Freed ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Paul Rusesabagina arrives in US
Paul Rusesabagina’s arrival in San Antonio was announced by his daughter Carine Kanimba
Rusesabagina was credited with sheltering more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide
Updated 15 sec ago
HOUSTON: The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” and was freed by Rwanda last week from a terrorism sentence returned Wednesday to the United States and joined his family after being held for more than two years. Paul Rusesabagina’s arrival in San Antonio was announced by his daughter Carine Kanimba, who tweeted that “our family is finally reunited today.” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan tweeted that “we’re glad to have him back on US soil.” Rusesabagina’s plane first touched down in Houston and the 68-year-old would visit a military hospital in San Antonio, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. Rusesabagina, a US legal resident and Belgian citizen, was credited with sheltering more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed. He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts. Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family alleged he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial. In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in Rwanda on eight charges including membership in a terrorist group, murder and abduction following the widely criticized trial. Last week, Rwanda’s government commuted his sentence after diplomatic intervention on his behalf by the United States. On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Rusesabagina was in Doha, Qatar, and would make his way back to the US. Rusesabagina had been accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. The armed group claimed some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in southern Rwanda in which nine Rwandans died. Rusesabagina testified at trial that he helped to form the armed group to assist refugees but said he never supported violence – and sought to distance himself from its deadly attacks. Rusesabagina has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings. Rusesabagina became a public critic of Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, first living in Belgium and then the US. His arrest was a source of friction with the US and others at a time when Rwanda’s government has also been under pressure over tensions with neighboring Congo and Britain’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to the small east African nation. Rights activists and others had been urging Rwandan authorities to free him, saying his health was failing. In October, the ailing Rusesabagina signed a letter to Kagame that was posted on the justice ministry’s website, saying that if he was granted pardon and released to live in the US, he would hold no personal or political ambitions and “I will leave questions regarding Rwandan politics behind me.” Last year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kagame in Rwanda and discussed the case. Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, had said Sullivan personally engaged in the case, “really doing the final heavy lifting to get Paul released and to get him on his way home.”
Pope Francis to spend ‘few days’ in hospital due to respiratory infection
The 86-year-old Argentine pontiff has the infection but did not have COVID-19
Francis is sometimes short of breath and generally more exposed to respiratory problems
Updated 25 min 34 sec ago
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has a respiratory infection and will need to spend “a few days” in hospital for treatment, the Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday, amid concern for the 86-year-old’s condition.
The 86-year-old pontiff was taken to Rome’s Gemelli hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties over the past few days, the statement said. Tests showed he had the infection but did not have COVID-19, it said.
“Pope Francis is touched by the many messages received and expresses his gratitude for the closeness and prayer,” the Vatican said.
Francis, who this month marked 10 years as pope, is sometimes short of breath and generally more exposed to respiratory problems. He had part of one lung removed in his early 20s when training to be a priest in his native Argentina.
His latest hospitalization comes ahead of a Palm Sunday service on April 2 that marks the start of a hectic week of ceremonies leading to Easter Sunday on April 9, throwing into doubt whether he would be able to lead them as customary.
Francis’ health has attracted increased scrutiny in the past two years, during which he has undergone colon surgery and begun using a wheelchair or a walking stick due to chronic pain in one knee.
The Vatican had initially said the pope had gone to hospital on Wednesday for a scheduled check-up. But Italian media reported he arrived in an ambulance after canceling a television interview at the last minute.
Francis had attended his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square in the morning, appearing in good health.
In Argentina, the faithful offered prayers for the recovery of the pope, who has not returned to his homeland since leaving for the Vatican a decade ago.
“If the Pope could listen to us, I would tell him that we need him because the reform that he faced is not finished,” said Marcela Mazzini, a professor at Inmaculada Concepcion Seminary in Buenos Aires, where the pope, then called Jorge Mario Bergoglio, studied.
The son of Italian immigrants, the future pope lived modestly when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, traveling by public transport and keeping a low profile when he visited the poor in shanty towns, where many still remember him.
The leader of the world’s nearly 1.4 billion Roman Catholics suffers from diverticulitis, a condition that can infect or inflame the colon, and was operated on at the Gemelli hospital in 2021 to remove part of his colon.
He said in January that the condition had returned and that it was causing him to put on weight, but that he was not overly concerned. He did not elaborate.
Francis said in an interview last year that he preferred not to have surgery on his troublesome knee because he did not want a repeat of long-term negative side effects from anesthesia that he suffered after the 2021 operation.
Last July, returning from a trip to Canada, Francis acknowledged that his advancing age and his difficulty walking might have ushered in a new, slower phase of his papacy.
But since then he has visited Kazakhstan and Bahrain and made a trip last month to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
He has also committed to visiting Hungary in late April, Portugal in August and the French city of Marseille in September. He has said, if it can be arranged, he would want to then fly from Marseille to Mongolia.
After praising his late predecessor Benedict XVI’s historic decision to resign on health grounds in 2013, Francis has indicated he would follow the example only if he were gravely incapacitated.
Pakistan militants kill 4 police officers, hurt 6 in attacks
Group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP is separate but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban
TTP has been emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021
Updated 47 min 13 sec ago
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Taliban militants killed four police officers by targeting a police vehicle with a roadside bomb and wounded six in an attack on a police station in northwest Pakistan early Thursday, police and the insurgents said.
The bomb killed four officers in a police vehicle carrying reinforcements sent to respond to the attack on a police station in Lakki Marwat, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Six officers were wounded in the attack at the police station.
Local police officer Ashfaq Khan said a search was underway for the militant suspects who attacked the police station in Lakki Marwat and later targeted the police vehicle with a bomb.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. The group known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP is separate but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban. There has been an uptick in attacks in Pakistan after the Pakistani Taliban ended a cease-fire with the government of Pakistan.
TTP has been emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021 when US and NATO troops were leaving the country after 20 years of war. Many TTP leaders and fighters have found sanctuaries in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.
Pakistan has seen innumerable militant attacks in the past two decades but there has been an uptick since November, when the TTP ended a monthslong Afghan Taliban-brokered cease-fire with the government of Pakistan.
Philippine ferry fire leaves 12 dead, at least 7 missing
MV Lady Mary Joy 3 enroute to Jolo island from the southern port city of Zamboanga when it caught fire midway off Basilan close to midnight, says governor
Updated 30 March 2023
MANILA, Philippines: A ferry carrying about 250 passengers and crew caught fire between Philippine islands and at least 12 people were killed with seven still missing, a provincial governor said Thursday.
Many of those rescued had jumped off the ferry in panic at the height of the fire and were plucked from the sea by the coast guard, navy, another ferry and local fishermen, said Gov. Jim Hataman of the southern island province of Basilan. The search and rescue effort was continuing Thursday.
The governor said most of those onboard the MV Lady Mary Joy 3 were rescued overnight but authorities were double-checking the numbers from different rescue teams, suggesting the figures could change.
The ferry was enroute to Jolo town in Sulu province from the southern port city of Zamboanga when it caught fire midway off Basilan close to midnight, he said.
The dead included at least three children, who apparently were separated from their parents, and at least 23 passengers were injured and brought to hospitals, he said.
“Some of the passengers were roused from sleep due to the commotion caused by the fire. Some jumped off the ship,” Hataman told The Associated Press by telephone.
Most of those who died drowned and were recovered at sea, officials said.
The burned ferry has been towed to Basilan’s shoreline and an investigation was underway, Hataman said.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and spotty enforcement of safety regulations, especially in remote provinces.
In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.
Taiwan president welcomed, denounced by Chinese community in New York as she arrives for a stopover
China has threatened reprisals if Tsai meets with US House speaker Kevin McCarthy
Tsai is stopping over in the US en route to Guatemala and Belize to shore up ties
Updated 30 March 2023
NEW YORK: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York Wednesday for a visit that has triggered threats of reprisal by China if she meets with House speaker Kevin McCarthy — and US warnings for Beijing not to overreact.
Tsai is stopping over in the United States en route to Central America, where she will meet with the leaders of Guatemala and Belize to shore up ties with those diplomatic allies. On her way back to Taiwan she will stop in California, where McCarthy had said he would meet her.
China claims the democratic island as part of its territory to be retaken one day and, under its “One China” principle, no country may maintain official ties with both Beijing and Taipei.
Beijing warned Wednesday that it was vehemently opposed to any meeting between Tsai and McCarthy and vowed to take “resolute measures to fight back” if it goes ahead.
The United States responded by saying China should not use Tsai’s stopover as a pretext to act aggressively around the Taiwan Strait.
Tsai was seen arriving at her hotel in New York, where dozens of pro-Beijing demonstrators waving China’s red flag gathered boisterously while nearby a similarly sized group of pro-Taiwan people cheered and waved their banner and the US stars and stripes.
Xu Xueyuan, the charge d’affaires at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said she had spoken directly to US officials numerous times and warned them that Tsai’s trip would violate China’s core interests.
“We urge the US side not to repeat playing with fire on the Taiwan question,” she told reporters, alluding among other things to last year’s visit to Taiwan by then House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Tsai’s trip follows Honduras’s decision this month to open diplomatic relations with Beijing, leaving Belize and Guatemala among just 13 countries that have official ties with Taipei.
After first visiting New York, Tsai will meet her Guatemalan counterpart Alejandro Giammattei and Belize Prime Minister John Briceno in their respective countries, her office said.
She will then stop in Los Angeles on her way home.
McCarthy has said he will meet Tsai in his home state, although the talks are yet to be confirmed by Taiwanese authorities.
Pelosi’s visit triggered an angry response from Beijing, with the Chinese military conducting drills at an unprecedented scale around the island.
Analysts say the US stopover comes at a key time, with Beijing having ramped up military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016, poaching nine of its diplomatic allies.
“Beijing’s attempts to poach Taiwan’s diplomatic partners will lead to Taiwan developing closer ties with the United States,” said James Lee, a researcher on US-Taiwan relations at Academia Sinica.
The United States remains Taiwan’s most important ally — and its biggest arms supplier — despite switching its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
“The loss of official relations with third countries will be offset by a deepening of Taiwan’s unofficial relations,” Lee said.
Recent visits by a Czech delegation and a German minister were met with rebukes from Beijing.
One of Tsai’s most prominent domestic opponents, ex-president Ma Ying-jeou, was in China on Wednesday, the first such trip by a former Taiwanese leader.
China has increased investment in Latin America, a key diplomatic battleground between Taipei and Beijing since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
Taiwan accused China on Sunday of using “coercion and intimidation” to lure away its allies after Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Reina and his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang officially launched relations in Beijing.
Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the region, made the switch due to economic necessity, Reina had said earlier.
The move continued a trend in Latin America, with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica all switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in recent years.
In addition to Guatemala and Belize, Taiwan still has official ties with a handful of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Paraguay and Haiti.