Hundreds arrested on eve of verdict on holy site in India’s Ayodhya

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Rapid Action Force (RPF) personnel patrol on a street in Ayodhya on November 8, 2019, ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. (AFP)
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Muslims participate in a special prayer asking to maintain peace and harmony across India ahead of the court verdict of disputed religious site of Ayodhya, in the campus of ancient holy shrine of Hazrat Saiyed Usman Shamme Burhani in Ahmedabad on November 8, 2019. (AFP)
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Rapid Action Force (RPF) and Uttar Pradesh Police personnel patrol a street in Ayodhya on November 06, 2019. (AFP)
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Activists belonging to 'People for Peace and Justice' stage a candle light vigil urging people belonging to all religious communities to maintain peace and harmony regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi case, in Bangalore on November 7, 2019. (AFP)
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Security personnel stand guard on a street in Ayodhya on November 07, 2019, as part of a security measure ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on disputed 16th-century Babri mosque. (AFP)
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Rapid Action Force (RPF) personnel stand guard near a security vehicle on a street in Ayodhya on November 8, 2019, ahead of a Supreme Court verdict on the future of a disputed religious site. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Hundreds arrested on eve of verdict on holy site in India’s Ayodhya

  • India’s top court said late Friday it will deliver a verdict on Saturday morning on the decades-old spat over the future of a small piece of land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims
  • In recent years, Ayodhya has become a rallying point for Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

NEW DELHI: Fearing unrest, Indian police have reportedly arrested more than 500 people ahead of a Supreme Court ruling due Saturday on a hotly disputed religious site in the holy city of Ayodhya.
India’s top court said late Friday it will deliver a verdict on Saturday morning on the decades-old spat over the future of a small piece of land claimed by both Hindus and Muslims that in the past has sparked deadly religious riots.
Hindu hard-liners want a temple built on the site, currently barricaded off after a 16th-century mosque there was demolished during 1992 riots that left 2,000 people dead.
Hindus believe the mosque was built over the site of the birthplace of their god Ram.
Security was tightened across India in the run-up to the ruling, and Uttar Pradesh state police chief O.P. Singh told the Economic Times that more than 500 arrests had been made.
“The main message to the police force is to maintain peace at any cost,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Most of the suspects were taken into custody while a further 70 people were detained over social media posts, he said — warning that the Internet could be blocked locally if required.
Singh added that police had also identified more than 10,000 people he described as “anti-social.”
A police spokesman declined to comment to AFP.
In recent years, Ayodhya has become a rallying point for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Some senior BJP members are being tried separately over their role in the mosque’s 1992 destruction.
In 2010, a High Court divided the disputed land between Hindu and Muslim groups, but both parties appealed to the Supreme Court, which has since repeatedly put off a verdict.
Media reports say Modi has told ministers to refrain from making comments on the case that could fuel tensions.
For India’s minority Muslims, the dispute and a recent clampdown in Muslim-majority Kashmir have become symbols of the hostility that they say they face from the government.
Hindus make up about 80 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population, while there are about 200 million Muslims.


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.