‘I’ll be back’ within a year, ousted Bolivian leader Morales vows

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales gestures during an interview with Reuters, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 24, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 December 2019

‘I’ll be back’ within a year, ousted Bolivian leader Morales vows

BUENOS AIRES: Ousted Bolivian leader Evo Morales told Reuters he plans to return to his home country by next Christmas, after going into exile in neighboring Argentina following a disputed election.
In an interview in Buenos Aires, where Morales found refuge after a highly-contested bid for a fourth term in October, the South American socialist icon said he is helping his party prepare for an upcoming special election.
Members of his Movement for Socialism (MAS) coalition will get together in Buenos Aires on Sunday to start choosing their candidates. Asked about his own plans, and whether he would return to Bolivia by this time next year, Morales said there was no doubt about it: “I’ll be back.”
“For reasons of security I can’t go into detail about the plan we have for returning to Bolivia. But one has to go back to one’s country,” he said.
He said he was sure his coalition would win back the presidency. Morales’ victory in the October election was annulled because of irregularities detected by international auditors. The scandal sparked deadly riots and forced Morales to resign and leave Bolivia in mid-November.
He denies any wrongdoing and said his only regret was not having early intelligence about the what he calls the coup that ousted him. “We were surprised due to lack of information,” he said.
“I’m very sorry that neither the intelligence of the Bolivian police nor the armed forces warned us that there was a coup on the way,” Morales added.
Lawmakers have appointed an electoral tribunal expected to set a date by Jan. 2 for new elections within 120 days.
Prosecutors have meanwhile issued an arrest warrant against Morales for sedition, terrorism and terrorist financing, promoted by the government of interim President Jeanine Anez, a former senator and opponent of Morales.
Morales has ruled out running as a candidate himself and has named Luis Arce Catacora, his former economy minister, and Andronico Rodriguez, a key coca farmer union boss, as potential MAS presidential candidates.


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.