Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns
Vladimir Voronkov was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the UN secretary-general’s 15th report on the threat posed by Daesh to international peace and security. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 August 2022

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns

Daesh threat grows despite leadership losses, UN warns
  • Although it has suffered territorial losses, the terror group has adapted its structure and continues to thrive amid regional instability and social-economic inequality
  • The UN’s counterterrorism chief repeated calls for nations to repatriate their citizens from detention camps in Syria to prevent children from being indoctrinated by extremists

NEW YORK: Despite territorial defeats and leadership losses, the threat posed by Daesh has been rising since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to persist, underlining the importance of implementing non-military measures to counter terrorism, the UN said on Tuesday.

Daesh affiliates continue to exploit conflicts and social inequalities to incite unrest and plan terrorist attacks, the organization added. Pandemic-related restrictions and the shift to the digital space have provided the group with opportunities to intensify its recruitment efforts and attract more funding, and for the past year it has increasingly been using drones in attacks, as seen in northern Iraq.

Vladimir Voronkov, the under-secretary-general for counter-terrorism and head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, told the Security Council that Daesh’s upward trend has been possible in part as a result of the group’s adoption of a decentralized internal structure based around a “general directorate of provinces” and associated “offices.” These are designed to manage and finance terrorist operations around the globe, from central, southern and western Africa to Europe and Afghanistan, and make it clear that the terror group has long-term goals and aspirations, he added.

“Better understanding and continued monitoring of this structure are indispensable for countering and preventing the threat posed by Daesh,” Voronkov said.

He was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the UN secretary-general’s 15th report on the threat posed by Daesh to international peace and security. It states that this threat remains particularly high in conflict zones. However it warns that it might soon spread to more stable areas where the extremist group and its affiliates are trying to “incite fear and project strength” as they constantly work to exploit “security gaps and conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism to recruit and to organize and execute complex attacks.”

The situation, the report adds, is further exacerbated by the downturn in the global economy and rising inflation, together with the measures adopted by governments to address them.

“Resolving the conflicts in which Daesh and its Al-Qaeda forebear thrive is necessary for creating the conditions to bring about their defeat,” said Voronkov.

“But if we are to rid ourselves of this scourge, we must also address the vulnerabilities, social grievances and inequality exploited by the group in the first place, as well as promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law.”

In Iraq and Syria, Daesh retains its ability to organize complex operations, such as the Jan. 20 attack on Ghwaryan prison in Al-Hasakah, Syria. Voronkov said that up to 10,000 fighters are operating in the area along the border between the two countries, from which the group in April launched a global campaign to avenge senior leaders killed during counterterrorism operations.

Daesh has suffered significant losses among its leadership in both countries, including the death of Maher Al-Agal, the group’s leader in Syria, who was killed by the US military.

Despite these losses, however, the UN report notes that there has been “no significant change of direction for the group or its operations” in Iraq and Syria.

Voronkov also once again highlighted the issue of suspected Daesh fighters from other countries who are being held in detention in northeastern Syria, as well as women and children associated with them, whose circumstances have “further deteriorated.” Dozens of assassinations have been carried out in camps and prisons, he said, and there have been reports of increased violence and killings in Al-Hawl camp.

About 30,000 children being held in northeastern Syria are under the age of 12 and at risk of indoctrination by Daesh, including its “Cubs of the Caliphate” program, according to the UN.

Voronkov emphasized the importance of the voluntary repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of these fighters, and the women and children associated with them, by the authorities in their home countries. He expressed deep concern about the “limited progress” that has been achieved on this front.

“Tens of thousands of individuals, including more than 27,000 children from Iraq and some 60 other countries (who) did not choose to be there (remain) deprived of basic rights and are at a very real risk of radicalization and recruitment,” Voronkov told council members.

“It is imperative that member states urgently consider the long-lasting implications of not taking prompt action to address this dangerous situation.”

The secretary-general’s report also estimated that Daesh controls $25 million in funds and has the ability to funnel money to its affiliates worldwide.

“The diversity of sources, both licit and illicit, that are used by Daesh to finance terrorist activities and exert control over affiliated groups and fighters underlines the importance of sustained efforts to counter the financing of terrorism,” Voronkov added.


UN speeches end with silence from Myanmar, Afghanistan

UN speeches end with silence from Myanmar, Afghanistan
Updated 6 sec ago

UN speeches end with silence from Myanmar, Afghanistan

UN speeches end with silence from Myanmar, Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS: For the second straight year, Afghanistan and Myanmar were silent at the UN General Assembly’s leaders’ meeting, which ended Monday with no representative of either government stepping forward to talk as the United Nations tries to resolve who should represent them.
At the annual high-level meeting of leaders, there was no speech from Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, who now control the nation after a US withdrawal last year, and no words from Myanmar, where a military junta toppled the civilian government last year and detained its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
For Afghanistan, it mirrored last year’s assembly when the Taliban — in its second chapter of ruling the nation — tried to figure out how to interact with the United Nations.
Last month, the UN special envoy on Myanmar said she wouldn’t visit the Southeast Asia nation again unless its military government allows her to meet with Suu Kyi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, including a three-year term with hard labor imposed last week for alleged election fraud.
Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 from Suu Kyi’s elected government, plunging the country into what some UN experts have described as civil war. Critics say the charges subsequently brought against Suu Kyi and top figures in her Cabinet were fabricated to keep them out of politics.
In December, the UN delayed actions on both Afghanistan’s and Myanmar’s bid for seats. UN diplomats said then that the decision to delay the requests by Myanmar’s junta and the Taliban had wide support because of the actions of the two countries’ new rulers.
Myanmar and Afghanistan didn’t go entirely unmentioned Monday. Bharat Raj Paudyal, foreign secretary of Nepal, brought up both of them.
“Afghanistan has remained on the precipice of uncertainty and violence,” he noted, and asked all parties in Myanmar to “respect the will of the people to elect their representatives.”

Biden to host Macron for state visit at White House Dec 1

Biden to host Macron for state visit at White House Dec 1
Updated 26 September 2022

Biden to host Macron for state visit at White House Dec 1

Biden to host Macron for state visit at White House Dec 1
  • State visits, which feature more pomp and ceremony than the frequent bilateral meetings hosted by US presidents for foreign leaders, have not taken place so far during Biden’s presidency
  • Asked why France had been chosen for the honor ahead of other US allies, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said ‘we deeply value our relationship with France’

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will host French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House on December 1 for the first full-scale state visit of his administration, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
The visit will “underscore the deep and enduring relationship between the United States and France, our oldest ally,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House.
State visits, which feature more pomp and ceremony than the frequent bilateral meetings hosted by US presidents for foreign leaders, have not taken place so far during Biden’s presidency, which Jean-Pierre attributed to Covid pandemic restrictions.
Asked why France had been chosen for the honor ahead of other US allies, Jean-Pierre said “we deeply value our relationship with France.”
The link between the two countries is “founded on shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation,” she said.
Relations between Paris and Washington hit a major crisis last year when Australia abruptly announced it was ditching a contract to buy conventional French submarines in favor of a US nuclear-powered submarine deal.


After floods, thousands displaced in southern Pakistan to move to ‘tent-city’

After floods, thousands displaced in southern Pakistan to move to ‘tent-city’
Updated 26 September 2022

After floods, thousands displaced in southern Pakistan to move to ‘tent-city’

After floods, thousands displaced in southern Pakistan to move to ‘tent-city’
  • Nearly 1.5 million people are displaced in southern Sindh province
  • Makeshift facility in Karachi will comprise about 1,300 tents, official says

KARACHI: Thousands of people in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh will be moved to a “tent city” in the provincial capital Karachi this week, officials said on Monday, in the aftermath of catastrophic floods that had submerged a third of the country and killed over 1,600 people.

Torrential rains and melting glaciers in the mountains of Pakistan’s north triggered floods that have swept away homes, key infrastructure, livestock and crops, affecting 33 million of Pakistan’s 220 million people since mid-June.

With nearly 1.5 million people displaced in Sindh province, the local government has been using public schools as temporary shelters. In Karachi, thousands of people have taken refuge in 30 schools in the city.

Local officials are preparing to move the victims to a makeshift facility located in the suburbs of Malir, an administrative district in the eastern part of Karachi, with the relocation set to begin this week.

“About 7,000 people living in our relief camps would be shifted and the schools will be vacated,” said Raja Tariq Chandio, deputy commissioner of Karachi’s East District, where the schools currently used as shelters are located.

The temporary settlement will comprise about 1,300 tents, and K-Electric, the city’s sole power distributor, will set up a power transmission line to provide electricity to the camp, Malir’s Deputy Commissioner Irfan Salam told Arab News.

“In the tent city, flood victims will have safe drinking water and cooked meals. It has 20 washrooms and a hospital with men and women doctors and paramedics,” Salam said.

“It will take at least 10 days for K-Electric to set up the power transmission line,” he added. “Within two days, people will be moved to the tent city.”

A charity organization will be providing meals for the displaced people relocated to Malir, he added, while children will get to attend classes organized by the Sindh Education Foundation.

The deadly floods in Pakistan inundated around 15,000 schools across Sindh alone, where classes have yet to resume. Millions of students in the province are at risk of being permanently out of school, Sindh Education Minister Sardar Ali Shah said earlier this month, as the government lacked resources to rebuild the damaged facilities.

Officials said there are plans to restart classes in Karachi after displaced residents are moved to Malir, when the buildings currently used as temporary shelters can again be used for lessons.

“We are happy that classes are going to resume soon,” Javed Shah, a teacher at the Government Boys Primary School, told Arab News. “We will bring the schools to order to resume classes.”

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Bangladesh still searching for missing passengers after deadly boat accident

Bangladesh still searching for missing passengers after deadly boat accident
Updated 26 September 2022

Bangladesh still searching for missing passengers after deadly boat accident

Bangladesh still searching for missing passengers after deadly boat accident
  • Government launches probe as about 30 not found, 35 dead
  • Small vessel packed with Hindu devotees, women and children

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities continued their search on Monday for missing passengers after an overloaded boat sank in the country’s northern district and killed at least 35 people in the worst waterways disaster to hit the South Asian nation this year.

The small boat, packed with mostly Hindu devotees, and women and children, sank in the Karatoya river on Sunday. Some passengers were returning from a popular temple in the northern Panchagarh district on the occasion of the Durga Puja celebrations.

Authorities have recovered the bodies of 35 people as of Monday afternoon, comprising 17 women, 11 children, and seven men, Panchagarh district administrator Mohammad Jahurul Islam told Arab News.

“Until Monday afternoon we have found 35 dead bodies,” Islam said. “Still, 20 to 30 people are missing. However, we found some missing people alive today as they were rescued by the locals on Sunday and took shelter in the homes of nearby relatives.”

A committee has been formed to investigate the incident and is expected to file a report within three days, he added.

“This sort of boat capsize is very rare in this region, because these small rivers are mostly calm in nature,” Islam said.

Officials suspect the fatal incident had occurred due to overcrowding.

“It seems that the boat had capsized due to overload(ing),” Shahjahan Ali, who led the search and rescue operations, told Arab News.

“We are conducting the operations in a 15-kilometer radius in the surrounding areas of the river. Now our operations are ongoing in some special areas where few of the bodies might have been floating around. Tomorrow we will also continue the search,” he added.

Bangladesh sees hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents, due to lax safety standards despite extensive inland waterways in the low-lying country.

At least 34 people died in April 2021 after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank on the Shitalakhsya River outside the capital Dhaka.


Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
Updated 26 September 2022

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA

Cancel Africa’s debts as global crises worsen, Mauritanian FM tells UNGA
  • Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug urges international community to help Sahel region combat instability, terror
  • Emphasizes Mauritania’s support for ‘sovereignty and dignity’ of the Palestinian people

LONDON: Mauritania’s foreign minister on Monday urged the international community to cancel foreign debt for African nations amid the intensifying global financial crisis.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug also asked for support for the Sahel region in countering terrorism.

He thanked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his “diligent efforts aimed at promoting the UN and bolstering its role” amid “very difficult and complex international conditions.”

Merzoug highlighted a perfect storm of issues, from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism and climate change-related natural disasters, noting how these events are placing disproportionate pressure on poorer countries, especially in Africa.

“These crises, and the economic, social and humanitarian repercussions of them, are unprecedented,” he said, adding how, for instance, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected food and fuel supply lines to developing countries.

He praised the international community for work on securing agreements for the shipment of grain through the Black Sea, but called for “ramped up efforts to find solutions that would guarantee peace, security and dignity for all the peoples of the world,” which, he said, should include canceling African debts.

“The Islamic Republic of Mauritania calls upon the international community to fulfil its responsibilities to developing and poor countries, to assist them as quickly as possible to address the challenges threatening their food security as well as to counter other negative effects of these crises,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has made progress across a raft of issues, including “re-establishing the values of justice, equity, democracy, individual and collective freedoms, the freedom of the press, and the adoption of dialogue and consultation to manage government affairs with participation by civil society.”

He highlighted the country’s efforts to protect human rights by combating human slavery and child trafficking, as well as illegal migration.

He also discussed government programs to support the poor and youngest in society by building schools and medical centers, and providing clean water.

“We have prepared programs to train youth and to empower youth so that they will be positive elements when joining the labor market. We have also worked to promote women’s participation in political life,” he said.

Merzoug added that Mauritania has taken in and provided assistance to 85,000 refugees from neighboring Mali, but called for greater efforts to resist instability and terrorism in the region.

“Mauritania has always taken care to establish an interlocking approach to combating terrorism in all its forms,” he said.

“We believe that the countries of the Sahel represent a key force to resist terrorism and to establish development throughout the region. Here, we call for support for this group of countries as we move and overcome those obstacles they face today.”

Merzoug reiterated Mauritania’s commitment to the environment and renewable energy, saying the country is focused on sustaining 40 percent of its power from “clean, renewable” sources.

He added that Mauritania will make the most of its “enormous natural resources” in wind and solar potential to expand this weighting in the future. 

“We have achieved significant results in our efforts to address desertification through agricultural reforms in those areas that have been affected by droughts,” Merzoug said.

“We are looking to improve our use of water resources and to protect biodiversity. Here, we are very hopeful about COP27, which is to be held in Egypt from Nov. 6-18, and we hope that all states will respect their commitments there.”

Merzoug emphasized his country’s support for the “sovereignty and dignity” of the Palestinian people, calling for a “political solution that maintains Palestine’s territorial integrity and independence.”

He also called for support for the “legitimate powers” in Mauritania’s “brother country” of Yemen, adding: “We call for a peaceful solution.”