Afghan villagers who fled from the fighting sides arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz
April 24, 2019
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan Taliban insurgents are battling fighters loyal to Islamic State over control of territory in eastern Afghanistan in some of the heaviest clashes over the past year between the rival militants, officials said on Wednesday.
The fighting erupted on Monday in two districts of the eastern Afghan border province of Nangarhar, when Islamic State fighters attacked villages under Taliban control.
“Islamic State fighters have captured six villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts but the fighting has not stopped,” said Sohrab Qaderi, a member Nangarhar’s the provincial council.
About 500 families had fled from the fighting, he said.
Casualty figures were not available.
A spokesman for the Taliban, who control more territory than at any point since they were ousted from power nearly 18 years ago, was not available for comment.
Islamic State fighters first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in around 2014 and have battled the Taliban as well as government and foreign forces.
The Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region that includes Afghanistan, has made some inroads into other areas, in the north in particular.
It has also established a reputation for unusual cruelty, even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in urban centers.
While Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has been an Islamic State stronghold, some villages in Khogyani and Shirzad districts have been controlled by the Taliban.
Fleeing villagers said they had to run for their lives.
“I could only rescue my family. We had to leave everything,” said Shawkat, 36, a resident of Markikhel village in Shirzad district who sought safety in a neighboring village.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor said, authorities would help the displaced villagers with food and medicine.
In August, more than 150 Islamic State fighters surrendered to the Afghan security forces after they were defeated by the Taliban in the northwestern province of Jawzjan.
The U.S. military estimates there are about 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.
Many are former Taliban. There is scant evidence of direct links with Islamic State in the Middle East, where the group has lost territory it once held in Syria and Iraq to Western-backed forces.
(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul and Ahmad Sultan in Nangarhar; Editing by Robert Birsel)
But if that is really true, why are they working so hard to sabotage their own chances of replacing him? Why are Democrats suddenly saying things that would guarantee Trump’s re-election as president?
In just the past few months, Democrats have said things that are so out of the mainstream that it is very hard to imagine voters will back them. On Monday night on CNN, Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner, endorsed allowing felons who are currently behind bars to vote.
“If somebody commits a serious crime — sexual assault, murder — they are going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That is what happens when you commit a serious crime,” he said. “But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy. Yes, even for terrible people.”
“Terrible people.” So how terrible is Sanders talking about? Cannibals? Convicted spies? How about terrorists who kill children? Oh, yes, said Bernie Sanders, they should get to vote, too. Unlike the First or Second amendments, that is in the Constitution.
Sen. Kamala Harris seemed to initially agree with that in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, saying, “I think we should have that conversation” about allowing prisoners to vote.
Okay, let’s have a conversation. Best to do it right now, actually, because whenever the left tells you they want a conversation about something, you can be certain that any dissent on that subject will be banned a year from now. In 2020, questioning whether imprisoned terrorists should vote could earn you a trip to the HR department and a lifetime ban from PayPal and Twitter.
So while we still can, consider the story of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev first came to the United States, you’ll remember, on a tourist visa with the rest of his family from Kyrgyzstan. All of them promptly claimed asylum here, and they were given it. Over time, the Tsarnaevs collected more than $100,000 in taxpayer-financed government benefits.
In 2012, Tsarnaev received U.S. citizenship. And less than a year later, he murdered three people and maimed hundreds with a pressure cooker bomb at the Boston Marathon. Now, he is on death row.
So Democrats hear that story, and they feel outraged. It’s not that immigrants repaid our generosity with a terror attack — that might bother you, but it doesn’t bother them. The injustice they are enraged by is that a convicted terrorist might not be allowed to help pick our next president. That is outrageous, in their view.
It’s just the kind of institutionalized bigotry that Kyrgyzstani refugees like the Tsarnaevs have faced historically in this country. Maybe they need reparations, too. They definitely need a voice.
So do the convicts of West Feliciana Parish, La.. Of the 15,000 people who live in that parish, fully one-third of them are inmates at the maximum-security Angola State Prison Farm. They are the single largest bloc of voters in the area.
According to Bernie Sanders, this is bad because they are being denied democracy. That is racist and once Bernie Sanders is president, they will be able to elect the city council and the sheriff, maybe the warden, too. That is the kind of “progress” we are talking about here.
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Official Presentation of ATP Team Competition – The O2, London, Britain – November 15, 2018 ATP Executive Chairman & President, Chris Kermode during a press conference Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
April 24, 2019
(Reuters) – Turin’s Pala Alpitour stadium was named on Wednesday as the new venue for the ATP Finals from 2021-2025, drawing a line under London’s long tenure as host of the year-ending tournament.
Men’s governing body the ATP said in a statement on that Turin was picked ahead of Manchester, Singapore, Tokyo and London, marking the first time in the tournament’s 50-year history that it will be staged in Italy.
The Pala Alpitour, opened in 2005 for the Winter Olympics, is Italy’s largest indoor sporting arena, with a seating capacity of 12,350.
“Italy provides us with one of the strongest and most established tennis markets in Europe and has a proven track record for hosting world class tennis events,” Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said in a statement.
The event features the world’s top eight singles players and doubles teams and offered $8.5 million in prize money last year, when Alexander Zverev stunned Djokovic to win the title.
“We look forward to bringing the ATP’s flagship season-ending event to tennis’s growing fanbase in Italy for the first time,” Briton Kermode added.
Milan has hosted the Next Gen Finals for the top eight players aged 21 and under for the past two years, while Rome hosts a Masters 1000 clay court event in May in the buildup to the French Open.
Turin has a hard act to follow as the ATP Finals have been hugely popular with players and fans at the O2 Arena, where aggregate attendances have routinely reached a quarter of a million each year since London began hosting the tournament — the jewel in the ATP’s crown — in 2009.
Despite this success, the ATP announced in August that it was inviting bids from other potential hosts, a move backed by Novak Djokovic, the world number one and President of the ATP Player Council who has won the title five times in London.
“It’s still a few years away but I know that the players will be very excited to compete there, and I also hope to be part of what will be a very special event,” the Serb said in Wednesday’s statement.
Turin will become the 15th city to host the tournament, which since starting in Tokyo in 1970 has had a 13-year stint in New York, a six-year stay in Frankfurt and spells in Hanover, Lisbon, Sydney, Houston, Shanghai and London.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman in London and Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, Editing by Simon Jennings/Amlan Chakraborty/Alexander Smith)
A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi, Pakistan September 24, 2018. Picture taken September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
April 24, 2019
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – People living in countries along China’s new “Silk Road” favor investment in renewable energy over the construction of coal-fired power plants, according to a poll released on Wednesday ahead of a major summit in Beijing.
Environmental group E3G, which commissioned the poll, said the results showed there was little support for investment in coal, despite China’s role as a major funder of new plants.
“China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming forum to make sure these demands are met,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.
The survey was released ahead of China’s second international forum on its 2013 Belt and Road initiative, which is designed to build infrastructure and encourage trade and economic cooperation along the old Silk Road route connecting China to Europe and elsewhere.
According to a draft communique seen by Reuters, world leaders attending the summit will call for sustainable financing that promotes green growth.
But concerns have been raised that China is using the program to export substandard polluting technologies, even as it boosts the share of renewable power at home in a bid to cut smog and climate-warming greenhouse gases.
The YouGov poll of more than 6,000 people covered Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, which are among the top 10 locations for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, with many backed by Chinese developers.
Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they favored investment by foreign governments, banks and companies in renewable projects, while less than a third said they favored investments in coal.
More than 90 percent said solar power should be a priority. Coal-fired power was less popular than nuclear in four of the six countries.
In a separate announcement on Wednesday, a coalition of Chinese environmental groups urged Beijing to draw up green guiding principles for investment in Belt and Road countries.
“The host country’s climate objectives and the long-term impact of investment activities on the local environment must be taken into consideration,” said Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)
FILE PHOTO: Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen ahead of the news conference on the outcome of the Governing Council meeting, outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
April 24, 2019
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A new round of tariffs between the United States and its main partners would only cause a “modest decrease” in the pace of economic growth in the euro zone, according to research by the European Central Bank.
The study simulated a two-way, 10 percent increase in tariff and other trade barriers between the world’s largest economy and all its partners.
It showed an “overall modest decrease in activity” in the euro area due to fading global confidence outweighing a boost to EU exports to countries other than the United States.
The study also showed a decrease of fewer than 10 basis points in the real income of German households from tariffs on the automotive sector even after taking into account cross-country production linkages, known as global value chains (GVC) in economic parlance.
To read the study, which builds on ECB research from last year, please click:
(Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
FILE PHOTO: A combination of file photos shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019 and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin looking during a joint news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma after their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Krasnodar region, Russia, May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Pool/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time this week at a symbolic summit hoping to project himself as a serious world player but likely to come away without a relief from crushing sanctions he seeks.
After his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump ended without an agreement two months ago, Kim’s meeting with Putin serves as a reminder to Washington that he has other options in the region backing his leadership.
But while Kim is likely to seek more assistance from one of his country’s two main backers, Russia will be limited in what it can provide and the summit will focus more on demonstrating camaraderie than new investment or aid, analysts said.
“When Kim meets Putin, he is going to ask for economic assistance and unilateral sanctions relaxation. Moscow is unlikely to grant his wishes,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.
That school’s campus is seen to be the summit venue, according to South Korean media which reported the presence of Kim’s top aides there making preparations for the event.
“Being a veto-holding U.N. Security Council member, Moscow can hardly afford to undermine its authority even for the sake of friendship with Kim,” Lukin said.
While Russia says it fully enforces the sanctions that it voted to impose, it has joined China in calling for loosening punishment for North Korea in recognition of steps taken in limiting its weapons testing.
“Steps by the DPRK toward gradual disarmament should be followed by the easing of sanctions,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a Security Council meeting late last year, using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Washington has accused Russia of “cheating” on sanctions and said it has evidence of “consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations”.
In February, Reuters reported a Russian tanker violated international trade sanctions by transferring fuel to a North Korean vessel at sea at least four times between October 2017 and May 2018.
One Russian lawmaker told Interfax news agency last week that North Korea had asked Moscow to allow its laborers to continue to work in Russia despite sanctions requiring their expulsion by the end of this year.
“One particularly sore area for Kim is the issue of North Korean laborers working in Russia,” said Anthony Rinna, a specialist in Korea-Russia relations at Sino-NK, a website that analyses the region.
“Kim will probably be seeking some wiggle-room from Russia, although Moscow will be hard-pressed to accommodate Kim given its desire to portray a responsible image in the world.”
The United States has said it believed Pyongyang was earning more than $500 million a year from nearly 100,000 workers abroad, including 30,000 in Russia.
According to unpublished reports by Moscow to the United Nations Security Council, Russia sent home nearly two-thirds of its North Korean workers during 2018.
The report, reviewed by Reuters, said in 2018 the number of North Koreans with work permits in Russia fell to about 11,500.
Russia-North Korea relations withered after the Soviet demise, with the loss of support from Moscow often cited as one factor that lead to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans.
Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, worked to renew ties after Putin first became president in 1999. He visited Russia three times before his sudden death in 2011.
Russia could agreed on some limited projects like a vehicle bridge connecting the two countries across the Tumangan River, or provide more humanitarian aid, Lukin said.
Earlier this year, Russia sent more than 2,000 tons of wheat to North Korea through the World Food Programme. Russian lawmakers have suggested Moscow could send as much as 50,000 tons of wheat to North Korea.
According to the United Nations, Russia has continued to sell significant amounts of oil to North Korea, though still officially under sanctions caps.
North Korea’s state media said in March officials met in Moscow to sign an agreement “to boost high-level contact and exchange in the political field (and) actively promote cooperation in the fields of economy and humanitarianism.”
While Moscow is unlikely to risk its authority at the United Nations by overtly breaching sanctions, Putin could promise not to support any additional sanctions, Lukin said.
“Kim can expect a friendly reception here and probably some chance of getting political and economic support from Putin.”
(Reporting by Josh Smith, additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow.; Editing by Jack Kim and Lincoln Feast.)
Mohib Ullah, a leader of Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, talks on the phone in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh April 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
April 24, 2019
By Simon Lewis, Poppy McPherson and Ruma Paul
KUTUPALONG REFUGEE CAMP, Bangladesh (Reuters) – It was after Mohib Ullah scored his first political victories that the death threats began in earnest. On a recent morning, the Rohingya refugee leaned back on a plastic chair in the Bangladesh camp where he lives, and translated the latest warning, sent over the WhatsApp messaging app.
“Mohib Ullah is a virus of the community,” he read aloud, with a wry chuckle. “Kill him wherever he is found.”
The 44-year-old leads the largest of several community groups to emerge since more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar after a military crackdown in August 2017.
In the refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district a nascent civil society is emerging among the Rohingya, who spent decades under apartheid-like restrictions in Myanmar.
Some campaigners are seeking justice for alleged atrocities in Myanmar, a small cadre of women are raising their voices for the first time, and others are simply working to improve life in the new city of tarpaulins and bamboo that, after the latest influx, is home to more than 900,000 people.
Mohib Ullah himself was invited to Geneva last month, where he told the United Nations Human Rights Council the Rohingya want a say over their own future.
But the political awakening has been accompanied by a surge in violence, with militants and religious conservatives also vying for power, more than a dozen refugees told Reuters. They described increasing fear in the camps, where armed men have stormed shelters at night, kidnapped critics and warned women against breaking conservative Islamic norms.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, which sparked the 2017 crisis with attacks on security posts, is resurgent in the camps, refugees say, alongside several other armed groups. The group is also known as Harakah al-Yaqin – the movement of faith.
“In the daytime, the al-Yaqin guys become normal people,” said one young woman, who like other refugees requested anonymity to speak about the group without fear of reprisals. “They mix with everyone else. But at night it’s like they have a kind of magical power.”
DIALOGUE, AND THREATS
Reuters conducted dozens of interviews with UN staff, diplomats, Bangladeshi officials and researchers about the forces competing for influence in the world’s largest refugee settlement.
While some are hopeful the stateless Rohingya are beginning to find a political voice, there are also fears that a turn to violence threatens to make solving the refugee crisis through dialogue impossible and could bring more instability.
“Refugee camps in many parts of the world are becoming recruitment grounds for terrorists,” said Mozammel Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s cabinet committee on law and order. “God forbid, if something like that happens, this will not only affect Bangladesh but the whole region.”
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not answer calls seeking comment. Zaw Htay said during a press conference in January that Myanmar had complained to Bangladesh over what he said were ARSA bases inside Bangladesh.
The frontline in the struggle for the Rohingyas’ future are the bamboo huts where refugees take shelter from the heat and dust of the camp to voice their views. In the makeshift office of his group, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, or ARSPH, Mohib Ullah convenes an open meeting each morning.
“We couldn’t gather more than five people in Myanmar, so when we have this kind of huge gathering it makes us very happy,” said 57-year-old Abdul Fayez, one of several dozen refugees gathered cross-legged on the floor at a recent meeting.
ARSPH made its name documenting alleged atrocities the Rohingya suffered in Myanmar. Mohib Ullah went from hut to hut to build a tally of killings, rape and arson that has been shared with international investigators. [nL4N1V846E]
Last year it won a victory with a campaign for the refugees to have more say in the process of issuing identity cards, calling a general strike in the camps in November that forced Bangladeshi officials and UN staff to meet ARSPH leaders.
It now says its main goal is to give the Rohingya a voice in international talks on their future.
But not everyone agrees with ARSPH’s approach. Hardliners in the camps argue for a more assertive stance in talks on the terms under which the refugees might return to Myanmar.
“We are flexible, we want to negotiate,” said a senior leader of ARSPH, who requested anonymity. “But we fear we may be harmed because of this.” ARSA was among Mohib Ullah and ARSPH’s antagonists, the leader said.
Mohib Ullah was involved in local politics back in Myanmar, drawing accusations from opponents that he worked too closely with the hated government. “If I die, I’m fine. I will give my life,” Mohib Ullah told Reuters.
Bangladesh security forces patrol the perimeter of the camps to stop refugees slipping out. But, especially at night, the warren-like interior is run by violent men, refugees told Reuters.
In at least some parts of the camps, those men claim affiliation to ARSA, said more than half a dozen refugees. UN officials and NGO workers monitoring the group’s activities say it is unclear how many of those men are under orders from the group’s leadership. But some of them have asked wealthier refugees and shopkeepers to pay regular taxes, saying the money will be used to fight back in Myanmar, refugees said.
One refugee, who volunteers as an aid worker in the camps, told Reuters he had witnessed a kidnapping in January by men he believed to be from ARSA.
Men with wooden sticks moved swiftly into an area of the camps known as Jamtoli and took away a man who refused to attend one of the group’s meetings, he said. “They just carried him off like a goat to the slaughter.”
Reuters was unable to corroborate the incident or find out what happened to the man, but five refugees from the same area said men they knew had been involved in ARSA attacks inside Myanmar were now involved in kidnappings in Jamtoli.
Reuters was unable to reach ARSA for comment.
Researchers for Fortify Rights have also gathered testimony that ARSA had abducted at least five Rohingya refugees in recent months, the campaign group said on March 14.
A posting from a Twitter account previously used by the group called the Fortify Rights report “shallow, shoddy, and not aptly verified” and denied allegations that ARSA was involved in criminal activity.
Police have recorded an escalation in violence in the camps in recent months, said Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar.
“So far we have not found any link to any militant groups,” said Hossain, adding there were just 992 officers policing the camps.
In response to Reuters’ questions about reports of ARSA involvement in the violence, the UN refugee agency cited police reports that found most violence and threats in the camps were carried out by “criminal elements or related to personal vendettas”.
Two UN officials and several researchers working regularly in the camps told Reuters ARSA was behind at least some of the violence, however, citing sources among the refugees.
“YOU DIDN’T LISTEN”
ARSA launched three attacks across the border in Myanmar early this year, according to state media there, and in February vowed to continues its armed campaign.
ARSA propaganda portrays the group as ethnic freedom fighters and does not emphasize a religious agenda. But some refugees and a report by an international NGO seen by Reuters say its members, together with Islamic leaders, have promoted ultra-conservative religious practices.
Four women told Reuters they had received threats for going out to work for aid groups in the camps, where many have begun doing paid work for the first time in their lives.
Three said men from ARSA, backed up by religious leaders, issued the threats. Fortify Rights also said it had gathered testimony linking ARSA to the threats against women working. ARSA on Twitter denied that, insisting it “has no activities/objectives except for defending Rohingyas’ legitimate rights”.
UN officials and aid workers discussed the threats at a series of meetings of the “protection sector working group” in Cox’s Bazar, according to minutes.
“There is a complex combination of factors that have contributed to the threats and restrictions on women in refugee camps, which we are all seeking to address,” the UN refugee agency said.
Mohammed Kamruzzaman, an education sector specialist at Bangladeshi aid group BRAC, told Reuters that 150 of its female teachers had stopped coming to work in late January after receiving or hearing about the “violent threats”.
One woman in her late 30s told Reuters she had received a phone call in late January telling her she must immediately quit her job at BRAC. Two nights later a group of about 10 men, dressed in black and wearing masks barged into her shelter.
“They said, ‘We told you not to go out and work, you didn’t listen’,” she said. “One of them beat me with a stick on my back.”
Another young woman, who was also threatened, summed up the divide in the camps.
“We are just doing something good for our community,” she said. “Some people support them, but many feel like us. They put superglue over our mouths.”
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Poppy McPherson and Ruma Paul; Editing by Alex Richardson)
The head of the Portsmouth City Council has criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to visit the British city on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, saying it “will change things for the worse.”
Gerald Vernon-Jackson told Portsmouth’s local newspaper that “we don’t want to see Trump in Portsmouth.”
The city is scheduled to commemorate the Normandy landings on the day’s 75th anniversary in June. The event has been planned by the Portsmouth City Council along with the Ministry of Defense and is set to feature military displays and tributes to those who found in the invasion and in the Second World War.
“His visit has changed things dramatically for D-Day 75 and has ruined things for the people of Portsmouth,” he added. “We made a conscious decision not to invite him. We thought about inviting all the heads of state of Allied nations but decided against it.”
Vernon-Jackson told the Evening Standard: “I am disappointed because it will change the nature of the event a great deal, for us the center of the events was meant to be the veterans.
“It’s the 75th anniversary, this is probably the last time they will get together like this, the last time when they will meet the Queen, the last time the people of the city will be in a big event with them,” he continued.
“With Donald Trump coming, I think the chances are that it will move from being around commemoration and instead it will be a day of controversy. There will be protests and that is not what we want.”
Source: NewsMax Politics