UK urged to repatriate Daesh women, kids from Syrian camps

A woman walks next to a child by tents at Camp Roj, housing family members of people accused to belong Daesh. (File/AFP)
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Updated 28 October 2020
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UK urged to repatriate Daesh women, kids from Syrian camps

  • Think tank: Mass breakouts likely unless people removed
  • Children could become ‘ticking time bombs’ unless taken back to the West

LONDON: British children are being held in Syrian camps meant for Daesh members, where they face malnutrition, poor sanitation, the threat of COVID-19 and worsening weather, according to a report by the Egmont Institute, a Belgian think tank.

Several children have already died in the camps, including the infant son of British Daesh member Shamima Begum.

The UK’s refusal to repatriate them or their parents risks the prospect of mass breakouts of the “most dangerous terrorists in the world,” the report said.

It added that the conditions that led to the creation of Daesh, through mass networking and radicalization in overcrowded prisons administered by the US in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, were being repeated in the camps in Syria.

The institute said the camps currently contain 35 British children and 24 adults, 15 of whom are women. In total, over 600 children of EU nationals have been accounted for.

“The majority of (the children) are below five years old, and they have every chance to fully re-socialize in their home countries,” the report said.

“Children are not ‘ticking time bombs,’ but they could become ones if we do not bring them back.”

The report condemned Western states for refusing to repatriate Daesh members and affiliates, and in some cases strip them of citizenship, in order to avoid what it called “political suicide” for those elected officials responsible for taking the decision.

“During their detention period, in Syria or Iraq, European fighters will continue to be at risk of further radicalization and networking with other foreign Isis (Daesh) inmates,” wrote the report’s authors Thomas Renard and Rik Coolsaet.

“The only question we should ask ourselves is whether we are willing to abandon any form of control on European foreign fighters, at the risk to see them come back in some years even more radicalized, or if we’d rather take back control to ensure their proper prosecution, detention and rehabilitation.”

In July, a number of prominent UK politicians wrote to the government highlighting the dangers posed by continuing to leave British and EU Daesh members in Syria.

The MPs, including former Conservative government ministers Tobias Ellwood, David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, said: “We are concerned that their current indefinite detention in increasingly precarious Kurdish detention camps poses a significant security challenge to the UK, as well as significant harm to the children involved.

“We urge you to ensure that these individuals are brought back to the UK so that any adults accused of crimes can be fairly prosecuted with due process, and the children’s safety is ensured.”

The threat of mass escapes has risen exponentially in recent months, with a recent US military report highlighting the deteriorating situation across many of the Kurdish-controlled camps.

Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on EU countries and the UK to repatriate some or all of their citizens held in Syria to alleviate pressure and free up resources in the ongoing conflict.

Two women from the UK and Ireland, along with their children, were among roughly 750 women and children who escaped from the Ain Issa camp after Turkish forces invaded the area last October.

The whereabouts of most are unknown, with many thought to have tried to re-join jihadists in northern Syria.

Violence and insurrection have frequently broken out at other camps for former Daesh members, including at Al-Hol, which holds in excess of 65,000 women and children, and at Hasakah, the main center for captured Daesh fighters.

The Egmont Institute report said COVID-19 also poses a severe risk to the camps’ viability. “There are concerns that measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as less physical contact between guards and prisoners, might facilitate (an) informal power grab by (Daesh)-linked groups and exacerbate a permissive environment for criminal activity,” it added.

A spokesperson for the UK government said: “Our priority is to ensure the safety and security of the UK. Those who remain in Syria include some of the most dangerous individuals who chose to stay to fight or otherwise support a group that committed the most atrocious crimes including butchering and beheading innocent civilians.

“The government has been clear that they should face justice for their crimes in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which will often be where their offenses have been committed.”
 


Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Updated 10 sec ago
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Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

  • Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched

KYIV: Canada said on Saturday it would provide 3.02 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion) in financial and military support for Ukraine this year as the two countries signed a security agreement.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Kyiv on the second anniversary of the war, said in a statement announcing the funding.

Kyiv also signed a bilateral security deal with Italy on Saturday, President Volodomyr Zelensky said, following similar deals struck with Britain, France, Germany and Denmark in recent weeks.

In a post on social media, Zelensky said the document, signed with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, “lays a strong foundation for a long-term security partnership between Ukraine and Italy.”

The 10-year agreement between Ottawa and Kyiv “outlines key, long-term security commitments for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, protects its people, and rebuilds its economy for the future,” Trudeau’s office said.

The document includes funding pledges and enhanced cooperation across political, military, security, economic and humanitarian areas, but is not a defense pact or guarantee of military protection.

Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched and Russia is making its first gains on the battlefield in almost a year.

Ukraine relies on tens of billions of dollars in military support to provide its army with ammunition, artillery, tanks, rockets and other equipment.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in Kyiv, also said Saturday the first payment under a new 50-billion-euro ($54.2 billion) EU aid program for Ukraine, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion), would be disbursed in March.

But as the war enters its third year, there is still no sign of progress on Ukraine’s most important funding stream — a $60-billion package of support from the United States.


Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Updated 35 min 42 sec ago
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Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

  • Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities
  • In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now”

BERLIN: Thousands of protesters rallied across Germany Saturday in support of Ukraine on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, even as doubts grow about Kyiv’s chances of victory.
Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities.
In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now.”
Addressing the crowd, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of aggression.”
“He wants to wipe out Ukraine, he wants to wipe out the identities of Ukrainians,” he said.
“But we won’t let happen. We will stand by Ukraine’s side.”
He called on Berlin to deliver long-range Taurus missiles long sought by Kyiv, a demand that the German government has so far refused for fears they could also strike inside Russia.
Organizers said about 10,000 people took part in the rally. Police put the figure at around 5,000.
In a square in the historic heart of Frankfurt, about 1,000 people took part in a rally, according to police, where they heard calls from speakers to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent times acknowledged facing frontline problems, pointing to a lack of Western aid, while Russian forces have been making gains.
“The West must do more to support Ukraine,” Achem Lobreuer, a 58-year-old engineer, told AFP at the rally.
This included delivering more armaments, but also “supporting negotiations,” he said.
“My message to Putin is that he must end this war.”
Maksym Godovnikov, a 38-year-old Ukrainian at the Frankfurt rally, also urged Ukraine’s allies to step up military support.
“If we have more weapons, we can protect ourselves and also win back land that was previously conquered,” he said.
Rallies were also taking place in other European capitals to mark the day Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
The anniversary comes as concerns grow in Europe about Ukraine’s faltering efforts to fend off Moscow.
According to a survey released last week, only 10 percent of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.
The survey conducted last month across 12 EU countries showed that on average 20 percent of those asked believed Russia could win, and 37 percent thought the conflict would end in a compromise settlement.


Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Updated 42 min 8 sec ago
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Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

  • The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months
  • The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday

PARIS: France’s Eiffel Tower that had been closed for five days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument’s management announced a deal had been struck with unions.
The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.
The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months.”
With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some 380 million euros up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.
SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.
The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
SETE has since received a recapitalization of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.
Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.
The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.


Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

Updated 24 February 2024
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Yulia Navalnaya says Putin blocking body handover

  • “You tortured him alive, now you torture him while he is dead,” Yulia Navalnaya said in a new video
  • “Putin is directing it all. It’s Putin saying, ‘Put pressure on the mother, break her, tell her the body of her son is rotting’”

WARSAW: Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused President Vladimir Putin of “satanism” on Saturday for not allowing the body to be returned to his family.
Navalny’s mother Lyudmila has said authorities are threatening to bury him on the grounds of the Arctic prison colony where he died earlier this month if she did not agree to a “secret” funeral.
“You tortured him alive, now you torture him while he is dead,” Yulia Navalnaya, who has vowed to continue her husband’s work, said in a new video, published Saturday.
Russian authorities have said only that an investigation is ongoing and have previously criticized accusations from Navalnaya as “unfounded and vulgar.”
Navalnaya said on Saturday she believed the pressure being put on Navalny’s mother was coming directly from Putin.
“Putin is directing it all. It’s Putin saying, ‘Put pressure on the mother, break her, tell her the body of her son is rotting’,” she said.
“This is the same Putin that likes to show that he is a practicing Christian,” she said.
Putin has for decades portrayed himself as a devoted Orthodox Christian and has in recent years focused on promoting what he calls “traditional values.”
“What Putin is doing now is hatred. No, not even hatred, it’s some kind of satanism,” Navalnaya said.
“We always knew that Putin’s faith is fake, but now we can see it like never before,” she added.
On the anniversary of Russia launching its military offensive, the late Kremlin critic’s wife also denounced Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine.
“You will answer for all of this... And for this (Navalny’s death) and for the war that you unleashed two years ago, also hiding behind Christian values,” Navalnaya said.
“You are just killing. You are just killing sleeping people at night with missiles blessed by the church.”


Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

Updated 24 February 2024
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Biden hails US lunar landing as space milestone

  • Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration”
  • “America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time”

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday hailed the landing of a US spacecraft on the Moon as a historic achievement in space research led by the United States.
The uncrewed Odysseus lander, built by a private company and funded by NASA, landed near the lunar south pole Thursday, more than 50 years since the agency’s last Apollo 17 mission to Earth’s cosmic neighbor.
Biden called the landing “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration” enabled by cooperation between the private and public sectors.
“It was made possible by American ingenuity, innovation, and curiosity,” he said in a statement. “America is leading the world back to the Moon.”
Odysseus, which is the size of a large golf cart, is likely lying sideways on the Moon’s surface as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the robot, its makers said.
Intuitive Machines initially said that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but its CEO later said that announcement was based on misinterpreted data.
It appears that Odysseus caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off the accomplishment.
“America does hard things. We rise to the great scientific challenges of our time,” Biden’s statement said.
NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative that delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.
The United States, along with international partners, wants to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.