Eastern DR Congo faces ‘catastrophe’ from floods: UN

Eastern DR Congo faces ‘catastrophe’ from floods: UN
People cross the floodwater of the Carrigrès bridge in a pirogue in the Pompage district in Kinshasa on January 9, 2024 following heavy rains and the flood of the Congo River. Unusually heavier rainfall prompted by climate change has forced rivers and lakes in the central African country to overflow, swallowing towns, villages and roads on the shores. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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Eastern DR Congo faces ‘catastrophe’ from floods: UN

Eastern DR Congo faces ‘catastrophe’ from floods: UN
  • The UN body voiced concern at the effect on health service provisions as sickness hit affected areas of the country
  • Locals were reporting seeing hippos, crocodiles and snakes in flooded inhabited areas, risking fatal attacks, especially on children and livestock

KINSHASA: Eastern DR Congo faces a “humanitarian catastrophe” after being hit by severe flooding affecting about half a million people, the UN World Food Programme said Wednesday.

“Heavier rainfall than usual during the rainy season, prompted by climate change, has forced rivers and lakes to overflow, swallowing towns, villages and roads on the shores,” the WFP said in a report citing “chaos” in South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces.

Worst-affected are Haut-Lomami and Tanganyika provinces, which border the lake of the same name as well as neighboring Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia.
“All around Lake Tanganyika, and areas upstream of the Congo River basin, people have lost their homes, their fields and livelihoods,” the WFP reported, estimating 471,000 people were affected with 451,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) flooded, including 21,000 hectares of cropland.

 

“People in flooded areas need food, shelter, clean drinking water, health and sanitation support, as well as support to restart their livelihoods.
“However, WFP has very limited resources to respond to the flooding crisis due to current funding levels and the food assistance pipeline situation.”Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“With towns and villages swallowed in the lakes and rivers, diseases are rife. Latrines have overflowed into the water that surrounds people’s homes and sanitation is poor.
“People are forced to wade through and wash their clothes and cooking implements in cholera-riddled water,” said the report, warning of “a whole host of animal-borne diseases.”
Locals were reporting seeing hippos, crocodiles and snakes in flooded inhabited areas, risking fatal attacks, especially on children and livestock.
Amid lost harvests, “people are struggling to feed their families which is leading to more people arriving in health care facilities with symptoms related to months of poor food intake. Especially children are at risk of developing malnutrition.”
Flooding has hit vast swathes of Africa in recent weeks, which have notably claimed 257 lives in Kenya, according to a latest toll Wednesday.
 


4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate

4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate
Updated 25 June 2024
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4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate

4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate
  • North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass
  • The group said in a statement chock-full of a crude four-letter word for human waste that it was a “parting gift” to the prime minister

LONDON: Four men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of trespassing after entering the grounds of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s country estate in northern England, police said.
North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.
A group called Youth Demand posted video showing a man in boots step into Sunak’s pond, where he pretended to defecate.
The group said in a statement chock-full of a crude four-letter word for human waste that it was a “parting gift” to the prime minister. It said the stool used in the stunt was made of latex so it could be retrieved and prevent environmental damage.
Sunak was in London at the time for the state visit by the Japanese emperor and empress.
The incident comes just over a week before the UK’s general election that will determine if Sunak remains in power. Polls and pundits have predicted the Labour Party to take control after 14 years of Conservative rule.
The police officer who confronted the group asked the man identified by the group as “Oliver” what his intentions were, according to video of the incident.
“I think our intentions are carried out,” he replied.
Youth Demand said it is calling for a two-way arms embargo on Israel and for the next UK government to revoke oil and gas licenses granted since 2021.
The group said the four detained included a press photographer.
Sunak had condemned the group earlier this year when it hung a banner on the home of Labour leader Keir Starmer, saying “Stop the killing,” in reference to Israel’s war with Hamas militants.
In August, four Greenpeace protesters were charged with criminal damage after climbing on Sunak’s home while he was away and draping it in black fabric to protest his plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.


Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies
Updated 25 June 2024
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Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies
  • Gen. CQ Brown: ‘Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions’
  • Brown: ‘I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world’

GABORONE, Botswana: Violent extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group are growing in size and influence across Africa, fueling worries that as they improve their tactics, they could attack the US or Western allies.
US defense and military officials described the threats and their concerns about growing instability in Africa, where a number of coups have put ruling juntas in control, leading to the ouster of American troops and a decline in US intelligence gathering.
“Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions,” Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in opening remarks Tuesday at a conference of African chiefs of defense in Botswana. “I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world.”
Wagner is the Russian mercenary group that has gone into African nations to provide security as Western forces, including from the US and France, have been pushed out. The group is known for its brutality, and human rights organizations have accused its members of raping and killing civilians.
While Brown only touched briefly on the terror threat in the region, it was a key topic among others at the conference and spurred questions from military chiefs in the audience after his speech. They wanted to know what the US could do to help stem the spread of insurgents in West Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel.
This is the first time that the chiefs of defense conference has been held on African soil. And it is the first time the US joint chiefs chairman has visited a sub-Saharan country since 1994, when Gen. John Shalikashvili visited Rwanda and Zaire.
A senior US defense official said Al-Qaeda linked groups — such as Al-Shabab in Somalia and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin, known as JNIM, in the Sahel region — are the largest and most financially viable insurgencies. JNIM is active in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and is looking to expand into Benin and Togo, which it uses as hubs to rest, recuperate, get financing and gather weapons but also has increased attacks there.
At the same time, the Daesh group has key cells in West Africa and in the Sahel. The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a threat assessment, said the Daesh cells were getting increasing direction from the group’s leadership that relocated to northern Somalia. That has included how to kidnap Westerners for ransom, how to learn better military tactics, how to hide from drones and how to build their own small quadcopters.
A US military airstrike in Somalia on May 31 targeted Daesh militants and killed three, according to US Africa Command. US officials have said the strike targeted the group’s leader, but the defense official said Monday that it’s still unclear if he was killed.
Roughly 200 Daesh insurgents are in Somalia, so they are vastly outnumbered by Al-Shabab, which has grown in size to between 10,000 and 12,000.
The growth of the insurgent groups within Africa signals the belief by both Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group that the continent is a ripe location for extremism, where extremist ideology can take root and expand, the official said.
And it comes as the US was ordered to pull out its 1,000 troops from Niger in the wake of last July’s coup and also about 75 from Chad. Those troop cuts, which shut down a critical US counterterrorism and drone base at Agadez, hamper intelligence gathering in Niger, said Gen. Michael Langley, head of US Africa Command.
Surveillance operations before the coup gave the US a greater ability to get intelligence on insurgent movements. Now, he said, the key goal is a safe and secure withdrawal of personnel and equipment from both Agadez and a smaller US facility near the airport.
Langley met with Niger’s top military chief, Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, during the conference, and said military-to-military communications continue but that it’s yet to be determined how much the new transitional government will deal with the US
Currently, he said, there are about 400 troops still at Agadez and 200 near the airport.
But, he added that “as we’re in transition and resetting, we need to maintain capabilities to get enough intelligence to identify warnings of a threat out there.”
Langley said the US is still trying to assess the militant groups’ capabilities as they grow.
“Yes, they’ve been growing in number. Have they been growing in capability where they can do what we call external ops attacks on the homeland and attacks on allies, whether we’re talking about Europe or anyone? That’s what we closely watch,” he said. “I’d say it has the potential as they grow in numbers.”
Both Langley and Brown spoke more extensively about the need for the US and African nations to communicate more effectively and work together to solve security and other problems.
And Brown acknowledged that the US needs to “do better at understanding the perspectives of others, ensuring their voices and expertise don’t get drowned out.”
The US has struggled to maintain relations with African nations as many foster growing ties to Russia and China.
Some African countries have expressed frustration with the US for forcing issues, such as democracy and human rights, that many see as hypocrisy, given Washington’s close ties to some autocratic leaders elsewhere. Meanwhile, Russia offers security assistance without interfering in politics, making it an appealing partner for military juntas that seized power in places like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in recent years.


NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats

NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats
Updated 25 June 2024
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NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats

NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats
  • Diplomats from several NATO states said Rutte will take over from current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg
  • The seasoned Dutch leader will take the reins at a pivotal time

BRUSSELS: NATO will officially name outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the alliance’s next head on Wednesday, after ambassadors from all 32 member countries greenlit his appointment, diplomats said Tuesday.
Diplomats from several NATO states said Rutte, who was strongly backed by leading power the United States, will take over from current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg when his term ends on October 1.
Rutte, 57, last week sealed the race to lead the Western military alliance after lone challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis dropped out.
The seasoned Dutch leader, who is set to leave office in the Netherlands soon after almost 14 years in charge, will take the reins at a pivotal time.
The next NATO chief will have to grapple with the ongoing fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine and the potential return to the US presidency of Donald Trump after elections in November.


Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says
  • Slater, 19, went missing on June 17
  • Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley

SANTIAGO DEL TEIDE, Spain: Spanish police are examining CCTV footage from a local town on the island of Tenerife near where British teenager Jay Slater disappeared, its mayor said on Tuesday.
Slater, 19, went missing on June 17 and his phone was last traced to the Masca ravine in a remote national park on the Canary Islands archipelago.
Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley located on the island’s west coast, using dogs, drones and a helicopter.
Warren Slater, the teenager’s father, on Monday shared a blurry still picture from a security camera in the town of Santiago del Teide of a person that could be his son in the hope it would help with the search, British media reported.
“We know the police are investigating (the CCTV images). They have asked for the town hall’s security cameras and they are also working with the company that handles those cameras,” mayor Emilio Jose Navarro told Reuters.
The image shared by the family to British media outlets shows a person walking through town, but it is impossible to make out a face.
Navarro said police had interviewed several people who may have seen him, including some who said they thought they had spotted him on the coast watching matches in the Euro 2024 soccer tournament.
British national Tom Beckett, who is familiar with the area where Slater last used his phone and was in Santiago del Teide on Tuesday, said he believed the teenager may not have reached the town.
“Had he been on the road, he would have been seen by numerous tourists. It’s a very narrow road so they wouldn’t have missed him, they would have seen him,” Beckett told Reuters.


Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring
  • Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons
  • Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation

BARCELONA: Spanish police have smashed an international network led by Turkish nationals suspected of smuggling “large amounts” of marijuana and heroin from Spain to other European nations, police said on Tuesday.
Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons, as well as 10 luxury vehicles and over two tons of marijuana, Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said.
Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation, including the suspected leader of the network, a man of Turkish origin who lived in Spain and was the target of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkiye, they added.
The group “was focused on exporting large amounts of marijuana and heroin from our country to Germany and other nations in eastern Europe,” police said.
The arrested suspects also included nationals from Argentina, Austria, Germany, Montenegro, Romania, Spain, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
European Union police force Europol, which coordinated the investigation, said over 400 officers from French, Spanish and Turkish law enforcement agencies took part in the operation.
Spain is one of the main entry points for drugs into Europe given its close ties with Latin America and its proximity to Morocco.
Latin America is the main source of cocaine and Morocco is a key source of hashish, a sticky brown substance made from the resin of the cannabis plant.