China agrees to Xinjiang visit by UN rights chief in early 2022 — report

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Amnesty International activists protest in front of the National Assembly in Paris, France, on Jan. 26, 2022, against human rights violations in China. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Uighur children play near a cage protecting heavily armed Chinese policemen on duty in Urumqi in northwest China's Xinjiang region. (AP File Photo)
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Updated 28 January 2022
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China agrees to Xinjiang visit by UN rights chief in early 2022 — report

  • Rights groups have accused China of perpetrating widescale abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in its western region of Xinjiang

BEIJING: China has agreed to let the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visit Xinjiang in the first half of 2022 after the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a report in the South China Morning Post which cited unnamed sources.
Rights groups have accused China of perpetrating widescale abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in its western region of Xinjiang, including mass detention, torture and forced labor. The United States has accused China of genocide.
Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims and has described its policies as necessary to combat religious extremism.
UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet has been pursuing negotiations with China on a visit since September 2018.
China’s foreign ministry, China’s mission to the United Nations in New York, and the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The South China Morning Post report on Thursday cited sources saying that the approval for a visit after the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Games, which run Feb. 4-20, was granted on the condition the trip should be “friendly” and not framed as an investigation.
As in 2008, the Olympics have again cast a spotlight on China’s human rights record, which critics say has worsened since then, leading Washington to call Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims genocide and prompting a diplomatic boycott from the United States and other countries.
“No one, especially the world’s leading human rights diplomat, should be fooled by the Chinese government’s efforts to distract attention away from its crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities,” Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an emailed statement on Friday. 


Norway says ready to recognize a Palestinian state

Updated 5 sec ago
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Norway says ready to recognize a Palestinian state

“Norway stands ready to recognize the state of Palestine,” Store told a joint press conference with Sanchez
Sanchez is currently on a tour of Poland, Norway and Ireland this week to drum up support for the recognition of a Palestinian state

OSLO: Norway is ready to recognize a Palestinian state together with other countries, its prime minister said on Friday while hosting Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez, who is seeking support for the cause.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters that such a decision would need to be taken in close coordination with “like-minded countries.”
“Norway stands ready to recognize the state of Palestine,” Store told a joint press conference with Sanchez.
“We have not set a firm timetable,” Store added.
In November, Norway’s parliament adopted a government proposal for the country to be prepared to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Norway also hosted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the beginning of the 1990s, which led to the Oslo Accords.
Sanchez is currently on a tour of Poland, Norway and Ireland this week to drum up support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, according to a Spanish government spokesperson.
Speaking alongside Store, Sanchez said Spain was “committed to recognizing Palestine as a state, as soon as possible, when the conditions are appropriate, and in a way that can have the most positive impact to the peace process.”
On March 22, Spain issued a statement with Ireland, Malta and Slovenia on the sidelines of an EU leaders summit, saying they were “ready to recognize Palestine” in a move that would happen when “the circumstances are right.”
Last week, Sanchez told reporters traveling with him on his Middle East tour that he hoped it would happen by the end of June.
Store on Friday said that he welcomed Sanchez’s initiative to consult among countries to “strengthen coordination.”
“We will intensify that coordination in the weeks to come,” Store said.
The Spanish leader has repeatedly angered Israel with his outspoken comments since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The war in the Gaza Strip erupted after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,634 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Two arrested in India over Bengaluru cafe bombing

Updated 40 min 45 sec ago
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Two arrested in India over Bengaluru cafe bombing

  • The two suspects were hiding under false identities, National Investigation Agency says
  • Both are accused of orchestrating the March attack on cafe using a small homemade bomb

KOLKATA: Police in India arrested two men Friday accused of bombing a popular cafe in the southern tech hub Bengaluru last month, wounding nine people.

The National Investigation Agency said in a statement it had located the two suspects outside the eastern city of Kolkata, where they were hiding under false identities.

The men are accused of orchestrating the March attack on the Rameshwaram Cafe during its busy lunch hour using a small homemade bomb.

Bengaluru, known as “India’s Silicon Valley,” is home to many of the country’s top information technology companies and the capital of Karnataka state.

Karnataka is ruled by the opposition Congress party, which is often accused of being soft on extremism by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.


American missing in Russian-controlled east Ukraine, say local police

Updated 12 April 2024
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American missing in Russian-controlled east Ukraine, say local police

  • Bentley went missing on April 8
  • Mash cited his wife as saying he had gone to see if anyone needed help but had not returned

MOSCOW: Russell Bentley, an American who fought against Ukrainian forces, is missing in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, police there said on Friday, adding that a search was under way.
Bentley went missing on April 8, they said. The online news outlet Mash said he had disappeared after a district in the city of Donetsk was shelled by Ukrainian forces.
Mash cited his wife as saying he had gone to see if anyone needed help but had not returned. She was quoted as saying she had found his car with his baseball cap in it along with his smashed mobile phone and a pair of glasses.
Bentley, 64, is a self-declared supporter of Russian-backed forces in Ukraine.
He joined pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and used the military call-sign “Texas,” the Russian state news agency RIA reported.
It said Bentley had later swapped his gun for journalism and had worked with the Sputnik news agency, another state-owned entity, and obtained Russian citizenship.
In 2022, Rolling Stone magazine ran an interview with Bentley titled “The Bizarre Story of How a Hardcore Texas Leftist Became a Frontline Putin propagandist.”


Four teenagers detained in Germany over ‘Islamist attack’ plot

Updated 12 April 2024
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Four teenagers detained in Germany over ‘Islamist attack’ plot

  • The trio, aged 15 to 16, had also “committed to carrying out a crime — murder and manslaughter,” Duesseldorf prosecutors added
  • Investigators did not provide further details on the alleged plot, saying the inquiry was still under way

BERLIN: Police have detained two girls and two boys — all teenagers — in western Germany on suspicion that they were planning an Islamist attack, prosecutors said on Friday.
Three arrested in North Rhine-Westphalia state are “strongly suspected of planning an Islamist-motivated terror attack and of having committed to carrying it out,” Duesseldorf prosecutors said in a statement.
The trio, aged 15 to 16, had also “committed to carrying out a crime — murder and manslaughter,” Duesseldorf prosecutors added.
Separately, prosecutors in Stuttgart said a 16-year-old suspect is in custody on “suspicion that he was preparing a serious crime endangering the state.”
Investigators did not provide further details on the alleged plot, saying the inquiry was still under way.
But Germany’s biggest-selling daily Bild reported that the four youths were allegedly planning to carry out Molotov cocktail and knife attacks in the name of the Daesh group.
Their targets are believed to have been Christians and police officers, according to the report, which said the suspects were also weighing whether to obtain firearms.
Germany has been on high alert for Islamist attacks since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October, with the country’s domestic intelligence chief warning that the risk of such assaults is “real and higher than it has been for a long time.”
The country is also particularly nervous about security breaches as it prepares to host the European football championships from mid-June to mid-July.
Police had already foiled a suspected plot earlier this year.
Investigators in January arrested three people over an alleged plan targeting the cathedral in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
Bild reported that the suspects were Tajiks acting for Daesh-Khorasan, the same group believed to have been behind March’s deadly massacre in a Moscow concert hall.
“The danger from Islamist terrorism remains acute,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said at the time, describing the Khorasan offshoot as “currently the biggest Islamist threat in Germany.”
Islamist extremists have carried out several attacks in Germany in recent years, the deadliest being a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.
More recently, two Afghans linked to Daesh were arrested in Germany in March on suspicion of planning an attack around Sweden’s parliament in retaliation for Qur'an burnings.
In October, German prosecutors also charged two Syrian brothers for planning an attack inspired by Daesh on a church in Sweden.
In December 2022, a Syrian-born Islamist was jailed for 14 years for a knife attack on a train in Bavaria in which four people were injured.
The number of people considered Islamist extremists in Germany fell from 28,290 in 2021 to 27,480 in 2022, according to a report from the BfV federal domestic intelligence agency.
However, in presenting the report, Faeser said Islamist extremism “remains dangerous.”
Germany became a target for militant groups during its involvement in the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan.


German lawsuit calls for end to Israeli arms sales

Updated 12 April 2024
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German lawsuit calls for end to Israeli arms sales

  • Country is second-biggest weapons exporter to Tel Aviv after US
  • Rights groups representing Palestinian plaintiffs say Berlin violating humanitarian conventions

LONDON: A lawsuit filed in Germany is asking judges to demand an immediate end to arms sales to Israel by the national government, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The suit is a sign of growing pressure on Berlin’s ties with Israel amid rising discontent over Tel Aviv’s prosecution of its war in Gaza. Germany is the second-biggest arms exporter to Israel after the US.

The lawsuit is requesting judges to demand that the German government revoke all weapons licenses issued to Israel since Oct. 7 last year.

It was filed by four human rights groups, representing five Palestinian people in Gaza who say they are victims of collective punishment by Israel.

One of the lead litigants, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said in a statement: “It is reasonable to believe that the German government is in violation of the arms trade treaty, the Geneva conventions and its obligations under the genocide convention — agreements that have been ratified by Germany.”

The center’s general secretary, Wolfgang Kaleck, said: “A basic prerequisite for a rules-based and human rights-oriented German foreign policy is respect for the law in its own decision making.

“Germany cannot remain true to its values if it exports weapons to a war where serious violations of international humanitarian law are apparent.”

One of the major transfers that could be impacted by the suit is the sale of 3,000 anti-tank weapons from Germany to Israel.

Some of the Palestinian plaintiffs have lost relatives in the war, as well as homes and jobs. “All five of my children were killed when Israel fired on the refugee camp where we were staying after fleeing from the north,” one said.

“Germany must stop sending weapons that fuel this war. No other mother should suffer such a terrible loss.”

The country, due to the Holocaust, has described “Israeli security” as “at the heart of its foreign policy.”

In response to the suit, the German government told the court it had received and approved of Israeli assurances that it had taken precautions in the use of German-sold weaponry.