UK opposition leader refuses to attend Balfour dinner

Jeremy Corbyn
Updated 31 October 2017

UK opposition leader refuses to attend Balfour dinner

LONDON: The UK’s pro-Palestinian opposition leader has refused to attend a dinner to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, according to reports.
The event is due to be attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and her Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jeremy Corbyn rejected an invitation to attend the dinner, which is being held to mark 100 years since the declaration that helped paved the way for the creation of a Jewish state.
Corbyn has asked Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, to attend the dinner in his place, The Sunday Times reported.
A spokesman for Corbyn confirmed to Arab News that he would not attend but that Thornberry would go in his place.
The Balfour Declaration, signed on Nov. 2, 1917, pledged the UK government’s support for a Jewish “national home” in Palestine. 
Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to London, told The Sunday Times that those who oppose the declaration are “extremists” who reject Israel’s right to exist and could be viewed on a par with terrorist groups such as Hamas.
Regev said a “vocal minority” of British students and academics are intent upon the destruction of Israel.
Yet an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in August found that only a minority of Brits believe the Balfour Declaration is something to be proud of, with the majority in favor of the UK recognizing Palestine as a state.  
The UK government has refused to apologize for the Balfour Declaration, reaffirming instead that it was “proud of its role” in creating the State of Israel.
The Palestinian ambassador to the UK vehemently disagrees with that stance, telling Arab News this month that “the displacement of the Palestinians is a result of that document.”
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, questioned why government ministers are celebrating Balfour but “are doing nothing to acknowledge the devastating impact it has had on Palestinians.”
He told Arab News that the celebrations over the declaration will “inflame and anger.” 
Doyle added: “Jeremy Corbyn is missing the Balfour event but he should be clear about why and not be silent. It should be a strong message that Balfour cannot be celebrated until Palestinian aspirations and rights are met as well.”


Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.