Calls for mediation as tensions persist on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border after deadly clashes

Police investigators work in the village of Kapchygay near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, some 1000 kilometres from Bishkek, on September 21, 2022, as the worst violence the two ex-Soviet countries have seen in years broke out last week. (AFP)
Police investigators work in the village of Kapchygay near the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, some 1000 kilometres from Bishkek, on September 21, 2022, as the worst violence the two ex-Soviet countries have seen in years broke out last week. (AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Calls for mediation as tensions persist on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border after deadly clashes

Calls for mediation as tensions persist on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border after deadly clashes
  • Around 140,000 people have been evacuated from disputed section at border
  • Border disputes between two Central Asian nations stemmed from Soviet era

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: The Kyrgyz government has said it is open to mediation efforts by international organizations to resolve the conflict on its border with Tajikistan as tensions remained high on Wednesday following heavy fighting that left at least 100 people dead.

The two Central Asian nations share a 972-kilometer border, a third of which has been disputed in the aftermath of the Soviet era, when Moscow tried to divide the region between ethnic groups.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have accused each other of “aggression” following intense battles between Sept. 14 and 16 reportedly involving the use of tanks, aircraft, and rocket artillery. The clashes have led to the evacuation of around 140,000 people from a disputed section of the border in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken and Osh regions.

Though the two governments agreed on a ceasefire last Friday, the atmosphere was still tense at the border.

In a statement, the Border Service of the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan said: “The situation on the Kyrgyz-Tajik section of the state border in the Chon-Alai district of the Osh region and Batken region is relatively stable, but with elements of tension.”

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov said his country was “never the first to start and never will” during his speech at the UN General Assembly in New York, adding that Bishkek had been “forced to respond to the aggression of the Tajik side.”

He added that Kyrgyzstan was “ready to continue negotiations” and welcomed mediation efforts by international organizations.

The participation of intermediaries, such as the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, may be necessary to resolve the ongoing dispute, experts in Kyrgyzstan said.

Kyrgyz political scientist, Sheradil Baktygulov, told Arab News: “It is necessary to invite a mediator to resolve the situation and prevent further escalation.

“Since the Kyrgyz side is the initiator, according to international law, Tajikistan’s consent to the presence and assistance of an independent and competent arbitrator is not required,” he said.

Emil Juraev, an analyst from the Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan, highlighted the need for a mediator to move negotiations along.

“It is also not necessary to resort to the services of any individual state,” he told Arab News, alluding to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s alliance with Moscow.

“For example, Russia – this country is itself in a state of war and has completely discredited itself on the world stage.”

The second largescale conflict on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border in 18 months may have been sparked by domestic politics in the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe, Dr. Asel Doolotkeldieva from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, told Arab News.

She noted that Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon was “going to ensure the transit of power and hand over the reins of government to his son Rustam.

“However, the political elite is not ready to unanimously accept this,” she added. “The image of an external enemy is needed to mobilize the population around the person of Rahmon and his entourage.”

When the attacks began, those who lived in the villages on the border were forced to run toward the mountains for safety. With only a horse and a cart, Busalikha Egemberdieva from Dakhma, Batken was not able to get very far. Only with the help of a neighbor did she and her family make it to safety, and they are now sheltering with her relatives in the neighboring Osh region.

“Children are constantly crying. They are scared. I don’t know when we can go home. They say the village is not safe. We also heard that unexploded shells are still being found on the way to Batken,” Egemberdieva told Arab News.

“What we want is for the authorities to resolve the issue of borders as soon as possible. It is impossible to live on a powder keg,” she said.

“At my house at the door there is a packed suitcase with everything I need just in case. I would like to say that we are used to war, but it is impossible to get used to it. The children if I wake them up early, immediately ask, ‘have the Tajiks attacked again?’”


Al-Shabab suicide attack kills 7 in Somalia

Al-Shabab suicide attack kills 7 in Somalia
Updated 7 sec ago

Al-Shabab suicide attack kills 7 in Somalia

Al-Shabab suicide attack kills 7 in Somalia
MOGADISHU: A suicide attack claimed by the Somali extremist militant group Al-Shabab killed at least seven people and injured nine others in Mogadishu on Sunday, the army and eyewitnesses told AFP.
A “desperate terrorist” blew himself up on Sunday morning near a line of new recruits who were enrolling at the Nacnac military base in the south of the Somali capital, local military commander Abdullahi Adan told AFP.
“Seven people were killed and nine others injured,” he said.
“I was close to the site of the explosion, it was huge and I could see dead and injured people,” eyewitness Ahme Gobe told AFP.
Another eyewitness, Asha Omar, spoke of seeing at least 10 people taken away by ambulance.
Al-Shabab, an extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda that has been waging an insurgency against the Somali state for 15 years, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Its fighters killed at least 19 civilians in central Somalia earlier this month.
The group carried out a major attack on a Mogadishu hotel in August, leaving 21 people dead and 117 injured following a 30-hour siege.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has faced a resurgent Al-Shabab since his election in May and vowed to wage an “all-out war” against the insurgents.
Mohamud also has to grapple with a looming famine caused by the Horn of Africa nation’s worst drought in 40 years.
Al-Shabab has been driven out of Somalia’s urban centers, including Mogadishu in 2011, but remains entrenched in vast swathes of the countryside.
The US army on Wednesday said it had killed 27 Al-Shabab militiamen in an air strike in central Somalia in support of the country’s regular forces.
President Joe Biden decided to restore a US military presence in Somalia in May to fight the militants, approving a request from the Pentagon, which deemed his predecessor Donald Trump’s rotation system too risky and ineffective.

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones
Updated 25 September 2022

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones

Ukraine’s Odessa again attacked by Iranian drones
  • The strikes come two days after two civilians were killed in Odessa in a Russian attack with an Iranian-made drone

KYIV: Ukraine said Sunday that the southern port city of Odessa was attacked by Iranian-made drones overnight, two days after a Russian attack with such a weapon killed two civilians.
“Odessa was attacked again by enemy kamikaze drones,” said the Ukrainian army’s Operational Command South.
“The enemy hit the administrative building in the city center three times,” it said in a Facebook message.
“One drone was shot down by (Ukrainian) air defense forces. No casualties (were) recorded,” it said.
“These were Iranian drones,” a Ukrainian South Command spokeswoman, Natalya Gumenyuk, later told AFP.
The strikes come two days after two civilians were killed in Odessa Friday in a Russian attack with an Iranian-made drone.
Four Iranian-made drones were shot down in the south of the country Friday, according to Ukraine’s armed forces.
Kyiv said later it decided to reduce Iran’s diplomatic presence in Ukraine over its supply of drones to Russia.
“In response to such an unfriendly act, the Ukrainian side decided to deprive the ambassador of Iran in Ukraine of accreditation, as well as to significantly reduce the number of diplomatic personnel of the Iranian embassy in Kyiv,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry.
A foreign ministry official told AFP that the move amounted to expulsion as the ambassador was not in Ukraine and therefore could not be expelled.
“The use of Iranian-made weapons by Russian troops... are steps taken by Iran against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state, as well as against the life and health of Ukrainian citizens,” a spokesman for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sergii Nykyforov, said on Friday.


Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens
Updated 25 September 2022

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens

Molotov cocktail attack against Iran embassy in Athens
  • Two people riding a motorcycle with their faces covered hurled the weapon on the wall of the embassy
  • No damage was caused

ATHENS: A Molotov cocktail bomb was thrown against the Iranian embassy in Athens on Sunday, Athens News Agency reported.
According to Greek police, at around 1:00 am local time (2200 GMT on Saturday), two people riding a motorcycle with their faces covered hurled the weapon on the wall of the embassy where it exploded.
No damage was caused.
On Saturday afternoon, around 200 people gathered at Syntagma Square in downtown Athens to denounce Iran’s crackdown on protests following the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s notorious morality police.
Iranian women cut their hair in a gesture of solidarity with Amini, brandishing placards reading “say her name!.”


Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague
Updated 25 September 2022

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague

Rwanda genocide ‘financier’ trial to open in The Hague
  • Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century

THE HAGUE: Alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga will go on trial in The Hague on Thursday, one of the last key suspects in the 1994 ethnic slaughter that devastated the small central African nation.
Kabuga’s trial will open at 0800 GMT before a UN tribunal, where he has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the massacres 28 years ago of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Prosecutors and the defense are expected to make their opening statements on Thursday and Friday, with evidence in the case to start the following Wednesday.
Kabuga’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea to the charges at a first appearance in 2020.
Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, prosecutors say the octogenarian allegedly helped set up hate media that urged ethnic Hutus to “kill Tutsi cockroaches” and funded militia groups in 1994.
Now in his mid-80s, Kabuga was arrested in France in May 2020 after evading police in several countries for the last quarter of a century.
He was then transferred to the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, set up to complete the work of the now defunct Rwanda war crimes tribunal.
Said to be in fragile health, Kabuga in August appeared before the judges in a wheelchair — and it was not known whether he’ll be in court on Thursday as judges are permitting him to attend the hearings via a video link.
Kabuga was originally scheduled to appear in court in Arusha, where the other arm of the IRMCT — also referred at as the MICT — resides, but judges had ruled he would remain in The Hague “until otherwise decided.”
In June, the judges denied a defense objection, ruling Kabuga was indeed fit to stand trial.

The UN says 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in 1994 in a 100-day rampage that shocked the world.
An ally of Rwanda’s then-ruling party, Kabuga allegedly helped create the Interahamwe Hutu militia group and the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), whose broadcasts incited people to murder.
The radio station also identified the hiding places of Tutsis where they were later killed, prosecutors said in the indictment.
More than 50 witnesses are expected to appear for the prosecution, which said they needed about 40 hours to wrap up their case.
Prosecutors said Kabuga controlled and encouraged RTLM’s content and defended the station when the minister of information criticized the broadcasts.
Kabuga is also accused of “distributing machetes” to genocidal groups, and ordering them to kill Tutsis.
Later fleeing Rwanda, Kabuga spent years on the run using a succession of false passports.
Investigators say he was helped by a network of former Rwandan allies to evade justice.
Following his arrest in a small apartment near Paris, his lawyers argued that Kabuga, whose age is now given as 87 on the indictment, should face trial in France for health reasons.
But France’s top court ruled he should be moved to UN custody, in line with an arrest warrant issued in 1997.
Kabuga is one of the last top wanted suspects for the Rwandan genocide to face justice.
Others, including the man seen as the architect of the genocide, Augustin Bizimana, and former presidential guard commander Protais Mpiranya have both died.
Victims of the genocide have called for a swift trial for Kabuga saying “if he dies before facing justice, he would have died under the presumption of innocence.”


Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears
Updated 25 September 2022

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears

Philippines evacuates coasts, cancels sea trips as Super Typhoon Noru nears
  • Packing sustained winds of 185 to 205 kph, the super typhoon is expected to hit the northern island of Luzon Sunday afternoon

MANILA: Philippine authorities started evacuating people from coastal areas on Sunday and hundreds were unable to travel by sea as the main island Luzon, including Manila, braces for a category 3 typhoon that continues to strengthen, officials said.
Typhoon Noru, locally named Karding, became a super typhoon “after a period of explosive intensification,” with sustained winds increasing to 185 km (115 miles) per hour from 120 kph on Saturday evening, the disaster agency said in an advisory.
It will continue intensifying and may make landfall on Sunday afternoon or evening with 185 to 205 kph (115 to 127 mph) of sustained winds, it said.
“I asked our mayors to comply with strict preemptive evacuations,” Helen Tan, governor of Quezon province, told DZRH radio station. Fishermen in coastal communities were barred from heading to sea, she said.
Noru, the 11th tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, will bring heavy to torrential rains over the capital region and nearby provinces on Sunday afternoon.
“Hopefully, this typhoon moves fast, although it brings strong winds,” said disaster agency spokesperson Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro. Authorities are on alert for landslides, flooding and destructive winds, he said.
The Philippine Coast Guard said more than 1,200 passengers and 28 vessels were stranded in ports south of the capital.
Noru was moving westward and likely to emerge over the South China Sea by late Sunday or early Monday.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees an average of 20 tropical storms a year.