UN says aid halted to Tigray after renewed clashes

UN says aid halted to Tigray after renewed clashes
A truck, carrying grains to Tigray and belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP), burns out on a route 80 kilometers from the Semera, Ethiopia, on June 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 09 September 2022

UN says aid halted to Tigray after renewed clashes

UN says aid halted to Tigray after renewed clashes
  • The resumption of fighting late last month shattered a tenuous truce agreed in March that had allowed aid convoys to travel to the stricken region’s capital Mekele for the first time since mid-December

ADDIS ABABA: Renewed clashes in northern Ethiopia have forced desperately needed aid deliveries to a halt in Tigray, the UN said, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis triggered by the nearly two-year war between pro-government forces and Tigrayan rebels.

The resumption of fighting late last month shattered a tenuous truce agreed in March that had allowed aid convoys to travel to the stricken region’s capital Mekele for the first time since mid-December.

In its first situation report since fresh clashes broke out on Aug. 24, the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said that the violence was “already impacting the lives and livelihood of vulnerable people, including the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.”

“The last humanitarian convoy to enter Tigray before the interruption was the humanitarian convoy on 23 August consisting of 158 trucks with humanitarian and operational supplies,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

“The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service flights, which had been flying between Addis Ababa and Mekele twice per week ... have also come to a halt since Aug. 26.”

Fighting erupted around Tigray’s southeastern border, but has since spread along the region’s southern border to areas west and north of the initial clashes.

The uptick in violence has sparked international concern, with the US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, currently in Ethiopia to kick-start diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

The two sides have traded blame for starting the latest round of hostilities, with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front accusing the government and Eritrea — which backed Ethiopian forces during the war’s early phase — of launching a joint offensive against Tigray.

Ethiopia’s northernmost region has been suffering from severe food shortages and limited access to basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.

The fighting has also hit access to aid in neighboring regions, with the OCHA report saying that “humanitarian operations in hard-to-reach areas in Amhara region, such as in parts of Wag Hemra, were put on hold due to security concerns.”

Even before the latest clashes, Tigray was in the grip of a hunger crisis, with the UN’s World Food Programme warning last month that nearly half of the region’s six million people were “severely food insecure.”

“Hunger has deepened, rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed, and the situation is set to worsen as people enter peak hunger season until this years’ harvest in October,” WFP said in its latest assessment covering November 2021 to June 2022.

The war erupted in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to topple the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to attacks by the group on army camps.


Afghan woman in Glasgow fears for her life after UK rejects her visa

Afghan woman in Glasgow fears for her life after UK rejects her visa
Updated 26 March 2023

Afghan woman in Glasgow fears for her life after UK rejects her visa

Afghan woman in Glasgow fears for her life after UK rejects her visa
  • Maryam Amiri says she’s been threatened for criticizing the Taliban
  • Glasgow MP slams Home Office for lack of care, professionalism

LONDON: An Afghan woman living in Glasgow fears being deported to her country after her new visa was rejected by the Home Office.

Maryam Amiri has urged the UK government to reconsider its decision.

Amiri told Sky News that her family has already received threats due to her views on the Taliban and its decision on women’s rights. She also stated that her husband, who is also Afghan, works for British forces and that forcing either of them to return would be dangerous.

The Home Office said that Amiri is not eligible for leave to remain under the five-year or 10-year partner route, despite having been granted two shorter visa periods since 2016, PA News Agency reported.

The decision notice also said that Amiri does not satisfy the minimum income requirement and that the Home Secretary has not seen any evidence of “insurmountable obstacles” to the couple continuing their lives together in Afghanistan.

“I have always been vocal against the Taliban and their brutal regime,” Amiri told the PA News Agency.

Amiri also disagreed with the Home Office’s decision to return her to a country “where women are not secure,” particularly women who have “always been vocal against the Taliban.”

“I feel threatened and am scared of losing my life if I go back,” she said.

“I have put my life in trouble by opposing the Taliban and their activities,” Amiri added.

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, slammed the Home Office decision, saying Amiri’s return to life in Afghanistan was “dangerous” and failed to account for the country’s changes since 2016.

“The idea that you can just send people back and everything will be fine, that’s just not sensible, not practical,” Thewliss told Sky News.

“It’s dangerous and the Home Office should really know better before putting something like this out,” Thewliss added.

She continued: “I think her case highlights just the lack of care, the lack of attention, the lack of professionalism in the Home Office.”

Amiri’s case was raised in the House of Commons with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on an individual case.

Concerning Amira’s visa, a Home Office spokesperson told Sky News: “All visa applications are decided on individual merits. We don’t routinely comment on individual cases.”


Ex-boxing champ Amir Khan thought he could die during London robbery

Former world boxing champion Amir Khan has said he feared his children would grow up fatherless after he was robbed at gunpoint.
Former world boxing champion Amir Khan has said he feared his children would grow up fatherless after he was robbed at gunpoint.
Updated 26 March 2023

Ex-boxing champ Amir Khan thought he could die during London robbery

Former world boxing champion Amir Khan has said he feared his children would grow up fatherless after he was robbed at gunpoint.
  • Olympic silver medalist was robbed at gunpoint for watch during Ramadan last year
  • He feared his children would grow up ‘without their dad,’ has since moved his family to Dubai

LONDON: Former world boxing champion Amir Khan has said he feared his children would grow up fatherless after he was robbed at gunpoint in London last year.

Khan, 36, had been dining at the Sahara Grill restaurant with his wife Faryal Makhdoom, 31, and their friend Omar Khalid to break their Ramadan fast on April 18, before Khan and Makhdoom were confronted outside by a gunman.

Dante Campbell, 20, stole a Franck Muller watch worth up to £70,000 ($85,000), having pointed a gun at Khan and instructed him to “take off the watch.”

The watch — a bespoke present made of rose gold and encrusted with diamonds — has not been recovered.

Khan, originally from Bolton in the north of England, told The Sun: “In that moment, you think the worst … that the kids could be growing up without their dad, that Faryal would be raising them on her own.

“Your life flashes before your eyes. I leant my head to the right because I thought, if he is going to shoot me, he can shoot the side of my head. I don’t want to see the bullet coming.”

Khan, an Olympic silver medalist in 2004 who retired from professional boxing last year having won 34 of his 40 professional fights, said: “It was the first time I’ve ever seen a gun in my life. I could see down the barrel. I remember looking back seeing where my wife was. She ran back on the road and screamed ‘help!’”

Makhdoom told The Sun that she thought she and her husband “were going to die on the spot.”

Asked if he should have used his boxing abilities to fight off Campbell, Khan said: “I’ve got a family. It’s only a watch. My life means more to me. When you have kids, you have a priority to make sure they are looked after. I am the breadwinner for the family.

“If I was with the kids, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Maybe I would have panicked and tried to run.”

Khan added that the incident had forced him to relocate his family to Dubai, and that when back in the UK, he spent £600 per day on security.

“I love England,” he said. “I won a medal for the country, but I stay in Dubai now because it’s the only place I feel safe.”

Campbell and his getaway driver, 25-year-old Ahmed Bana — both from north London — admitted conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of an imitation firearm at their trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court. They are due to be sentenced at a later date.

Two men accused of being “spotters” inside the restaurant for Campbell and Bana to target Khan — Ismail Mohamed, 24, and Nurul Amin, 25 — both from north London, were acquitted of conspiracy to commit robbery.


UK threatens Afghan pilot with deportation to Rwanda

An Afghan pilot walks near a military helicopter in Kunar province. (File/AFP)
An Afghan pilot walks near a military helicopter in Kunar province. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 March 2023

UK threatens Afghan pilot with deportation to Rwanda

An Afghan pilot walks near a military helicopter in Kunar province. (File/AFP)
  • Refugee served alongside coalition forces, flying 30-plus missions against Taliban
  • Ex-head of British forces in Afghanistan: Former comrades ‘suffered and died’ after being left behind

LONDON: The UK is threatening an Afghan war veteran who served alongside coalition forces against the Taliban with deportation to Rwanda.

The unnamed former lieutenant in the Afghan Air Force arrived in the UK on a small boat that crossed the English Channel because, he said, there were no safe routes for him to use.

He added that he is one of many former service personnel from Afghanistan now facing deportation, and that he and his comrades have been “forgotten” by their allies.

The pilot, who flew over 30 combat missions against the Taliban, is currently being housed in a UK Home Office-administered hotel for asylum-seekers, where he was told via email that his asylum application may be negatively affected because he traveled from Afghanistan via Italy, Switzerland and France, all of which are designated safe countries.

“(You) may also be removable to Rwanda under the terms of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership between Rwanda and UK,” the email added.

He told The Independent: “What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan? You (the UK) entered Afghanistan on the first day as a friendly and brotherly country, and now this bad day has come upon us.”

The UK government, he said, should “keep the promise of friendship and cooperation that you made, and fulfil it.

“The American and British forces have forgotten us. We worked with them and we helped them like they were our brothers. We are not (Taliban), we are not ISIS (Daesh), so why are they leaving us like this?

“Every day they threaten to send us to Rwanda or our original country. I don’t know what we should do.”

Rodney Liberato, who works at the US State Department and supervised the pilot while in Afghanistan, has written to the UK government on his behalf, telling The Independent that the lieutenant is a “fine young man, a superb son, brother, husband, father, friend and a patriot for his nation” who “risked his life to support his nation’s development and coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Another pilot from the same squadron, currently in hiding in Iran, told The Independent: “The British were part of the coalition forces and we had several mutual missions with them. Our training program was also supported by the coalition. 

“I wish to come to the UK because I deserve to be there and to save my life. We, as the Afghanistan fighter pilots, played a big role in the war against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.”

Afghans currently make up the largest national cohort crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats, with over 9,000 making the journey in 2022.

There are two legal schemes for Afghans to apply to come to the UK. The largest — the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy scheme, for those who helped British forces — has relocated 11,000 people.

An additional 4,300 eligible people, though, remain trapped in Afghanistan. A recent investigation showed that some had been put in danger after UK officials requested paperwork from them only obtainable from the Afghan government, currently under Taliban control. 

The other legal scheme, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, has resettled just 22 people since 2021.

In response to the number of Channel crossings, the government recently approved legislation that would allow for the deportation and permanent banning from ever entering the UK of people making the trip.

Col. Rich Kemp, former head of UK forces in Afghanistan, told The Independent that many people who had worked with the coalition had been abandoned.

“It must be very difficult for them, and we should — I believe — be doing everything we can to help them out. If we can do it, whatever we can do,” he said.

“There was a success (in evacuating people) to an extent, but obviously there are many people who haven’t (been helped) and have suffered and died as a consequence.

“Once you decide to withdraw everything from the country, you don’t have much leverage in helping people to get out.”

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, which is supporting the Afghan pilot’s asylum claim, told The Independent: “Our client worked with UK forces, but rather than being provided with a safe route to escape the Taliban, he had to make a dangerous crossing across the Channel.

“Now our government plans to ban people like him from claiming asylum altogether, and subject them to indefinite detention and forced deportation to places where we can’t guarantee their safety.

“We should be giving safe passage to these brave refugees. This would stop small boat crossings, put people-smugglers out of business overnight, and, more importantly, save lives.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We remain committed to providing protection for vulnerable and at-risk people fleeing Afghanistan, and so far have brought around 24,500 people impacted by the situation back to the UK.

“We continue to work with like-minded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan on resettlement issues, and to support safe passage for eligible Afghans.”


Bloody artwork protesting Prince Harry’s Afghan kills to be projected on London landmark

Copies of “Spare” by Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, are displayed at Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street in London.
Copies of “Spare” by Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, are displayed at Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street in London.
Updated 26 March 2023

Bloody artwork protesting Prince Harry’s Afghan kills to be projected on London landmark

Copies of “Spare” by Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, are displayed at Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street in London.
  • Sculpture by Russian artist comes in response to royal’s claim he killed 25 Taliban fighters
  • Afghans in Calais donated blood for piece that will be projected onto St. Paul’s Cathedral

LONDON: A sculpture of the coat of arms of the British royal family, created with the blood of four Afghans, is to be “projected” onto the walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London by Russian artist Andrei Molodkin to protest Prince Harry’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

The prince’s recent memoir “Spare” caused significant controversy after he said in it that he had killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving as an attack helicopter pilot.

He added that the figure was “not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me,” and that he had thought of the fatalities as akin to taking “chess pieces.”

At the time, the claims prompted a backlash from many inside and outside Afghanistan, with the Taliban saying he should be put on trial.

Prince Harry later said the idea that he had boasted about killing Afghans was “a dangerous lie.”

Molodkin told Sky News that four Afghans currently based in the French city of Calais had voluntarily given their blood for the artwork, that five others living in the UK would donate more blood for it at a later stage, and that they, like him, were “very, very angry” about what the prince had written.

“They read they are just ‘chess figures’ ... for some prince hunting by helicopter,” Molodkin said. “It looked like a safari situation. How he told it, for him it’s like a computer game.”

Molodkin added that the aim was to “drench St. Paul’s Cathedral in the blood of Afghani people,” and that video footage of the prince would also be displayed.

Explaining how the art worked, he said: “Blood will go in the royal coat of arms, it will circulate in there. It will be projected ... on to the cathedral — so all the cathedral will be in the blood of Afghani people.”

Molodkin said he would also try to bring blood into the cathedral, adding: “It’s a cathedral — it’s for everyone. Everyone can come there and pray. Donating blood, it’s kind of a way of praying.” He has not sought the cathedral’s permission.

He said he has worked with human blood as a creative medium for 15 years, adding that it symbolizes power. “Then, the people who are abused by this power, I ask them to donate blood for this,” he said.

Molodkin’s solidarity with the Afghan people stems from his time in the Soviet Union, where he served as a soldier during his country’s occupation of Afghanistan.

“Even in the army, you’re scared to participate in the shooting of others … you’re very stressed,” he said of his experiences. “But (Harry) thinks it’s a video game.”

Molodkin lives in southern France after creating an art installation involving blood donated by Ukrainian soldiers depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I can’t go back to Russia,” he told Sky News.


Colombia police chief says used exorcism and prayer to fight crime

Colombia police chief says used exorcism and prayer to fight crime
Updated 26 March 2023

Colombia police chief says used exorcism and prayer to fight crime

Colombia police chief says used exorcism and prayer to fight crime
BOGOTA: Colombia’s chief of police said he and other officers have used exorcism and prayer to tackle crime and the country’s most powerful criminals, including drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar.
Sitting in his office surrounded by crucifixes, effigies of the Virgin Mary and other Catholic symbols, General Henry Sanabria told local media on Saturday that these religious practices have helped the police throughout the last 50 years of armed conflict in the South American country.
As examples, he recalled police operations in which Escobar (in 1993), FARC guerrilla leader Alfonso Cano (2011) and his military chief known as “Mono Jojoy” (2010) were killed.
“The existence of the devil is certain. I have seen him. I have felt him,” Sanabria said in an interview with Semana magazine, making the sign of the cross at every mention of the devil.
Sanabria claimed criminals used witchcraft, and said in one operation a police officer had been able to kill one of them by “praying while shooting.”
His statements have sparked fierce debates on social media in Colombia, a secular country with Catholic traditions.
President Gustavo Petro did not express concern.
“We know the beliefs of the general, but we try to make sure that these beliefs do not affect the rules, it is as simple as that,” he said. “I think he has respected them, as far as we know.”
Previous statements by the police chief have also caused controversy.
Sanabria has spoken against abortion, which is legal in Colombia until the 24th week of pregnancy, and the use of condoms, which he has called an “abortive method.”
Last October, he described Halloween as a “satanic” holiday and wrote a tweet about Women’s Day on March 8 that was accused of being sexist.
“A woman’s charm makes her husband happy and if she is reasonable, she makes it last. A discreet woman is a gift from the Lord,” he wrote.