UN chief: World faces ‘unprecedented threat’ from terrorism

The UN chief was speaking to a Security Council ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2019

UN chief: World faces ‘unprecedented threat’ from terrorism

  • “Efforts to counter terrorism that do not respect human rights ultimately breed resentment and violent extremism,” the US said
  • The US and its Western allies echoed the secretary-general, stressing the importance of respecting human rights in counter-terrorism operations

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the world is facing “an unprecedented threat from intolerance, violent extremism and terrorism” that affects every country, exacerbating conflicts and destabilizing entire regions.
The UN chief told a Security Council ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders that “the new frontier is cyber-terrorism — the use of social media and the dark web to coordinate attacks, spread propaganda and recruit new followers.”
He stressed that the response to the unprecedented terrorist threat “must complement security measures with prevention efforts that identify and address root causes, while always respecting human rights.”
Russia, which holds the council presidency this month, organized the meeting on cooperation between the UN and three Eurasian organizations in countering terrorism — the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization, and Commonwealth of Independent States.
The United States and its Western allies echoed the secretary-general, stressing the importance of respecting human rights in counter-terrorism operations.
“Efforts to counter terrorism that do not respect human rights ultimately breed resentment and violent extremism,” US deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen said. “When member states or regional organizations conflate terrorism with non-violent political dissent, they do a disservice not only to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but to our global effort to defeat terrorism.”
He said the world is witnessing this “dangerous approach” in Syria, where the government and its Russian allies “justify as legitimate counter-terrorist operations airstrikes on civilians, schools, ambulances and hospitals that have killed over a thousand people since April and wounded over 2,000.”
The United States is also “deeply concerned” by the plight of more than one million ethnic minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province who have been arbitrarily detained “under the guise of counter-terrorism.”
“China, like all nations, has every right to respond to actual terrorist threats, but counter-terrorism cannot be used as an excuse to repress the peaceful religious practices of Chinese Muslims and an entire minority group,” the Uighurs, Cohen said.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that the “terrorist threat” coming from Syria and Iraq is very rapidly spreading through Africa, including Libya, “and central, southern and southeast Asia are also becoming areas where savage acts of terrorism are perpetrated.”
Alluding to Western criticism, he said, “the double-standards used by some countries make it more difficult to react to the challenges today, including the terrorist challenges.”
“It is unacceptable — I underscore that — using terrorist entities for political purposes,” Lavrov said. “There can be no justification for this.”
Vladimir Norov, secretary-general of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said the fight against terrorism and related threats is one of its main activities and called Wednesday’s meeting “extremely timely” because of increasing instability in the world due to the terrorist threat and its emerging link to transnational crime.
He said fighters that supported the Daesh extremist group in Syria and Iraq “are striving to create new strongholds, including in the Eurasian space.” And he warned that “the threat of their access to radioactive and toxic substances is growing, and their possible use of new types of financing and weapons.”
The organization — which includes Russia, China, India and Pakistan — has half the world’s population and is regarded as the primary security pillar in the region, but Norov stressed that “it’s not a military organization aimed at other states.”
Valery Semerikov, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, told the council “the world is under threat of global terrorism” and joint work to combat it is needed today.
He said the organization — a six-nation military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Belarus — made an open appeal to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May “on increasing trust and developing cooperation” in countering global threats and challenges.
“I would like to address the foreign ministers of NATO and ask them to consider and react to the open appeal lodged by the ministers of foreign affairs of the CSTO,” Semerikov said.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 59 min 10 sec ago

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.