Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
Czech police carries out random checks near the Czech-Slovak border and on busy roads in the interior parts in the Czech Republic. (AP)
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Updated 28 September 2022

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
  • The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday
  • “We have to react before the smugglers react,” said Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner

BERLIN: Austria announced Wednesday that it will start checks at its border crossings with Slovakia, following a similar decision by the Czech Republic, in a move that’s aimed at keeping migrants from entering.
The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday, the Austrian government said.
The Austrian interior ministry said the border controls are a response to the Czech Republic’s announcement, a day earlier, of controls on its border with Slovakia starting Thursday, and aim to ensure that human traffickers do not use Austria as an alternative.
“We have to react before the smugglers react,” Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner told public broadcaster ORF.
Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all belong to the European Union’s visa-free Schengen zone where people can normally cross borders without getting checked. However, temporary border controls have repeatedly been reinstated in the past, whether to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic or to stop migrants from entering illegally.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters later on Wednesday that he would meet Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic next week to discuss the issue of migration.
“The states are not doing this for their own sake, but to fight organized crime and smuggling and to reduce the pressure from the borders,” Nehammer said in Vienna.
Austria introduced controls along its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in 2015, when more than 1 million migrants from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan entered the European Union. The Alpine country has repeatedly extended those controls, which remain in place.
Back then, only about 8,500 migrants were detained in the Czech Republic, while this year so far 12,000 migrants have been detained, the Czech interior ministry said, adding that most of them were Syrians. A total of 125 human smugglers have been arrested in the Czech Republic this year, a significant increase compared with the previous years.
Most migrants don’t want to stay in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, but travel through them to reach wealthier places like Germany, Sweden or Austria.
The Austrian border controls will initially be enforced at 11 crossing to Slovakia for 10 days.


Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Updated 4 sec ago

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
ATHENS: Two explosive devices targeted cars belonging to the Italian embassy in Greece on Friday, one of which went off causing no injuries, Greek police said.
There was immediate claim of responsibility and officers said they were investigating.
A homemade bomb exploded at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT), damaging a vehicle parked at the home of an embassy officer in an Athens suburb, police said.
The other device, placed near a second diplomatic vehicle, did not go off.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep concern” at what she called an “attack... probably of anarchist origin.”
The far-right leader sent her “personal thoughts and those of the Italian government to the first counsellor of the Italian embassy in Athens, Susanna Schlein.”
Meloni added she was following the case “with the utmost attention” and through Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who was in Athens for talks on Friday.
The Greek foreign ministry “strongly condemned the attack” and said such “unacceptable” acts “would not disrupt... the excellent relations and ties of long-standing friendship between Greece and its partner and ally Italy.”
Crude, homemade devices, which cause damage but rarely injuries, are commonly used against political or diplomatic targets, banks or foreign companies in Greece.
Police often blame groups on the extreme left or anarchists.

Kremlin; Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin; Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
Updated 26 min 8 sec ago

Kremlin; Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin; Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
  • ‘The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests’
  • Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin is open to talks on a possible settlement to the conflict in Ukraine and believes in a diplomatic solution, the Kremlin said on Friday after Joe Biden suggested he was prepared to speak to the Russian leader.
Biden, speaking beside French President Emmanuel Macron, said the only way to end the war in Ukraine was for Putin to pull troops out and that if Putin was looking to end the conflict then Biden would be prepared to speak to the Kremlin chief.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a dovish tone when asked about Biden’s remarks, saying that Putin remained open to negotiations but that Russia would not pull out of Ukraine.
“The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests,” Peskov told reporters.
Putin has said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, casting it as a watershed moment when Russia finally stood up to arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory.
Russia has claimed around a fifth of Ukraine’s post-Soviet territory, annexations the West and Ukraine say they will never accept.
Peskov said that the refusal of the United States to recognize “the new territories” as Russian was hindering a search for any potential compromise.
Asked if the way Biden was framing potential contacts meant that negotiations were impossible from a Russian perspective, Peskov said: “In essence, that’s what Biden said. He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”
The Kremlin, Peskov said, could not accept that — and the Russian military operation would continue in Ukraine.
“But at the same time — it is very important to give this in conjunction – President Putin has been, is and remains open for contacts, for negotiations. Of course, the most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means.”
The conflict has left tens of thousands of soldiers dead on both sides and triggered the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.


Two militants killed in Kabul attack

Two militants killed in Kabul attack
Updated 23 min 37 sec ago

Two militants killed in Kabul attack

Two militants killed in Kabul attack
  • Militants tried to storm the headquarters of Hizb-e-Islami party headed by veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

KABUL: Three unidentified militants detonated a car bomb Friday and tried to storm the headquarters of an Afghan party headed by veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, officials said.

Ghairat Baheer, an official with the Hizb-e-Islami party, said two attackers were killed as they tried to enter the Kabul building — which also houses a mosque — and a third escaped.

“The car detonated outside, so there was little damage,” he said.

Officials said Hekmatyar — a wily politician who served as prime minister in the 1990s — was inside at the time, but was unhurt.

Obaidullah Muddabir, a senior district police officer, confirmed two attackers had been killed, but said he believed the third had been captured.

“I am outside the compound... the situation is under control,” he said.

“The guards at Hizb-e-Islami office told us that there were three attackers. They killed two while one was injured before they reached the target.”

Hekmatyar is regarded as a political survivor in Afghanistan, having fought against the Soviet occupation, the Taliban’s first stint in power, and the Western-backed government that ruled until August last year.


US designates Pakistan militant group, Al-Qaeda branch ‘terrorist’ groups

US designates Pakistan militant group, Al-Qaeda branch ‘terrorist’ groups
Updated 02 December 2022

US designates Pakistan militant group, Al-Qaeda branch ‘terrorist’ groups

US designates Pakistan militant group, Al-Qaeda branch ‘terrorist’ groups
  • Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ended a monthslong cease-fire with Pakistan and resumed attacks
  • Pakistani Taliban were behind the 2014 attack on a Peshawar school that killed 147 people

ISLAMABAD: The United States has added the key Pakistani militant group and the Al-Qaeda branch to its list of “global terrorists,” triggering sanctions against the groups amid a resurgence of militant violence in this Islamic nation.
Thursday’s move by the State Department comes days after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, known as TTP, ended a monthslong cease-fire with Pakistan and resumed attacks across the country.
The threat issued by the TTP forced Pakistani authorities to take additional measures, and security was tight on orders from the Interior Ministry outside worship and other public places Friday amid fears of more attacks. TTP has asked its fighters to target security forces across the country. Pakistani Taliban were behind the 2014 attack on a Peshawar school that killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren.
The State Department said Thursday it has designated TTP and Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
The agency’s statement said the US is “committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)” to keep militants from using Afghanistan as “a platform for international terrorism.”
“As a result of these actions,” the statement said, “all property and interests in property of those designated (Thursday) that are subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and all US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.”
The United States also named four members of TTP and Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent Osama Mehmood, the head of the Al-Qaeda branch, Yahya Ghouri, the deputy chief of Al-Qaeda’s branch, and Muhammad Maruf, who is responsible for recruitment for the group.
It also designated TTP’s leader, Qari Amjad, who oversees militant attacks in northwest Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden was killed in a US Navy SEALs operation in May 2011 in his hiding place in the garrison city of Abbottabad, not far from the capital of Islamabad, and TTP emerged after Pakkistan became a key ally of the United States in its war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan, but the latest development comes after Islamabad asked the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent TTP from using their soil for attacks inside the Islamic nation. The demand from Pakistan came after a suicide bomber dispatched by TTP blew himself up near a truck carrying police assigned to protect polio workers in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province.
TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack, which has drawn nationwide condemnation.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, who have ruled their country since the US and NATO troops withdrew last year. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened their Pakistani allies, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in the next door country.


Philippines’ largest prison holds mass burial for 70 inmates

Philippines’ largest prison holds mass burial for 70 inmates
Updated 02 December 2022

Philippines’ largest prison holds mass burial for 70 inmates

Philippines’ largest prison holds mass burial for 70 inmates
  • They were among 176 corpses found by police during an investigation into the death of an inmate
  • Bodies are normally held at accredited funeral homes for three months to give relatives time to retrieve them

MANILA: The bodies of 70 inmates from the Philippines’ largest prison were laid to rest Friday in a mass burial, weeks after their decomposing remains were discovered in a Manila funeral home.
They were among 176 corpses found by police during an investigation into the death of an inmate, who was accused of being involved in the killing of a journalist in early October.
Most of the deaths were due to “natural causes,” said Cecilia Villanueva, the Bureau of Corrections’ acting director for health and welfare services.
Among them was a Japanese national.
Villanueva said 127 of the 140 bodies buried so far were badly decomposed and could not be autopsied again.
The bodies began piling up in the funeral home in December 2021 after their families — most of them poor — did not claim them.
Villanueva blamed “constraints” for the failure of corrections staff to ensure the inmates were given timely burials.
Bodies are normally held at the accredited funeral home for three months to give relatives time to retrieve them.
Friday’s mass burial was the biggest ever by the Bureau of Corrections, Villanueva told reporters.
Minimum security inmates carried the 70 plywood coffins to their final resting place — cheap concrete tombs in a cemetery inside the prison complex.
The gruesome discovery at the funeral home was only the latest scandal to rock the troubled Bureau of Corrections, which runs the country’s overcrowded prison system.
Its chief Gerald Bantag is accused of ordering the killing of radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, as well as Cristito Villamor Palana, an inmate who allegedly passed on the kill order to the gunman.
After Bantag was suspended from his job as director general, a huge pit was discovered next to his former official residence inside the prison complex.
Bantag claims it was for scuba diving, not an escape tunnel for inmates.
Among the remaining bodies still at the funeral home, eight would be re-examined by Raquel Fortun, one of the country’s two forensic pathologists.
Villanueva said an average of one to two prisoners died every day inside New Bilibid Prison, where about 29,000 inmates are held in a facility designed for 6,435.
There were only five doctors to treat the prisoners, but the Bureau of Corrections was trying to hire more.
“We are doing everything we can, we try to provide health care, just as health care is provided to the public, but there are so many constraints,” Villanueva said.