Germany busts ‘terrorist organization’ that planned attacks on Muslims, refugees

The government has said around 90% of the 1,800 incidents recorded against Jews last year were committed by individuals espousing far-right views. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 February 2020

Germany busts ‘terrorist organization’ that planned attacks on Muslims, refugees

  • The suspects wanted their attacks to create havoc and an atmosphere of fear that resembles a civil war
  • The German government last year launched a crackdown on right-wing political violence in response to a rise in hate crimes

BERLIN: German police detained 12 men on Friday suspected of setting up a far-right organization with the goal of carrying out attacks against politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said.
Prosecutors said four of the suspects had set up a “terrorist organization” in September 2019 and regularly met and contacted each other by phone and in online chart forums and chat groups. They had no immediate plan to carry out an attack.
The other eight men were detained on suspicion of supporting the organization with money and weapons, the GBA said.
The suspects wanted their attacks to create havoc and an atmosphere of fear that resembles a civil war, it added.
“The goal of the organization was to shake and eventually destroy the democratic system and social cohesion of the federal republic,” the GBA said. “For the purpose of creating an conditions that resemble a civil war, attacks that were not yet concrete against politicians, asylum seekers and members of the Muslim faith were planned.”
The German government last year launched a crackdown on right-wing political violence in response to a rise in hate crimes.
New measures approved after the killing of a pro-immigration politician and a deadly attack on a synagogue and kebab shop in Halle by an anti-Semitic gunman include tougher rules on gun ownership and stricter monitoring of hate speech online.
The government has said around 90% of the 1,800 incidents recorded against Jews last year were committed by individuals espousing far-right views.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency estimates there are around 24,100 “right wing extremists” in Germany, about half of whom are potentially violent.


Ghana president receives world’s first free Covax jab

Updated 2 min 44 sec ago

Ghana president receives world’s first free Covax jab

ACCRA: Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday became the world’s first recipient of the coronavirus vaccine from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free for poorer countries.
“It is important that I set the example that this vaccine is safe by being the first to have it, so that everybody in Ghana can feel comfortable about taking this vaccine,” the 76-year old president said before receiving a shot of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a live broadcast.


US wasted billions on cars, buildings in Afghanistan - report

Updated 01 March 2021

US wasted billions on cars, buildings in Afghanistan - report

  • US agency said it reviewed $7.8 billion spent since 2008 on buildings and vehicle 
  • Worsening security situation in Afghanistan also greatly impeded the monitoring of projects – says former Afghan government adviser

ISLAMABAD: The United States wasted billions of dollars in war-torn Afghanistan on buildings and vehicles that were either abandoned or destroyed, according to a report released Monday by a US government watchdog. 
The agency said it reviewed $7.8 billion spent since 2008 on buildings and vehicles. Only $343.2 million worth of buildings and vehicles “were maintained in good condition,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the protracted conflict. 
The report said that just $1.2 billion of the $7.8 billion went to pay for buildings and vehicles that were used as intended.
“The fact that so many capital assets wound up not used, deteriorated or abandoned should have been a major cause of concern for the agencies financing these projects,” John F. Sopko, the special inspector general, said in his report.
The US public is weary of the nearly 20-year-old war and President Joe Biden is reviewing a peace deal his predecessor, Donald Trump, signed with the Taliban a year ago. He must decide whether to withdraw all troops by May 1, as promised in the deal, or stay and possibly prolong the war. Officials say no decision has been made.

Afghan security forces stand outside a USAID compound in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, after it was stormed by militants wearing suicide vests on July 2, 2010. (AP/File)

Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government have been holding on-again-off-again talks in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar but a deal that could bring peace to Afghanistan after 40 years of relentless war seems far off.
Analyst Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal said the findings by SIGAR are not surprising. The reasons for the financial losses include Taliban attacks, corruption and “throwing money at the problem without considering the implications,” he said.
“It is one thing to build a clinic and school, it is another to operate, maintain, and in many cases defend this infrastructure from Taliban attacks,” said Roggio. “Additionally, the West has wildly underestimated the impact of Afghan corruption and in many cases incompetence. It was always a recipe for failure.”
US agencies responsible for construction didn’t even ask the Afghans if they wanted or needed the buildings they ordered built, or if they had the technical ability to keep them running, Sopko said in his report.
The waste occurred in violation of “multiple laws stating that US agencies should not construct or procure capital assets until they can show that the benefiting country has the financial and technical resources and capability to use and maintain those assets effectively,” he said.
Torek Farhadi, a former adviser to the Afghan government, said a “donor-knows-best” mentality often prevailed and it routinely meant little to no consultation with the Afghan government on projects.
He said a lack of coordination among the many international donors aided the wastefulness. For example, he said schools were on occasion built alongside other newly constructed schools financed by other donors. The construction went ahead because once the decision was made — contract awarded and money allocated — the school was built regardless of the need, said Farhadi.
The injection of billions of dollars, largely unmonitored, fueled runaway corruption among both Afghans and international contractors. But experts say that despite the waste, the need for assistance is real, given the Afghan governments heavy dependence on international money.
The worsening security situation in Afghanistan also greatly impeded the monitoring of projects, with shoddy construction going undetected, said Farhadi, the former Afghan government adviser.
“Consult with the locals about their needs and sustainability of the project once the project is complete,” he urged US funding agencies looking to future projects. “Supervise, supervise, supervise project progress and implementation and audit every single layer of expenditure.”
Going forward, Roggio said smaller, more manageable projects should be the order of the day. To build big unmanageable projects that Afghanistan has neither the capacity nor technical expertise for after 40 years of relentless war “feeds into the Taliban narrative that the government is corrupt, incompetent, and incapable of providing for the Afghan people,” he said.


Myanmar’s Suu Kyu seen in court for first time since coup

Updated 01 March 2021

Myanmar’s Suu Kyu seen in court for first time since coup

  • Suu Kyi’s appearance came as demonstrators took to the streets again across the country in defiance
  • Suu Kyi, 75, appeared healthy during Monday’s court appearance

YANDON: Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced court on Monday via video link, being seen by her lawyer for the first time since a military coup one month ago triggered relentless and massive protests.
Suu Kyi’s appearance came as demonstrators took to the streets again across the country in defiance of an escalation of force from the junta that on Sunday resulted in the deadliest day of unrest since the takeover.
At least 18 people died on Sunday as troops and police fired live bullets at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own credible information.
Suu Kyi, 75, appeared healthy during Monday’s court appearance, lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, told AFP by telephone during a break in proceedings.
Suu Kyi was detained in Naypyidaw, the nation’s capital, before dawn on the day of the coup, and had not been since in public since.
She has reportedly been kept under house arrest in Naypyidaw, an isolated city that the military built during a previous dictatorship.
The military has justified its takeover, ending a decade-long democratic experiment, by making unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November’s national elections.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide.
The generals have hit Suu Kyi with two charges the international community widely regards as frivolous — relating to importing walkie talkies and staging a campaign rally during the pandemic.
Monday’s court proceedings were preliminary matters in the case, including with Khin Maung Zaw seeking to formally represent her.


Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to streets regularly over the past month to oppose the coup.
While the military has steadily increased the type of force used to try to contain the uprising, beginning with tear gas and water cannons, this weekend’s violence saw the biggest escalation.
One person was shot while crouching behind rubbish bins and other makeshift shields, and had to be dragged away by others, with the incident filmed by media.
AFP independently confirmed 10 deaths in Sunday’s violence, although there were fears the toll could be much higher.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a reliable monitoring group, estimated that about 30 people had been killed by security forces since the coup on February 1.
On Monday, protests erupted again in multiple cities across the country, with demonstrators in Yangon using bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to erect barricades across streets.
In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots were fired.
It was not immediately clear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.
Hundreds of people were also arrested over the weekend with many in Yangon taken to Insein Prison, where Myanmar’s leading democracy campaigners have served long jail terms under previous dictatorships.
More than 1,100 people have been arrested, charged, or sentenced since the coup, according to The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
One reporter was also shot with rubber bullets on the weekend while covering a protest in the central city of Pyay, their employer said.
Several journalists documenting Saturday’s assaults by security forces were detained, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.
“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, said.
The United States has been one of the most outspoken critics of the junta, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also reacted with horror after Sunday’s violence.
“We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible,” Blinken tweeted, using the country’s old name.


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 4,732

Updated 01 March 2021

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 4,732

BERLIN: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 4,732 to 2,447,068, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. The reported death toll rose by 60 to 70,105, the tally showed.


Trump targets disloyal Republicans, repeats election lies and hints at 2024 run

Updated 01 March 2021

Trump targets disloyal Republicans, repeats election lies and hints at 2024 run

  • The volatile former president made his pronouncements during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida
  • Aside from attacking President Joe Biden's policies, Trump rallied Republicans to get rid of "disloyal" members

WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump hinted on Sunday at a possible presidential run in 2024, attacked President Joe Biden and repeated his fraudulent claims he won the 2020 election in his first major appearance since leaving the White House nearly six weeks ago.
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, Trump vowed to help Republicans try to regain majorities — lost during his presidency — in the US House of Representatives and Senate in 2022 congressional elections and dangled himself as a possibility for president in 2024.
“With your help, we will take back the House, we will win the Senate and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who will that be?” he said, smiling. “Who, who, who will that be, I wonder.”
Trump’s weeks away from Washington do not appear to have dimmed his anger at Republicans who voted to impeach or convict in a failed congressional effort to hold him responsible for inciting a deadly attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
He singled out several such Republicans by name, like Senators Mitt Romney and Pat Toomey and House lawmakers Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and suggested he would support candidates who opposed them in Republican primaries.
“Get rid of ‘em all,” he thundered.
Trump repeated lies he has told about his Nov. 3 presidential election loss to Biden, and offered a withering critique of his Democratic successor’s first weeks in office. “They just lost the White House,” the Republican former president said after criticizing Biden’s handling of border security. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”
Trump and his allies spent two months denying his election defeat, and claiming without evidence it was the result of widespread voter fraud, before his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 seeking to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s win.
A civil war has erupted within the Republican Party, with establishment figures such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eager to put Trump in the rearview mirror, and others, like Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham, believing the party’s future depends on the energy of the pro-Trump base.
Trump declared the Republican Party united behind him, with opposition coming only from “a handful of Washington, D.C., political hacks.” When he mentioned McConnell’s name, the crowd booed.

No plans for third party
He said he had no plans to try to launch a third party, an idea he has discussed with advisers in the past couple of months.
“We’re not starting new parties. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to be united and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party,” he said.
In a straw poll, 55% of CPAC conference participants said they would vote for Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating race. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second at 21%.
Without Trump, DeSantis led the field with 43%, and other potential Republican candidates had single digits.
But not everyone supported Trump. A separate question on the poll asked whether Trump should run again in 2024, with 68% saying he should and 32% opposed or having no opinion.
Still, Trump fervor at the four-day CPAC event was so strong that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., declared it “T-PAC” and participants rolled out a golden statue of the former president.
Trump’s flirtation with another run could freeze the Republican field for 2024 as other potential candidates try to decide whether they will have to compete against him. Many of those 2024 possible candidates spoke during the CPAC event.
The Biden White House dismissed Trump’s speech.
“While the GOP casts about for a path forward, President Biden is going to remain laser-focused on crushing the virus, re-opening schools, and getting Americans back to work,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said after the speech.
An hour into his 90-minute speech, Trump dove deeply into his unfounded claims of election fraud, going against the advice of confidants who believe he needs to look to the future.
“We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that has to be fixed immediately. This election was rigged,” Trump said. “And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
“You won! You won!” the crowd shouted. Trump’s campaign and his supporters brought dozens of failed lawsuits trying to overturn the results of the election, which Biden won by more than 7 million votes. The fraud claims were repeatedly rejected by state and federal officials.
In the short term, Trump is making plans to set up a super PAC political organization to support candidates who mirror his policies, an adviser said.
He sought to position himself as the lead critic of the new president, including on immigration and security along the US border with Mexico, and the slow reopening of schools closed due to the pandemic.
“Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” Trump said.
Recent Gallup polls have given Biden a job approval rating well past 50%. Trump never achieved above 49%.