Indian villagers protest as army kills 13, fearing rebels

Indian Army soldier sits inside an upgraded L70 anti aircraft gun in Tawang, near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh on October 20, 2021. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2021

Indian villagers protest as army kills 13, fearing rebels

  • Local media reports said Indian security forces had mistakenly opened fire on civilians
  • It was unclear what led to the incident in the state bordering Myanmar

GAUHATI, India: Angry villagers burned army vehicles in protest after more than a dozen people were killed by soldiers who mistakenly believed some of them were militants in India’s remote northeast region along the border with Myanmar, officials said Sunday.
Nagaland state’s top elected official Neiphiu Rio ordered a probe into the killings, which occurred on Saturday, and he tweeted, “The unfortunate incident leading to the killing of civilians at Oting is highly condemnable.”
An army officer said the soldiers fired at a truck after receiving intelligence about a movement of insurgents in the area and killed six people. As irate villagers burned two army vehicles, the soldiers fired at them, killing seven more people, the officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
One soldier was also killed in the clash with protesters, he said.
Insurgents often cross into Myanmar after attacking Indian government forces in the remote area.
Nyamtow Konyak, a local community leader, said those killed were coal miners.
India’s Home Minister Amit Shah expressed anguish over the “unfortunate incident” and said the state government will investigate the killings.
The army officer said the soldiers had laid an ambush for a week following intelligence that insurgents were planning to attack soldiers in the area, 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.
Government forces are battling dozens of ethnic insurgent groups in India’s remote northeast whose demands range from independent homelands to maximum autonomy within India.

Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks

Updated 38 min 59 sec ago

Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks

  • Erdogan said Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alike should refrain from steps that endanger Bosnia’s territorial integrity
  • Erdogan said, earlier, that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik had voiced support for his mediation offer

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he and Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic agreed on Tuesday to broker crisis talks involving all parties in Bosnia after elections in Serbia in April.

The crisis flared after nationalist lawmakers in post-war Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Serb entity passed a non-binding motion last year to start pulling the region out of the country’s armed forces, tax system and judiciary — a move long backed by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

Turkey, which has deep-rooted historical ties in the Balkans, has criticized the move as “wrong, dangerous” and has offered to mediate in the crisis, which has raised fears of a relapse into ethnic conflict in Bosnia.

After a calamitous 1992-95 ethnic war that killed 100,000 people, Bosnia was split into two widely autonomous regions — a Serb Republic (RS) and a Federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats, overlaid by a loose central government.

Addressing reporters along with Vucic after talks in Ankara, Erdogan said Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alike should refrain from steps that endanger Bosnia’s territorial integrity and that all should act “with a sense of responsibility.”

“After these (Serbian) elections, we want to bring together the leaders of these three groups and to have a meeting with them. With this meeting, let us take steps to ensure Bosnia’s territorial integrity,” he said.

“We want to convene the three leaders — of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs — and accomplish this. We agreed on this,” Erdogan said, adding the talks could be held in Istanbul or Belgrade.

Mainly Muslim Turkey backed the late Bosniak Muslim wartime leader Alija Izebegovic and has forged good relations with Bosnia’s post-war, inter-ethnic Bosniak-Serb-Croat presidency.

Earlier, Erdogan was quoted by local media as saying Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Dodik and other regional officials had voiced support for his mediation offer, and that Ankara would intensify its diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

Vucic told the news conference that Serbia was committed to Bosnia as an intact state and that the preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans was paramount, along “with respect for differences.”

Vucic called on Dodik last week to return to national institutions that the Serb Republic has boycotted since mid-2021 over a law criminalizing the denial of genocide.

International war crimes court judgments have branded the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces as genocide, something nationalist Serbs deny.

Serbia was the patron of wartime Bosnian Serb separatists and remains close to Bosnia’s post-war Serb entity, sharing a border with it.

Dodik’s secessionist rhetoric has spurred Serb nationalist rallies and incidents in towns across the Serb Republic.

Earlier this month, the United States imposed new sanctions on Dodik for alleged corruption and threatening Bosnia’s stability and territorial integrity. The European Union also said last week the Bosnian Serb leadership faced EU sanctions and a loss of aid should it continue to incite tensions.

Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks

Updated 18 January 2022

Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks

  • Under Norwegian law, Breivik is eligible for his first parole hearing after 10 years in prison.
  • Asked by the prosecutor who the messages were aimed at, he said they were directed at millions of people “who support white power”

SKIEN, Norway: Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right fanatic who killed 77 people in bomb-and-gun massacres in 2011, argued Tuesday for an early release from prison.
He told a parole judge he had renounced violence even as he professed white supremacist views and flashed Nazi salutes.
Breivik, 42, is serving Norway’s maximum 21-year sentence for setting off a bomb in Oslo’s government district and carrying out a shooting massacre at a summer camp for left-wing youth activists. Under Norwegian law, he is eligible for his first parole hearing after 10 years in prison.
Though experts agree Breivik is highly unlikely to be released, authorities have insisted he has the same rights as any other prisoner, arguing that treating him differently would undermine the principles that underpin Norwegian society, including the rule of law and freedom of speech.
At the three-day hearing, which is taking place in the high-security prison in Skien, south of Oslo, where he is being held in isolation with three cells at his disposal, Breivik made full use of his rights.
Sporting a stubble beard and a two-piece suit, he entered the makeshift courtroom in a prison gymnasium by raising his right hand in a Nazi salute and holding up homemade signs with white supremacist messages. One sign was pinned to his suit.
Asked by the prosecutor who the messages were aimed at, he said they were directed at millions of people “who support white power.”
The Associated Press resists being used as a conduit for speech or images that espouse hate or spread propaganda and is not publishing images showing Breivik’s Nazi salutes and other white supremacist propaganda.
Breivik has used previous court hearings to disseminate conspiracy theories of an ongoing genocide against white people in the West. Some worry he could inspire like-minded people to carry out similar attacks. But since his criminal trial in 2012, many Norwegians have insisted that the best way to defy his world view is to stand up for a tolerant, open society and show that the system he claims is oppressing him in fact is giving him every chance to have his day in court.
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, a law professor at Oslo University, said Breivik was pushing the boundaries in Tuesday’s hearing.
“At the same time, it’s fairly clear that the prosecutor has a very clear strategy here,” she said. “By letting him speak ... he gets his very incoherent message out in the open.”
In a rambling monologue to the court, Breivik argued there is a distinction between militant and nonmilitant white nationalists and said he had been brainwashed by the former when he carried out his attacks in Oslo and at the summer retreat on Utoya Island.
“Today, I strongly dissociate myself from violence and terror,” he said. “I hereby give you my word of honor that this is behind me forever.”
Reminding the court of the scale of the attacks, prosecutor Hulda Karlsdottir read the names of each of Breivik’s victims, many of them teenagers on the annual retreat. Many were shot multiple times and some drowned as they tried to swim from the island in panic. During the criminal trial, Breivik said he considered the victims traitors for embracing multiculturalism and that he regretted not having killed even more.
Karlsdottir stressed the parole hearing was not about re-examining guilt, saying, “The main topic here is the danger associated with release.”
Breivik didn’t express any remorse, saying only that he cries for victims on “both sides” in what he described as a culture war.
The court is set to sit until Thursday and a ruling is expected later this month.
During a break in the proceedings, Breivik’s lawyer Øystein Storrvik was asked whether his client was using the hearing to spread his propaganda.
“That is a right he has under Norwegian law,” he was quoted as saying by national broadcaster NRK. “Whether what he chooses to say is wise or not is another matter.”
Groups representing survivors and families of victims have said they won’t comment during the hearing. Before the session, Lisbeth Kristine Røyneland, who heads a support group, said she was afraid Breivik would use the opportunity “to talk freely and convey his extreme views to people who have the same mindset.”
Breivik was declared criminally sane in his trial, even though the prosecution argued that he was psychotic. He didn’t appeal his sentence but unsuccessfully sued the government for human rights violations for denying him the right to communicate with sympathizers.
Although Norway’s maximum sentence is 21 years, Breivik could be held longer under a provision that allows authorities to keep criminals in prison for as long as they’re considered a menace to society.
Breivik has been trying to start a fascist party in prison and reached out by mail to likeminded extremists in Europe and the United States. Prison officials seized many of those letters, fearing he would inspire other violent attacks. Ahead of the parole hearing, Randi Rosenqvist, the psychiatrist who has followed Breivik since 2012, said she could “not detect great changes in Breivik’s functioning.”

Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis

Updated 18 January 2022

Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis

  • Lodgings cheapest option for many jobseekers, visitors to Bangladesh capital
  • Concept emerged in 1st half of 20th century, providing accommodation for traders from different parts of Bangladesh

DHAKA: Many residents of Dhaka have never heard about the city’s boat hotels, but for traders and visitors to the Bangladeshi capital from other districts the floating lodgings have for decades provided a cheap accommodation option.

The boat hotels on the banks of the Buriganga River started to emerge in the first half of the 20th century, under British colonial rule, providing accommodation to poor traders from deprived rural areas arriving in Dhaka in search of work.

The two-storey vessels moored along the riverbanks on the southwest outskirts of the city are the most cost-effective option for visitors, with prices as low as 50 US cents per night.

Mohammed Mostofa Mia, owner of the Faridpur Hotel, one of the four remaining floating establishments, told Arab News that the business emerged when road communications in the country were limited, and the river was the main route to Dhaka.

“These floating hotels started providing services to the traders who travelled to Dhaka from different parts of the country,” he said.

“We operate like other regular hotels. The guests need to provide a copy of their national identity card during check in.”

But other rules were different.

“The guests are required to bring their own bedding, pillows, and blankets. We only provide space here,” Mia added.

Each floating hotel can accommodate around 60 people, with only two shared washrooms. The cheapest option, at 50 cents, is a hostel-like room with 15 beds, while a more private room — a double-bed cabin of around 4 square meters — costs nearly $2 per night.

Apart from a bed, there are no amenities and guests hang their belongings on the upper part of the walls. Ceiling fans offer some comfort during hot weather.

Mohammed Lalon, 35, who sells dates in the old city of Dhaka and its Sadarghat port terminal, checked into one of the boat hotels almost two months ago.

“If I reside in a shared room anywhere in Dhaka, I’d have to spend twice as much. So, this floating hotel is a good solution for me,” he said. “I don’t need to spend money on conveyance every day.”

For 62-year-old Abdul Hakim, the river rooms have been his home for decades. The fruit seller arrived in Dhaka around 40 years ago and has lived most of that time in a 15-bed dormitory.

He hails from a village in Pabna district, 160 kilometers from the capital, and by saving money on his accommodation has been able to pay to send his five children to school.

“For staying a night here, I have to pay only half a dollar,” he said. “My eldest daughter completed her graduation from a college in Pabna. If I spent more on accommodation, I won’t be able to provide money for the children’s education.”

British PM denies lying about lockdown party

Updated 18 January 2022

British PM denies lying about lockdown party

  • The revelations have sparked public fury, leading to a double-digit lead in polls for the main opposition Labour party over Johnson's Conservatives
  • Johnson has apologised for a May 20, 2020 party in the Downing Street garden, telling parliament last week he thought it was a "work event",

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday “categorically” denied claims by his former chief aide that he lied to parliament about a Downing Street party held during a strict lockdown.
But appearing in public for the first time after days of Covid self-isolation, Johnson also ducked questions about whether he would resign if an internal inquiry establishes that he did lie.
Johnson is battling damaging allegations that he and staff attended alcohol-heavy events during Covid restrictions, prompting an investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
The revelations have sparked public fury, leading to a double-digit lead in polls for the main opposition Labour party over Johnson’s Conservatives, and calls from some Tories for him to quit.
Johnson has apologized for a May 20, 2020 party in the Downing Street garden, telling parliament last week he thought it was a “work event,” despite an aide inviting staff to “bring your own booze.”
But his combative former senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who has been waging a vendetta against Johnson since leaving Downing Street in late 2020, said he warned his then boss about the event at the time.
“I can tell you categorically that nobody told me, nobody said this was something that was against the rules, that it was a breach of the Covid rules, that it was something that wasn’t a work event,” Johnson said.
“Frankly I can’t imagine why on earth it would have been allowed to go ahead,” he told reporters on a visit to a London hospital.
Hanging his head in remorse, Johnson also renewed his office’s apology to Queen Elizabeth II after it emerged that his staff held leaving parties during national mourning for her husband, Prince Philip, in April 2021.
Johnson’s denials have been carefully worded, appearing to clear him of any personal blame even if there was wrongdoing by staff, and relying on a narrow exemption for work gatherings during lockdowns.
But in the latest of an incendiary series of blog posts, Cummings wrote that he told Johnson that Downing Street was becoming a “madhouse.” The prime minister “waved it aside,” he added.
“The events of 20 May alone, never mind the string of other events, mean the PM lied to Parliament about parties,” said Cummings, adding he was ready to swear to his account “on oath.”
Six Conservatives have openly called for Johnson’s resignation, although more are reported to have done so in private. Fifty-four letters from Tory MPs are needed to trigger a no-confidence vote.
Asked if he would indeed step down, Johnson said: “We’ll have to see what she (Gray) says.
“I repeat my deep apologies to people for mistakes that may have been made on my watch,” he added.
Johnson’s senior ministerial colleagues have largely rallied round him, urging the public to wait for the conclusions from Gray’s investigation, which is expected in the coming days.
But Dominic Raab, the deputy premier and justice secretary, conceded that a proven lie by a minister “would normally under the ministerial code, and the governance around parliament, be a resigning matter.”
And in his first on-camera comments on the revelations, powerful finance minister Rishi Sunak said “the ministerial code is clear on these matters.”
“I fully support the prime minister’s request for patience as this inquiry persists,” added Sunak, who is tipped to be a strong contender to take over from Johnson in any leadership contest.
Pressed on whether the prime minister had his unequivocal support, Sunak then broke off the interview and walked off with his microphone still attached.
The opposition Labour party was unequivocal in restating its demands for Johnson to quit following the Cummings blog.
“Boris Johnson clearly knows it’s the end of the road,” Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said.

Poland: some 600 migrant crossings into EU foiled this year

Updated 18 January 2022

Poland: some 600 migrant crossings into EU foiled this year

  • Border guards said on Twitter that on Monday, 23 migrants were detained after having crossed the razor-wire barriers into Poland
  • Poland is planning to build a high, metal barrier in the coming months to prevent any illegal crossings from Belarus

WARSAW, Poland: Poland’s Border Guard authorities say that almost 600 attempts by migrants at crossing the border from Belarus have been foiled so far this year.
The attempts have continued since their peak in the fall, but the number of registered tries has dropped significantly, to dozens a day from nearly a thousand a day in November.
Border guards said on Twitter that on Monday, 23 migrants were detained after having crossed the razor-wire barriers into Poland, a European Union member. They were from Syria, Iraq, Cuba, the Palestinian territories and Turkmenistan. Earlier, Yemenis were also detained.
Poland says Belarusian officers are helping the migrants cut and cross the border barriers and attack Poland’s border guards.
Poland is planning to build a high, metal barrier in the coming months to prevent any illegal crossings from Belarus. Border guards continue to receive backup from Poland’s military.
Poland and the EU say the migrant pressure was organized by the government of Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to destabilize the 27-member bloc in retaliation for sanctions that the West introduced after Belarus’ 2020 presidential election that it says was rigged.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Sunday it has flown back from Belarus some 4,000 Iraqis who got stuck at the border with Poland. The return flights were organized after pressure from the EU, alarmed by the plight of the migrants stuck in woods in freezing winter weather.
In 2021, Poland’s Border Guard registered 39,700 attempts to illegally cross from Belarus.
German federal police say that 11,228 unauthorized entries “with a connection to Belarus” were recorded last year — 5,294 of them in October alone. They say that numbers are continuing to fall.