UK, Irish leaders seek end to Northern Ireland stalemate

British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the Bombardier factory in Belfast. May is in Belfast to engage with the main Northern Ireland political parties as they press ahead with efforts to agree the formation of an Executive. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2018

UK, Irish leaders seek end to Northern Ireland stalemate

LONDON: The British and Irish prime ministers met political leaders in Belfast on Monday in a bid to end a political stalemate that has left Northern Ireland without a government for more than a year.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, were holding talks with the main parties in Northern Ireland’s collapsed power-sharing administration.
May’s office said the trip was aimed at encouraging the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and Irish nationalists of the Sinn Fein party to resolve their differences.
Northern Ireland’s Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government has been suspended since January 2017, when it broke down amid a scandal over a botched green-energy project. The rift soon widened to broader cultural and political issues, with Sinn Fein demands for Irish-language protections seen as the main sticking point.
The two parties have blamed each other for the impasse that threatens power-sharing, the key achievement of Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord that ended decades of bloodshed.
Several UK-government-set deadlines to restore the Northern Ireland administration have passed without success, raising the specter that the British government might impose direct rule from London on Northern Ireland.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.