France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

The US imposed sanctions on the airline since 2011. (AFP/File)
Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.


Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

Updated 25 June 2019
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Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

  • The group of smuggled refugees included a number of girls
  • Bangladeshi authorities sent the refugees to two different camps after questioning

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh police killed three people suspected of trying to smuggle 15 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Malaysia in a clash on Tuesday near the South Asian nation’s main refugee camp, an official said, the second such incident in as many months.
Nearly 900,000 Rohingya who fled a military-led crackdown in neighboring Buddhist-dominated Myanmar in 2017 live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, and other temporary settlements in Bangladesh’s beach town of Cox’s Bazar.
“On sensing the presence of our team, they fired on police, and police also responded,” said Prodip Kumar Das, a police official in the nearby town of Teknaf.
The men attempting to smuggle the refugees, who included some girls, were shot and died on the way to hospital, Das added. The refugees were rescued and sent to two different camps after initial questioning.
The clash, around 30 km from Kutupalong, followed a tip-off to police, Das told Reuters, adding that they had retrieved three locally-made guns and 15 rounds of ammunition.
The men were themselves Rohingya known to be human traffickers living in the area since their arrival in Bangladesh before 2017, he added.
Rohingya civilians who left Myanmar have said they faced atrocities at the hands of its armed forces but almost all such accusations have been denied by the authorities.
With doubts over whether they will ever return to Myanmar, some refugees in Bangladesh are being drawn toward drugs and violence, say people in the area and aid workers.
The risks of being trafficked have increased as refugees are lured by the promise of work. Anti-trafficking groups fear that routes through the Bay of Bengal are being used to smuggle out Rohingya refugees.
In recent months, police and the coast guard have rescued several dozens of them. Last month police killed two suspected smugglers in a gun fight in a nearby area.