UN peacekeeper killed, 8 seriously injured in northern Mali attack

UN peacekeeper killed, 8 seriously injured in northern Mali attack
UN peacekeepers patrol in Kidal, Mali. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 10 June 2023
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UN peacekeeper killed, 8 seriously injured in northern Mali attack

UN peacekeeper killed, 8 seriously injured in northern Mali attack
  • Mali, ruled by a military junta since a 2020 coup against an elected president, has faced destabilizing attacks by armed extremist groups since 2013

UNITED NATIONS: Attackers killed one UN peacekeeper and seriously injured eight others Friday in Mali’s northern Timbuktu region, an area where extremists continue to operate, the United Nations said.

The peacekeepers were part of a security patrol that was targeted first by an improvised explosive device and then by direct fire in the town of Ber, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The United Nations joins the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, in srongly condemning the attack, Dujarric said.
Mali has been ruled by a military junta since a 2020 coup against an elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. It has faced destabilizing attacks by armed extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group since 2013.
In 2021, France and its European partners engaged in the fight against extremists in Mali’s north withdrew from the country after the junta brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group.
The United States warned Mali’s military government in April that it would be “irresponsible” for the United Nations to continue deploying its more than 15,000 peacekeepers unless the western African nation ends restrictions, including on operating reconnaissance drones, and carries out political commitments toward peace and elections in March 2024.
The warning came as the UN Security Council considers three options proposed by Secretary-General António Guterres for the peacekeeping mission’s future: increase its size, reduce its footprint, or withdraw troops and police and turn it into a political mission. Its current mandate expires on June 30.
Dujarric said the peacekeeper killed on Friday was the ninth to die in Mali this year.
“This tragic loss is a stark reminder of the risks that peacekeepers in Mali and other places around the world face while tirelessly working to bring stability and peace to the people of Mali,” he said.


Pro-China candidate wins Maldives presidency

Pro-China candidate wins Maldives presidency
Updated 30 sec ago
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Pro-China candidate wins Maldives presidency

Pro-China candidate wins Maldives presidency
  • The Maldives sits in a strategically vital position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes

MALÉ, Maldives: Pro-China candidate Mohamed Muizzu won Saturday’s presidential election in the Maldives, a result set to once again upend the archipelago’s relationship with traditional benefactor India.
Muizzu, 45, helms a party that presided over an influx of Chinese loans when it last held power in the atoll nation, better known for its luxury beach resorts and celebrity tourists.
He won 54.06 percent of the vote in the run-off contest, prompting incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to concede defeat shortly before midnight.
“Congratulations to president-elect Muizzu,” Solih wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I also congratulate the people who have shown a peaceful and democratic process.”
Muizzu made a brief appearance outside his party’s campaign headquarters to urge supporters not to celebrate until Sunday morning, when campaign restrictions officially come to an end.
Solih, 61, will serve as caretaker president until his successor is inaugurated on November 17.
The result upends Solih’s efforts to revert the country’s diplomatic posture back toward New Delhi since taking office five years ago.
Muizzu played a pivotal role in an earlier government’s development program, bankrolled in part by financial largesse from China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
He told a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials last year that his party’s return to office would “script a further chapter of strong ties between our two countries.”
The Maldives sits in a strategically vital position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes.
Muizzu’s mentor, former president Abdulla Yameen, borrowed heavily from China for construction projects and spurned India.
Solih was elected in 2018 on the back of discontent with Yameen’s increasingly autocratic rule, accusing him of pushing the country into a Chinese debt trap.
Yameen’s turn toward Beijing had also alarmed New Delhi, which shares concerns with the United States and its allies about China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.
India is a member of the strategic Quad alliance alongside the United States, Australia and Japan.
But Solih’s restoration of the Maldives’ traditional posture itself proved controversial, with many in the archipelago disapproving of India’s outsized political and economic clout.
Muizzu has vowed to free Yameen, currently serving an 11-year sentence for corruption on the same prison island where he had jailed many of his political opponents during his tenure.
In his brief appearance Saturday, Muizzu urged the outgoing president to use his executive power and transfer Yameen to house arrest.
Turnout in Saturday’s poll was 85 percent, slightly higher than the first-round vote held earlier this month.
Watchdog group Transparency Maldives said there had been some incidents of “electoral violence,” without specifying further details.
Officials said one voter broke open a plastic ballot box, but the ballots were saved and there was no interruption to the count.
Police reported arresting 14 people, mostly for taking photographs of their marked ballot papers and sharing them on social media.


Kosovo demands Serbia withdraw troops from border

Kosovo demands Serbia withdraw troops from border
Updated 6 min 47 sec ago
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Kosovo demands Serbia withdraw troops from border

Kosovo demands Serbia withdraw troops from border
  • Tensions between the two countries have been high since last Sunday when Kosovo police fought around 30 heavily armed Serbs who stormed the Kosovo village of Banjska

PRISTINA: Kosovo on Saturday demanded that Serbia withdraw its troops from their common border, saying it was ready to protect its territorial integrity.
Tensions between the two countries have been high since last Sunday when Kosovo police fought around 30 heavily armed Serbs who stormed the Kosovo village of Banjska and barricaded themselves in a Serbian Orthodox monastery. Three attackers and one police officer were killed.
The gunbattle prompted new international concern over stability in Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority and declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and a 1999 NATO intervention.
“We call on President Vucic and the institutions of Serbia to immediately withdraw all troops from the border with Kosovo,” the Kosovo government said in a statement.
“The deployment of Serbian troops along the border with Kosovo is the next step by Serbia to threaten the territorial integrity of our country.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the Financial Times he did not intend to order his forces to cross the border into Kosovo because an escalation of the conflict would harm Belgrade’s aspirations to the join the European Union.
On Friday the United States said it was monitoring a troubling Serbian military deployment along the Kosovo border that is destabilizing the area.
“Kosovo, in coordination with international partners, is more determined than ever to protect its territorial integrity,” the Pristina government said.
“This deployment also includes the deployment of anti-aircraft systems and heavy artillery.”
“The Government of the Republic of Kosovo has been in constant contact with the USA and the EU countries regarding this serious threat from Serbia.”
NATO, which still has 4,500 troops in Kosovo, said on Friday it had “authorized additional forces to address the current situation.”


UK aims to offer military training inside Ukraine, minister says

UK aims to offer military training inside Ukraine, minister says
Updated 01 October 2023
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UK aims to offer military training inside Ukraine, minister says

UK aims to offer military training inside Ukraine, minister says
  • Britain has provided five-week military training courses to around 20,000 Ukrainians over the past year, and intends to train a similar number going forward

LONDON: Britain’s government wants to deploy military instructors to Ukraine, in addition to training Ukrainian armed forces in Britain or other Western countries as at present, British defense minister Grant Shapps said in a newspaper interview.
To date, Britain and its allies have avoided a formal military presence in Ukraine to reduce the risk of a direct conflict with Russia.
Britain has provided five-week military training courses to around 20,000 Ukrainians over the past year, and intends to train a similar number going forward.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Shapps said there was scope to offer military training within Ukraine after a discussion on Friday with British military chiefs.
“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” he was quoted as saying. “Particularly in the west of the country, I think the opportunity now is to bring more things ‘in country’,” he added.
Shapps added that he hoped British defense companies such as BAE Systems would proceed with plans to set up arms factories in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday he wants to turn his country’s defense industry into a “large military hub” by partnering with Western weapons manufacturers to increase arms supplies for Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made Shapps defense minister on Sept. 1, after the resignation of his predecessor Ben Wallace.


Elections in Burkina Faso ‘not a priority,’ junta leader says

Elections in Burkina Faso ‘not  a priority,’ junta leader says
Updated 30 September 2023
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Elections in Burkina Faso ‘not a priority,’ junta leader says

Elections in Burkina Faso ‘not  a priority,’ junta leader says
  • When Traore seized power, he gave himself “two to three months” to improve security in Burkina Faso, but one year on, jihadist violence still blights the West African nation

OUAGADOUGOU: Elections in Burkina Faso are “not a priority” compared to “security,” the country’s military leader Capt. Ibrahim Traore said on state TV, almost a year to the day after coming to power in a coup.

Capt. Traore, who had promised a return to democracy with presidential elections by July 2024, also announced planned changes to the constitution to make it more representative of the “masses.”

“It’s not a priority, I’ll tell you that clearly, it’s security that’s the priority” in a country plagued by extremist violence, he said, referring to elections.

Even so, the goal was still to organize a ballot, he said, without specifying a date.

“There won’t be an election that is only concentrated in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso and other nearby towns,” he said, referring to two cities that have been mainly spared frequent terror attacks.

“It has to be that all Burkinabe people choose their president.”

At 34, Traore was the world’s youngest leader when he was sworn in as interim president, vowing to win back territory and support a transition leading to elections in July 2024.

Traore on Friday went on to say he was planning a “partial change” to the country’s constitution, saying the present text reflected “the opinion of a handful of enlightened people” to the detriment of the “popular masses.”

“The current texts don’t allow us to evolve peacefully,” he said.

Several thousand people demonstrated on Friday in Ouagadougou and other cities in support of the military regime, calling for adopting a new constitution.

When Traore seized power, he gave himself “two to three months” to improve security in Burkina Faso, but one year on, jihadist violence still blights the West African nation.

At the time, he cited the country’s spiraling security situation as justification for the putsch.

Since then, the regime has focused on responding to attacks by affiliates of Al-Qaeda and Daesh and has undertaken a massive recruitment drive for the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland or VDP, a civilian force that supports the military.

However, despite hopes that Traore’s efforts to regain territory and improve security would yield results, “the situation has deteriorated considerably,” said Lassina Diarra, a specialist on safety in the Sahel.

More than 17,000 people have died in attacks since 2015 — more than 6,000 of them just this year, according to a count by NGO monitor the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project or ACLED.

Still, the government claimed at the end of last month that more than 190,000 people had returned to their homes after it chased jihadists from the areas, and regime supporters welcome what they call vital decisions by Traore.

“We are at war,” Traore said Friday, blaming “certain actors” for refusing to sell the army equipment.

“Most of our equipment is Russian,” he added, and there is “not much” French equipment.

Under Traore, relations with France broke down, with French forces helping the Burkinabe army leave the country at the junta’s request in February.

Burkina has since moved closer to Russia and allied with neighboring Mali and Niger, two countries also led by military regimes.

Concerns about the erosion of personal freedoms in the country have recently been raised, and some have condemned alleged abuses by the VDP or armed forces.

French media outlets RFI, France 24, and Jeune Afrique have been suspended in the country, and correspondents from newspapers Liberation and Le Monde have been expelled in the last 12 months.

Traore on Friday said that “individual freedoms must not take precedence over collective freedoms.”

Authorities announced on Thursday that four officers had been detained a day after the military government said it had thwarted a coup attempt.

The junta said late on Wednesday that the intelligence and security services had foiled the attempt the previous day.

Asked about the attempted coup, Traore alluded to “manipulated individuals” and insisted there was “no malaise” in the army.


Maldives witnessed ‘some incidents’ of violence during elections: watchdog

Maldives witnessed ‘some incidents’ of violence during elections: watchdog
Updated 8 sec ago
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Maldives witnessed ‘some incidents’ of violence during elections: watchdog

Maldives witnessed ‘some incidents’ of violence during elections: watchdog
  • The Maldives sits in a strategically vital position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes

MALE: The Maldives voted Saturday to decide its next president in an election seen as a referendum on whether to hitch its fortunes to China or India, both vying for influence in the tropical paradise.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih faces an uphill battle to secure a second mandate after working to improve strained relations with New Delhi, the archipelago nation’s traditional benefactor.

Frontrunner Mohamed Muizzu helms a party that presided over an influx of Chinese investment money when it last held power and has signalled a return to Beijing’s orbit if he wins.

Muizzu won the election’s first round earlier this month, taking 46 percent of the vote but finishing ahead of Solih by barely 15,000 ballots and short of the absolute majority needed to win outright.

“Queues formed long before polling opened,” one official said.

Solih and Muizzu voted at separate polling booths in the capital Male, with both telling reporters they were confident of victory.

Watchdog Transparency Maldives said there had been some incidents of “electoral violence” without specifying further details.

Police reported arresting 14 people, mostly for taking photographs of their marked ballot papers and sharing them on social media.

The Maldives sits in a strategically vital position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes. Muizzu’s party was an eager recipient of financial largesse from China’s Belt and Road infrastructure program.

His mentor, former President Abdulla Yameen, borrowed heavily from China for construction projects and spurned India.

Solih was elected in 2018 on the back of discontent with Yameen’s increasingly autocratic rule, accusing him of pushing the country into a Chinese debt trap.

Yameen’s turn toward Beijing had also alarmed New Delhi, which shares concerns with the US and its allies at China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.

India is a member of the strategic Quad alliance alongside the US, Australia and Japan.

But Solih’s restoration of the Maldives’ traditional posture has itself proved controversial, with many in the archipelago disapproving of India’s outsized political and economic clout.

Muizzu has vowed if elected to free his mentor Yameen, currently serving an 11-year sentence for corruption on the same prison island where he had jailed many of his political opponents during his tenure.

The 45-year-old emerged as a candidate after Yameen’s conviction barred the former president from running for public office.