schoolchildren died in an airstrike and firing on a village in Sagaing, an attack the junta said targeted rebels hiding in the area.
Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis are moribund.
A “consensus” brokered last year by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aimed at facilitating dialogue between the military and its opponents and the delivery of humanitarian aid has been largely ignored by the junta.


Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
Updated 07 October 2022

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’

Russia: Zelensky’s ‘preventive strike’ comments justify its Ukraine ‘special operation’
  • Russia launched its ‘special military operation’ to demilitarize and ‘denazify’ its neighbor

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that remarks by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggesting NATO should launch preventive strikes on Russia confirmed the need for what it calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.
“By doing so, (he) essentially presented the world with further evidence of the threats posed by the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said. “This is why a special military operation was launched to neutralize them.”
In a discussion with an Australian think tank on Thursday, Zelensky said he believed strikes were necessary to preclude any use of nuclear weapons.
He did not go into detail about what kind of strikes he meant, and made no reference to any need for nuclear strikes.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced Zelensky’s comments as “an appeal to start yet another world war with unpredictable, monstrous consequences,” according to RIA news agency.
Russia launched its “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for invasion.