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 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:18 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mexico Catches Gang's 'Maximum Leader' in Missing Students Case

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 09:09

Mexican authorities announced Friday the arrest of the "maximum leader" of a drug gang accused of colluding with crooked police in the disappearance of 43 college students.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the arrest of Guerreros Unidos kingpin Sidronio Casarrubias would open a "new line of investigation that can quickly and more easily get us closer to the truth" in the case.

The announcement came hours after thousands of protesters marched in Acapulco to demand the safe return of the 43 young men, who went missing in the southern state of Guerrero three weeks ago.

Tomas Zeron, director of investigations in the prosecutor's office, said the "maximum leader" of the Guerrero-based gang was arrested Thursday at a police checkpoint on a highway between Mexico City and the nearby city of Toluca.

The announcement came three days after authorities said another Guerreros Unidos leader, Benjamin Mondragon, killed himself when federal police surrounded him in the central state of Morelos.

Authorities say the gang worked hand-in-hand with corrupt municipal officers in a night of violence in the city of Iguala on September 26 that left six people dead and the 43 aspiring teachers missing.

Iguala's officers shot at the students' buses and then handed them to their counterparts in the neighboring town of Cocula, who delivered the 43 young men to the Guerreros Unidos, according to authorities.

Casarrubias denied ordering the attack on the students but was informed when it happened and did nothing to stop it, Murillo Karam said.

A total of 36 municipal officers have been arrested in the case, along with 17 Guerreros Unidos members and their boss, he said.

The attorney general said investigators are still analyzing the contents of three mass graves found near Iguala after declaring last week that 28 bodies in one pit did not belong to the students.

More than 1,200 security forces are looking for the college students around Iguala.

The mass disappearance has sparked international and national outrage, with protests held across Mexico last week and a new demonstration in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco on Friday.

Chanting "they took them alive, we want them back alive," thousands of students, teachers and machete-wielding farmers also called for the resignation of Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre over his handling of the case.

"We are angry because this is not an isolated event. Many of us are parents and we see very ugly things in this country that we want to fight," said Magdalena Catalan, a 34-year-old teacher.

Many of the enraged protesters wore masks in the latest demonstration over the mass disappearance.

"We are enraged against the government. It's going to be a month (since the disappearance) and we have seen nothing," said a farmer gripping a machete.

The U.S. embassy issued an "emergency message" urging its citizens to stay away from the demonstration.

But the protest was peaceful, unlike a demonstration in Guerrero's capital on Monday that ended with students torching part of the state government's headquarters.

The protesters have threatened to seize all 81 municipal offices in Guerrero to pressure authorities to find the students. They took over a fifth town hall on Friday while Acapulco's government closed its offices as a precaution.

Aircraft, horse-mounted police and divers have been looking for the 43 missing in several towns around Iguala, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Mexico City.

Meanwhile, Guerrero's state congress impeached the fugitive mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, who is being sought by authorities on organized crime charges along with his police chief.

Aguirre says one theory behind the students' disappearance is that Abarca ordered Iguala's police force to attack the students over fears they would disrupt a speech by his wife.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:17 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Oxfam: World must do more to stop Ebola becoming ‘disaster of our time’

Charity says international community has two months to curb deadly virus but laments crippling shortfall in military support

David Batty, Saturday 18 October 2014 11.36 BST   

Countries must step up efforts to tackle the spread of Ebola in west Africa by providing more troops, funding and medical staff to prevent it from becoming the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”, Oxfam has warned.

The charity said the world had less than two months to curb the deadly virus, which has killed 4,500 people, but noted a crippling shortfall in military personnel to provide logistical support across the countries worst affected – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Its stark warning came as Britain and the US said the international community will be responsible for a substantial loss of life in west Africa and a greater threat across the world unless the financial and medical response to Ebola was greatly increased. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said a failure to respond could turn Ebola into “a scourge like HIV or polio”.

Oxfam said that while Britain was leading the way in Europe’s response to the epidemic, countries which have failed to commit troops – including Italy and Spain – were “in danger of costing lives”.

The charity said it was extremely rare to call for military intervention but troops were desperately needed to build treatment centres, provide flights and offer engineering and logistical support.

Its plea for extra resources came after the World Health Organisation (WHO) admitted mishandling the early stages of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

More doctors and nurses were required to staff the treatment centres and there was a significant shortfall in funding to support the emergency humanitarian response, the agency warned.

Oxfam has called for EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday to follow the UK’s lead in responding to the Ebola crisis after the country committed £125m – the highest sum after the US.

David Cameron wrote to the European council president, Herman Van Rompuy, to call on EU leaders to agree at a summit next week to donate an extra €1bn (£790m) and to despatch 2,000 European clinicians and workers to the region within a month.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said: “We are in the eye of a storm. We cannot allow Ebola to immobilise us in fear, but instead we must move toward a common mission to stop it from getting worse.

“Countries that have failed to commit troops, doctors and enough funding are in danger of costing lives. The speed and scale of the intervention needed is unprecedented. Only a concerted and coordinated global effort will stop the spread.

“Oxfam is concentrating its work in Sierra Leone and Liberia on helping to prevent the spread of Ebola, through clean water and sanitation provision and public education.

“Providing treatment is vital, however reducing the spread of infection is equally important, which is why we need the massive intervention of personnel and funding immediately.”

An Oxfam spokeswoman added: “The Ebola crisis could become the definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation. The world was unprepared to deal with it. It is extremely rare for Oxfam to call for military intervention to provide logistical support in a humanitarian emergency.

“However, the military’s logistical expertise and capacity to respond quickly in great numbers is vital.

“The EU can help put the world back on track in the fight against Ebola by boosting military and medical personnel, committing life-saving funds and speeding up the process so that pledges are delivered rapidly in order to prevent, protect and cure people.”

In addition to the extra €1bn, Cameron wants EU leaders to agree to dispatch at least 2,000 workers to west Africa within the next month, to increase co-ordination of screening at European ports, and to improve coordination of flights to west Africa to fly frontline health staff to the region. Britain believes Germany is starting to respond, though it considers this has been slow.

The US and the UK have committed 4,000 and 750 troops respectively to help tackle Ebola, Oxfam said.

But the charity warned only some of these troops are on the ground, with most of the US contingent not due until 1 November.

Italy, Australia and Spain have committed no troops, despite Spain having a specialist medical expertise unit in its military, Oxfam said.

Germany has committed to military supply flights and plans a military hospital in the region, while France has some military staff in Guinea where personnel are reportedly building a hospital, it added.

A spokeswoman for Oxfam said it understands the “tremendous logistical challenges” but urged military groups to look how their mobilisation can be “both massively strengthened and sped up”.

When a fund was set up by the UN secretary general to fight Ebola in September, it was estimated almost $1bn (£620m) was needed for the next six months. To date, only half of this amount has been reached, Oxfam said.

The charity has also issued an appeal for £22m to triple its emergency response in Liberia and Sierra Leone but said it was “nowhere near this target yet”.

The number of Ebola cases is doubling about every 20 days, Oxfam said. The WHO has put the death rate from this outbreak at 70% and has warned that there could be 10,000 new cases a week in west Africa by December.


Panic over Ebola echoes the 19th-century panic over cholera

The Conversation
17 Oct 2014 at 10:49 ET   

On October 19 an inspector sent north from London to Sunderland reported a long-awaited arrival: the first British case of cholera. It was 1831 and as part of a second pandemic cholera had again progressed from its Bengal heartland through Europe, before reaching the Baltic ports. It was only a matter of time.
Broadsheet warning in 1831.

The British public, informed by newspaper reports, were acquainted with the symptoms: profuse watery diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and often death within a matter of hours. In advance of its arrival in Russia thousands fled from the cities. In Poland it was killing one in two victims. And unlike today, where oral rehydration solution can prevent dehydration and shock, there was no effective treatment.

Cholera was (and is) caused by vibrio cholerae bacteria and spread by poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water. Although most people infected do not develop symptoms the bacteria remain present in faeces for one to two weeks after infection and contamination can go on to infect others.

In 1831, the conditions in which the second pandemic spread (there were six in total between 1817 and 1923) were little different to those in which Ebola is travelling today. And indeed there are some interesting parallels – from the developing official response, to riots and suspicion of the medical community.

The government’s reaction as cholera made its way through Europe was to wait and see; although there was a greater degree of protection as an island then – with fewer travellers coming and going than we see today – a traditional quarantine policy would never have been 100% reliable. Screening ships’ passengers and crews would not, as is happening with Ebola, have picked up the newly infected, although this was considered. Quarantine was seen as a greater risk to economic prosperity than the disease was to human life.

Rising tensions

As British cholera cases multiplied during 1832, the government and public responses changed. A temporary board of health was formed, but exerted little influence over local public health authorities. Communities found their own solutions, for example setting up temporary hospitals, and in the process exposed usually hidden tensions: between the rich and the poor, between the educated and the illiterate.

By the summer there was civil unrest linked to cholera in London and other large towns and cities. Liverpool experienced eight major street riots in June 1832, triggered by rumours that doctors were deliberately infecting people with the disease to obtain bodies for anatomical dissection classes.

Doctors and volunteers were attacked by mobs when they tried to take cholera victims from their homes into the temporary hospitals. The wealthy complained that the hospitals were sited too close to their homes. The authorities banned traditional wakes – in which the open coffin remained in the home for family and friends to visit. Instead there were hasty burials in communal graves, provoking further public unrest.

Yet there were, as seen in the Ebola afflicted regions today, remarkable individuals, many unsung. Liverpool’s equivalent was Kitty Wilkinson, an ordinary woman who had the good fortune to have washing facilities (unusual for 19th-century working-class homes). Cleanliness was seen as a possible cholera deterrent, and she selflessly allowed her neighbours to bring their clothes and bedding into her home. In 2012 Wilkinson became the first female to be honoured with a statue in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall.

In Liverpool in 1832 there were 4,977 reported instances of cholera (about 3% of the population) and 1,523 deaths (a fatality rate of 31%), mainly among poorer families. William Henry Duncan, a doctor who was subsequently appointed as Britain’s first medical officer of health (in Liverpool in 1848), reported:

    The vicious construction of the dwellings, insufficient supply of out-offices and of receptacles for refuse and excrements, the absence of drains, deficient sewerage and overcrowding of the population is tending to increase the mortality of Liverpool.

Nationally, there were an estimated 22,000 cholera deaths in Britain during the 1831-32 epidemic. When it emerged again in 1848-49, it killed around 55,000, and another 20,000 in 1853-54. The 1866-67 epidemic was mild in comparison – only 14,000 deaths.

“Only” is such a callous word, but cholera, despite its fearsome reputation, did not kill as many as ever-present diseases such as tuberculosis, which were reliable, if ignored, indicators of the poverty in which the majority of the British working classes lived.

Standing down

After each cholera epidemic in Britain in the 19th century, the boards of health were dissolved, restrictions on social gatherings relaxed, hospitals dismantled and official inspectors withdrawn. Squalor returned to the temporarily whitewashed streets and homes and the rich could again take their eyes off the poor.

Internationally, cholera continued to expose political, social and economic failures well into the 20th century. British India experienced cholera epidemics of around 200,000 deaths into the 1940s. But these rarely provoked a colonial or global response.

Cholera is of course still around today – there was the recent epidemic in Haiti – and it is endemic in many countries, causing up to 120,000 deaths each year from poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water.

Ebola takes its name from a river in Africa close to where it was first identified in 1976. It remains to be seen if we will venture to tackle what public health experts label as the “upstream” cause of the rapid spread of this frightening disease: by funding permanent, adequate programmes of sanitation and healthcare facilities in developing countries.

The Conversation

By Sally Sheard, University of Liverpool

Sally Sheard receives funding from The Wellcome Trust. She is affiliated with WaterAid.

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In Conspicuous Success, Senegal Is Declared Ebola-Free

OCT. 17, 2014

GENEVA — The World Health Organization declared the West African nation of Senegal to be free of Ebola on Friday, a rare success in dealing with a deadly virus that has rampaged uncontrolled in neighboring countries and prompted alarm around the world.

Senegal’s achievement came as the health organization was reported to have internally acknowledged its own stark failure to arrest the disease months ago. The internal document reportedly went far beyond the self-criticism that organization officials have expressed publicly about their response.

The W.H.O. announcement on Senegal officially concluded a monitoring period of 42 days, twice the maximum incubation period for the virus, in which no new infections were found. The last recorded case in the country was a young man who was entering by road from Guinea; he recovered and returned to Guinea last week, the organization announced.

In what would be another conspicuous success, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, appeared close on Friday to declaring itself free of Ebola as well. The country would reach the 42-day milestone on Monday, after an outbreak that infected 20 people and resulted in eight deaths.

Senegal’s proximity to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries at the heart of the epidemic, “makes the country still vulnerable to additional imported cases,” the organization said.

More than 4,500 people have died from Ebola and more than 9,200 have been infected in the current outbreak, according to the latest W.H.O. tally posted Friday on its website. The number of cases is still doubling every month.

Still, Senegal’s success in isolating the infection sets an example of good practice at a moment when the organization is trying to strengthen the readiness of 15 other countries in Africa to deal with arriving travelers who are infected with the disease.

The W.H.O., a specialized United Nations agency with its headquarters in Geneva, is responsible for coordinating international responses to contagious diseases.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the agency, and her top aides have said that all agencies and governments dealing with the Ebola outbreak — including her own — underestimated its severity. But a draft internal document, reported Friday by The Associated Press, uses significantly stronger language in faulting the organization’s performance, citing incompetent staff and scant information.

“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the news agency quoted the document as saying.

Tarik Jasarevic, a W.H.O. spokesman in Geneva, declined to comment on the agency’s report and said he had not seen the document. “We will have a time to review how the response has been handled and we will certainly do that but for the time being we want to focus on helping countries make their response as efficient as possible,” he said.

In Sierra Leone, where Ebola’s ripple effects have led to severe food shortages and hunger, the World Food Program and its partners began what they called the biggest single food distribution operation to date.

Gon Myers, the program’s director in Sierra Leone, said in a statement that more than 800 tons of food had been distributed to 265,000 people on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital, enough to last them for a month. He said the distribution was meant “to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food and nutrition crisis.”

At the United Nations, Sarah Crowe, the crisis communications chief for Unicef, told reporters after a five-week visit to Liberia that “Ebola has hijacked every aspect of life” and left 3,700 orphans in the affected countries.

In another ripple effect, the United Nations Population Fund said that health facilities overstretched by Ebola threatened the needs of pregnant women, who are afraid to visit clinics or are turned away.

More than 800,000 women in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are likely to give birth in the next 12 months, the agency said.

“The reality is that pregnant women are facing a double threat — dying from Ebola and from pregnancy or childbirth, due to the devastating impact of Ebola on health workers and health systems,” said the agency’s executive director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Women, Children Killed in New DR Congo Attack

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 12:12

Twenty-two people, most of them women and children, have been hacked and clubbed to death by Ugandan rebels in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo just days after a similar massacre.

The new attack sparked calls for U.N. forces to protect the vulnerable local population, as the rebels who have terrorized North Kivu for two decades resist attempts to drive them out.

The latest violence on Friday evening in the town of Eringeti left 10 women, eight children and four men dead, local government official Amisi Kalonda told AFP.

"Most of the victims were killed with machetes, axes and hoes," the non-governmental umbrella group Civil Society of North Kivu said in a statement.

Several children had their heads "bashed against the walls" it said, blaming the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU), the only remaining militia active in the region.

Kalonda, the government administrator for the area, said he was heading to Eringeti along with an army contingent.

Eringeti is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the town of Beni, a town of half a million where 26 people were slaughtered with machetes on Thursday in an attack also blamed on the rebels.

The Ugandan rebels have committed strings of atrocities since they were chased into neighboring Congo by the Ugandan army in the 1990s.

The Congolese army, supported by UN peacekeepers from the MONUSCO stabilization mission had dealt the rebels a series of severe blows earlier this year.

But the fighters have begun to recover, attacking isolated villages before targeting Beni, a day's drive from the regional capital Goma. They are believed still to number around 400 fighters.

The North Kivu civil society group said at least 79 people had been "savagely executed by the ADF" in the past fortnight, calling on the UN force to contribute troops, not just logistics, to help confront the rebels.

It said its members would meet in Beni on Saturday to decide on their own steps to protect themselves.

According to a U.N. source, more than 50 women have also been raped in North Kivu and in neighboring Orientale Province in one week.

Led by Jamil Mukulu, a Christian who converted to Islam, the ADF-NALU has hidden out in the Ruwenzori mountains along the border with Uganda for nearly two decades.

The rebels, who have been accused of serious human rights violations including using child soldiers, have financed themselves by trafficking gold and wood. Beni is a major hub for wood destined for Uganda.

They began to lose their main bastions to the army and the U.N. from January and were targeted by Security Council sanctions in July.

The UN humanitarian chief in Orientale Province, Maurizio Giuliano, has voiced fears that the rebels could further destabilize the vast region rich in minerals.

The flare-up in violence comes as the Congolese government declared the U.N.'s rights envoy to the country "persona non grata", after a U.N. report denounced violations by the police.

The United Nations said it had not been notified of any plan to expel its envoy Scott Campbell, but that such a move would be "extremely worrying".

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:03 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mugabe's Wife Threatens Vice President in Power Grab

by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 October 2014, 22:26

President Robert Mugabe's increasingly powerful wife Grace has threatened Zimbabwe's vice president with expulsion from the ruling party, throwing a fierce succession battle into the open.

But the first lady said she is not angling for Vice-President and one-time Mugabe heir apparent Joice Mujuru's post although she used the war "war" in a rally.

"I told the President that if you don't dump that faction leader we will dump her ourselves," Grace Mugabe said on the campaign trail, referring to Mujuru.

Mujuru and powerful Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa -- who in the past controlled the secret police and military -- are seen as the leading contenders to replace 90-year-old Mugabe when he steps down or dies.

But Grace Mugabe's recent entry into politics, swift rise to power within the ruling ZANU-PF and ferocious attacks on Mujuru, have raised the prospect that the vice president's star is waning.

It has also raised speculation that Mugabe could be grooming his wife to take over when he dies.

"We campaigned for you (Mujuru) not only last year, but over the years, but now it is war because I have been nominated," said Grace Mugabe, 49, who is set to become head of ZANU-PF's influential women's league.

"I never said I want anyone’s position" she told party supporters at her final rally in Marondera, east of the capital, on Friday.

Grace Mugabe accused Mujuru -- the widow of the late liberation war army commander Solomon Mujuru -- of leading a faction vying for power, and demanded she apologize.

- Diamond trade rumors -

"You cannot continue denying that you lead a faction every day. Wherever you are, go together with your cronies, go and apologize before it is too late because the President is also fed up," Grace Mugabe said.

She also accused Mujuru of supporting the opposition.

"The person who is leading a faction...the (opposition) MDC was formed at their home... We don't want people who pretend to be good. Such people are political prostitutes.

"You undermine Mugabe who put you in that position you hold today."

Grace Mugabe's comments would appear to be an opening gambit in the end game to succeed her husband.

ZANU-PF will hold a crunch elective congress in December.

Robert Mugabe is expected to be confirmed as the party's leader, but the fight for positions on the powerful politburo could be decisive.

Mugabe has been in power since 1980 and has long avoided appointing a successor.

Grace Mugabe has also accused Mujuru of spreading rumors about her involvement in Zimbabwe's lucrative diamond trade.

Although wracked by seemingly interminable economic crisis, Zimbabwe is home to one of the world's largest diamond fields.

Many of the proceeds are thought to bypass state coffers straight into the pockets of connected politicians and the military.

The Mujuru family owns River Ranch diamond mine in southern Zimbabwe close to the border with South Africa.

"The person leading factions is the same person who accuses me of being involved in diamond deals, yet it is they who own a diamond mine," Grace Mugabe said.

"That person also moves around saying I want to acquire money using unscrupulous means when it is known that I started my business from scratch," she added.

Uncertainty over Mugabe's succession and concern over his age and failing health have divided the government and stalled growth in the ailing economy, with investors adopting a wait and see attitude.Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 07:01 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.N. Security Council in Push for Mali Peace Deal

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 09:02

The U.N. Security Council on Friday urged Mali's warring factions to make progress toward a peace deal at upcoming talks in Algeria, following a wave of deadly attacks on peacekeepers.

In a unanimously-adopted statement, the 15-nation council urged the Bamako government and the six armed groups in northern Mali to "engage in good faith and in the spirit of compromise" during the talks, which open on Sunday in Algiers.

The U.N.'s chief of peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, arrived in Algiers on Friday to help shepherd the negotiations.

A peace deal has taken on added importance following the series of attacks that have left 31 peacekeepers dead since the mission was launched in July last year.

Algerian-brokered negotiations yielded a ceasefire deal and a roadmap for peace talks in July but subsequent rounds have failed to generate momentum towards a final agreement.

The council urged the sides to focus on mechanisms to implement a future peace deal.

It also called for an end to attacks on peacekeepers and said the U.N. MINUSMA force in the north should be beefed up to its full strength of 12,700 troops from the current level of 9,300.

The peace talks were launched after Islamist groups occupied the desert north of Mali for ten months before they were ousted by a French-led military intervention in January 2013.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 06:59 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Cameroon Soldiers Kill 107 Boko Haram Fighters

by Naharnet Newsdesk
17 October 2014, 20:45

Cameroon said Friday its army killed 107 Boko Haram fighters in ferocious combat this week in its north, in a claimed success against the Nigeria-based Islamist guerrilla group.

The "fighting of rare violence" occurred in two areas in the north on Wednesday and Thursday and also resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers, the defense ministry said in a statement read on state radio.

It was not possible to independently verify the information or the toll.

The ministry said that, late Wednesday, heavily armed Boko Haram members travelling in armored vehicles crossed over the border from Nigeria into the towns of Amchide and Limani, sparking fierce battles with Cameroonian soldiers.

After a pause, fighting resumed on Thursday and the Cameroonian troops pushed the Boko Haram units back across the border, it said.

A tank, a pick-up truck and a Peugeot car packed with ammunition and explosives were destroyed by the soldiers, it said.

"Several light and heavy arms were seized," it said. "Calm has returned and our defense forces are in control of the border areas," it said.

Cameroon shares a border of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) with Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been waging a bloody insurgency since 2009 in which 10,000 people have died.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 06:58 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Nigeria: hopes for return of kidnapped schoolgirls rise after ceasefire reported

Questions surrounded purported deal between Nigerian government and Boko Haram for release of missing schoolgirls

David Smith, Africa correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 17 October 2014 21.37 BST   

The Nigerian government says it has agreed a ceasefire with the Islamist militant group Boko Haram and is negotiating for the release of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped six months ago.

The deal would mark a huge breakthrough after a five-year insurgency by extremists seeking to create an Islamic state in the north of Africa’s most populous country. It has left thousands dead and a worldwide outcry was prompted when the girls were abducted in April from the north-eastern town of Chibok.

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign tweeted: “We are monitoring the news with huge expectations.”

But questions surrounded the purported agreement on Friday. Similar claims from the government and military have failed to bear fruit. The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, is expected to declare that he is standing for re-election, and positive news about the hostages and insurgency could deflect criticism of his handling of the crisis.

Mike Omeri, a government spokesman, told a press conference in the capital, Abuja: “Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a ceasefire.”

Omeri claimed that there had been direct negotiations this week about the release of the missing girls. Boko Haram negotiators “assured that the schoolgirls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well”, he said.

The truce was announced on Friday by Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, who ordered his troops to comply immediately with the agreement. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.

The group had been demanding the release of detained extremists in exchange for the girls. Jonathan had said he could not countenance a prisoner swap.

The failure of Jonathan’s government to rescue the girls has prompted an international campaign and daily Bring Back Our Girls rallies in Abuja to highlight the girls’ plight. There was further anger when posters calling for Jonathan’s re-election in February by using the hashtag BringBackGoodluck2015 appeared until he ordered them to be torn down.

In July, Jonathan met for the first time parents of the girls and dozens of classmates who managed to escape. It followed months of controversy in which the parents had sought a meeting. He finally agreed to the meeting after a request from Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by Taliban militants in 2012 and won the Nobel peace prize this month for her campaigning for girls’ right to an education.

Jonathan’s principal secretary, Hassan Tukur, told Agence France-Presse on Friday that an agreement to end hostilities had been reached following talks, as well as a deal to release the 219 girls.

Tukur said he had represented the government at two meetings with the Islamist extremists in neighbouring Chad, mediated by that country’s president, Idriss Déby. “Boko Haram issued the ceasefire as a result of the discussions we have been having with them,” said Tukur. “They have agreed to release the Chibok girls,” he added.

But there was uncertainty about the identity of Boko Haram’s representative at the talks, named by Tukur as Danladi Ahmadu.

Multiple analysts cast doubt on Ahmadu’s credibility as a Boko Haram envoy. Shehu Sani, a Boko Haram expert who has negotiated with the group before on behalf of the government, told AFP: “I have never heard of such a man, and if Boko Haram wanted to declare a ceasefire, it would come from the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.”

Ralph Bello-Fadile, an assistant to Nigeria’s national security adviser (NSA), told a conference on Monday that it had been inundated with fraudsters claiming to represent Shekau. “Government wants to negotiate, but so far nobody has come forward who speaks for Shekau,” he told a Chatham House event in Abuja.

Ahmadu gave an interview broadcast on Friday yesterday on the Hausa language service of Voice of America radio in which he claimed to be the group’s chief security officer and in charge of publicity. He made no mention of an end to hostilities and was vague on details of the apparent talks, even claiming not to have met Shekau.

He also referred to the jihadi group as Boko Haram, a name that means “western education is forbidden”. The name was imposed on the Islamist radicals by outsiders – the insurgents themselves never use the term. Their leaders have exclusively used the name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.

Boko Haram stormed the school in Chibok in April and snatched nearly 300 students, of whom 219 remain in captivity. This week about 50 protesters in red shirts tried to march to the presidential villa but were repeatedly diverted by riot police. The president has blamed activists for politicising the abductions and influencing the parents.

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 06:56 AM 
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Khmer Rouge Defense Lawyers Boycott Cambodia Genocide Trial

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 10:57

Defense lawyers for two ex-Khmer Rouge leaders said Saturday they would boycott a new genocide trial until they appealed the pair's earlier conviction, in a move which threatens to delay an already lengthy case.

In August Nuon Chea, 88, known as "Brother Number Two", and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, were given life sentences for crimes against humanity after their first trial at Cambodia's UN-backed court.

That ruling saw them become the first top figures to be jailed from a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians from 1975-1979.

Both men lodged appeals against the convictions last month but their lawyers said Saturday they needed time to file the full appeal documents.

"As long as we have not filed appeal brief, we won't be able to attend" further hearings, said Anta Guisse, Khieu Samphan's lawyer, after a press conference in Phnom Penh.

It is the first time defense lawyers have staged a boycott of the special court, set up in 2006 to try senior regime figures, in a move which could further prolong the trial.

The complex case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan was split into a series of smaller trials in 2011 in a bid to get a faster verdict for reasons including their advanced age and the large number of accusations.

"Our boycott will not paralyze the court because we have a clear time-frame, it is until we finish our appeal, around two months," claimed co-defense lawyer Kong Sam Onn, adding they also sought a decision on a motion to disqualify the court's judges, who both ex-leaders accuse of bias.

The August convictions followed a two-year trial focused on the forced evacuation of around two million Cambodians from Phnom Penh into rural labor camps and murders at one execution site.

On Friday prosecutors opened their arguments in a second, broader, trial in which the pair are charged with genocide as well as further crimes of humanity and war crimes.

The court was adjourned after Nuon Chea threatened the court with a boycott and the defense teams of both accused later stormed out.

"As long as a decision (by) the special penal (court) is not coming, we will not continue with these proceedings," said Victor Koppe, Nuon Chea's lawyer, on Saturday, adding they also wanted time to appeal his first conviction.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998 without ever facing justice, the Khmer Rouge dismantled modern society in their quest for an agrarian utopia.

Nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population was wiped out by starvation or execution.

A spokesman for the U.N.-backed court said Saturday the tribunal would shortly "issue a judicial decision which will address the behavior of the defense lawyers".

The Khmer Rouge court has been hit by chronic cash shortages -- relying almost entirely on foreign donations -- ever since its inception as well as being dogged by allegations of political interference.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 18, 2014, 06:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
MH17 Discussion with Putin 'Constructive', Says Australian FM

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 October 2014, 09:17

Russian President Vladimir Putin was cooperative and constructive when asked for his help in allowing investigators access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Saturday.

Bishop met the Russian leader on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting, just days after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned he would confront Putin over the shooting down of the plane at a G20 meet next month.

"I had a very detailed discussion with him," Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of their 25-minute talk in Milan.

"I expressed our concerns about the Malaysia Airlines crash, MH17, in which a number of Australians were killed, and I implored him to use Russia's influence over the separatists in eastern Ukraine to enable our investigators to have access to the crash site."

"He said that he would seek to respond to my request by asking the separatists to provide that access."

Bishop said she had told other world leaders that Putin had been "most cooperative and had responded very constructively" to her call.

The Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight was blown out of the air on July 17 as it flew over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, in an attack that Kiev and the West have blamed on pro-Russian separatists operating a Russian surface-to-air missile launcher.

The rebels and Moscow deny responsibility.

On Monday, Abbott vowed to "shirtfront" Putin at next month's G20 summit in Brisbane over the loss of the lives of 38 Australian citizens and residents in the crash.

"I'm going to shirtfront Mr. Putin -- you bet I am," Abbott told reporters, referring to an Australian sporting term in which a player charges someone.

"I'm going to be saying to Mr. Putin -- Australians were murdered and they were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian supplied equipment. We are very unhappy about this."

Three months after the plane was shot down, killing all 298 onboard, debris and belongings lie scattered around the Ukrainian countryside.

International investigators led by Dutch police were forced to suspend their hunt for clues and corpses in August when fighting flared around the site.

Bishop said experts had advised that they required another visit to the crash site to check for any more human remains.

"But also the crash site needs to be accessed by the forensic investigators who are looking into the details of the shooting down of the plane," she said, adding it was an urgent request due to the approach of Europe's winter.

Hundreds of bodies have been sent to the Netherlands for identification from the crash site, but 20 people are still unaccounted for as their remains have not been identified.

Source: Agence France Presse

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