Arrests made after mob demolishes Hindu temple in Pakistan

A mob led by members of Pakistan’s radical Islamist party demolished a Hindu temple after setting it on fire in a deeply conservative northwestern town, a senior police official said.

The incident in the town of Karak drew condemnation from human rights activists and Pakistan’s minister for human rights, Shireen Mazari.

Ms Mazari went on Twitter to condemn the burning of the temple and urged police to ensure the arrest of those involved.

District police chief Irfan Ullah said police detained several people over their involvement in the attack on the temple.

Witnesses said the mob, led by activists and local leaders of the radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, attacked the temple after local Hindus received permission from authorities to renovate it.

The incident comes weeks after the government allowed minority Hindus to build a new temple in Islamabad on the recommendation of a council of clerics.

Although Muslims and Hindus generally live peacefully together in Pakistan, there have been other attacks on Hindu temples in recent years.

Most of the Pakistan’s minority Hindus migrated to India in 1947 when India was divided by Britain’s government.

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Categories: Attack, Hindu Temple, Hindus, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, News, Pakistan

1,800 Rohingya relocated to isolated island

Seven Bangladesh navy ships carrying 1,804 Rohingya refugees have arrived at an isolated island where they will be relocated despite concerns among human rights groups about their safety.

They reached Bhashan Char island, 21 miles from the mainland, after a four-hour naval journey from the port city of Chittagong, government official Mohammed Khurshed Alam Khan said.

He said authorities at the island received 433 men, 523 women and 848 children.

Authorities insist all were willing to be relocated and no pressure was placed on them.

But several human rights and activist groups say some were forced to go.

It was the second group of Rohingya refugees transferred from crowded, squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district to the island.

Authorities sent a first group of 1,642 on December 4 despite calls for a halt by human rights groups.

Rear admiral Md Mozammel Haque, commander of the local navy, said the number of refugees willing to join the second phase of relocation “exceeded their expectations”.

He said the authorities were initially expecting to relocate around 1,200 refugees, but 1,804 chose to go.

The island surfaced only 20 years ago and was not previously inhabited.

It was regularly submerged by monsoon rains but now has flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques built at a cost of more than 112 million dollars (£83 million) by the Bangladesh navy.

The island’s facilities are designed to accommodate 100,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar and are currently living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

International aid agencies and the United Nations have opposed the relocation since it was first proposed in 2015, expressing fear that a big storm could wash over the island and endanger thousands of lives.

The UN also voiced concern that refugees be allowed to make a “free and informed decision” about whether to relocate.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the government to cancel the plan.

An influential cabinet minister and general secretary of the governing party, Obaidul Quader, said that the Rohingya are being moved to the island because their repatriation to Myanmar has been delayed.

He said refugees who were earlier taken to Bhashan Char have expressed satisfaction.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh after August 2017, when Myanmar’s military began a harsh crackdown on the minority group following an attack by insurgents.

Security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and burning thousands of homes.

Bangladesh has attempted to start sending refugees back to Myanmar under a bilateral agreement, but no-one was willing to go.

The Rohingya are not recognised as citizens in Myanmar, rendering them stateless, and face other state-sanctioned discrimination.

Read more: First Rohingya refugees arrive at isolated Bangladesh island

Rohingya Muslims drown whilst escaping fighting in Myanmar

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Categories: Bangladesh, Bhashan Char, Island, Myanmar, News, Rohingya

Migrants from Bosnia camp kept in buses as relocation halted

Hundreds of migrants from a burned-out tent camp in north-west Bosnia remain packed in buses where they had spent the night after an attempt to relocate them failed.

Bosnian authorities sent buses on Tuesday to transfer the migrants from the much-criticised Lipa camp to an army barracks in central Bosnia.

The mass move was cancelled after local residents organised protests to prevent the relocation.

On Wednesday morning and later in the day, migrants were still inside the buses, local media reported.

The Lipa camp near Bosnia’s border with Croatia was demolished in a fire last week and lacked basic facilities such as running water or heating.

Some 1,000 migrants were stranded there for days during a spate of snowy and windy winter weather that followed the fire.

The situation has prompted EU officials and aid groups to warn of a looming humanitarian disaster and increased pressure on Bosnia to act to move the migrants away from the camp.

The troubled Balkan country, which went through a devastating war in the 1990s, has been struggling with the influx of thousands of people seeking to reach western Europe.

Bickering among Bosnia’s ethnically divided authorities has prevented an organised response to the crisis, leaving some 3,000 migrants sleeping rough or in makeshift tents.

The head mufti of the Islamic Community of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, called for better treatment of migrants, describing the situation as “shameful” for both the country and the rest of Europe.

“We do not treat people in need in such a way,” he said in a statement.

Most migrants are staying in the north-west corner of Bosnia, where they hope to cross into European Union member Croatia before moving on towards wealthy EU nations.

To get to Croatia, migrants use mountainous illegal routes and often face pushbacks and alleged violence at the hands of Croatia’s police.

Read more: Croation Jews boycott official Holocaust memorial over rising neo-Nazism

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Categories: Bosnia, News, refugees

Man who broadcast synagogue attack live on gaming site guilty of murder

A German court has convicted a right-wing extremist of murder and attempted murder and sentenced him to life in prison for his attack on a synagogue last year on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day.

He killed two people after he failed to gain entry to the building.

The October 9 2019 attack is considered one of the worst anti-Semitic assaults in Germany’s post-war history.

The 28-year-old defendant, Stephan Balliet, posted a screed against Jews before trying to shoot his way into the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle while broadcasting the attack live on a popular gaming site.

Judges at the Naumburg state court, which met in the state capital Magdeburg for security and capacity reasons, found him “seriously culpable”, news agency dpa reported.

That means he will be effectively barred from early release after 15 years, which is typical for people in Germany given life sentences.

Presiding Judge Ursula Mertens described it as a “cowardly attack” as she announced the verdict.

Balliet showed no reaction but took notes.

During his trial, which began in July, Balliet admitted he wanted to enter the synagogue and kill all the 51 people inside.

When he was unable to open the building’s heavy doors, the German shot and killed a 40-year-old woman in the street outside and a 20-year-old man at a nearby kebab shop, and wounded several others.

He apologised to the court for killing the woman, saying that “I didn’t want to kill whites”.

German authorities have vowed to step up measures against far-right extremism following the Halle attack, the killing of a regional politician by a suspected neo-Nazi and the fatal shooting of nine people of immigrant background in Hanau – all of which happened within a year.

Read More: Far right extremist admits arson attack on synagogue in Exeter

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Categories: anisemitism, Germany, News, Stephan Balliet, Synagogue, Yom Kippur

CPS will continue to seek prosecution in Harry Dunn case despite immunity ruling

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has told Harry Dunn’s parents it will continue to pursue the prosecution of their son’s alleged killer, despite the High Court ruling she had diplomatic immunity.

Anne Sacoolas was charged with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving 12 months ago after a fatal road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East Midlands, Janine Smith, wrote to the 19-year-old motorcyclist’s family just before the anniversary of the CPS’s charging decision, to say she was “satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Sacoolas, 43, was able to return to her home country after the US Government asserted diplomatic immunity on her behalf, sparking an international controversy.

Despite the charging decision by the CPS, and an extradition request submitted by the Home Office, the US State Department refused to return her to the UK – describing the decision as “final”.

In a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions in September, the family was told the CPS had concluded Sacoolas did not have immunity at the time of the collision.

The family had contested the diplomatic immunity asserted on behalf of the suspect, but High Court judges accepted the Foreign Office’s position that Sacoolas “enjoyed immunity from UK criminal jurisdiction”.

Mr Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, have been granted permission to appeal against the judgment.

In Ms Smith’s letter to Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn, seen by the PA news agency, she said: “I wanted to take the opportunity to provide an update following our consideration of the recent High Court judgment.

“Having considered the judgment, and notwithstanding the outcome in respect of diplomatic immunity, I am satisfied that there remains sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that it remains in the public interest for the prosecution to continue.

“The CPS remains of the view that Mrs Sacoolas should return to the UK to stand trial.

“I do hope this confirmation is of some small comfort to Harry’s family and friends at this challenging time of the year.”

Mrs Charles said the family would be “nowhere” without the CPS – adding that she was “really pleased” with Ms Smith’s letter.

She told PA: “My family and I are really pleased to see this letter from the CPS.

“We are approaching our second Christmas without Harry and without justice for Harry.

“Our pain is raw and real and we need to get this done sooner rather than later.

“In our darkest hour we know we can continue to count on the CPS to continue to do their job. We would be nowhere without them.”

The family’s spokesman, Radd Seiger, told PA he believed the letter showed the “CPS remain of the view” that Anne Sacoolas was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.

He said: “This is an important letter from the Chief Crown Prosecutor.

“It signals yet again that the CPS remain of the view, as do Harry’s parents on legal advice, that Anne Sacoolas did not have diplomatic immunity at the time of the crash and intend to proceed with their prosecution of her notwithstanding the judgment of the High Court.

“We have always been clear on that issue.

“We look forward to holding talks with both governments in the new year to bring the family’s torture to an end.”

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Categories: Anne Sacoolas, CPS, Harry Dunn, News, Prosecution

Police Scotland to double presence along England border

Police Scotland will double its presence along the border with England after the First Minister announced tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Chief Constable lain Livingstone said “highly visible patrols” on roads will be used to “deter anyone who night be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced severe lockdown measures for Scotland on Saturday.

They included a “strict travel ban” preventing travel to or from other parts of the UK, which was put in place last month but was due to be removed over the Christmas period.

Some exceptions to the ban are allowed for essential purposes.

In a statement, Mr Livingstone said it would not be “appropriate or proportionate for officers to establish checkpoints or roadblocks to simply enforce travel restrictions”.

But he added: “Today, I have authorised the doubling of our operational presence in the Border areas of Scotland.

“These highly visible patrols will be proactively deployed on our road networks to continue our operational activity to ensure drivers and vehicles are in a fit condition to drive.

“The patrols will also deter anyone who night be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions.”

He said he expects roads to be “quieter than usual over the corning days”.

“We have been clear throughout this public health crisis that your police service is here to support our collective effort to combat coronavirus.

“Though the rules have changed often and, at times, quickly, officers and staff will continue with common sense, empathy and discretion to work with our fellow citizens to help keep everyone safe.

“It is the consent of the public from which policing in Scotland draws its legitimacy.

“As our communities expect, where officers encounter wilful, persistent or flagrant breaches we will act decisively to enforce the law.”

John Lamont, Scottish Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, said more clarity was needed.

“The Scottish Government and Police Scotland need to ensure clarity around travel restrictions to avoid any public misunderstanding,” he said.

“Clearly this virus does not respect borders but a range of exemptions have always been in place to allow safe and necessary travel for valid reasons, and we need to know if that has changed.”

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Categories: Corona Virus, News, Nicola Sturgeon, Police Scotland, Scotland

Boko Haram claims responsibility for abduction of Nigerian pupils

Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist rebels have claimed responsibility for the abduction of hundreds of pupils in an attack on a boys’ school in northern Katsina state, according to a Nigerian online newspaper.

More than 330 children are missing from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara after gunmen with assault rifles attacked their school on Friday night.

The Daily Nigerian said it received an audio message from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau saying his group abducted the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.

“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet,” the paper quoted Mr Shekau as saying.

There has been no independent verification of the audio message but Mr Shekau has in the past released video and audio messages on Boko Haram’s behalf.

Nigerian presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement on Monday that “the kidnappers had made contact and discussions were already on, pertaining to the safety and return” of the children to their homes.

Mr Shehu said nothing about the identity of the abductors.

Several armed groups operate in north-western Nigeria, where Katsina state is located.

It was originally believed the attackers were bandits, who sometimes work with Boko Haram.

The government said a joint rescue operation was launched on Saturday by Nigeria’s police, air force and army after the military engaged in gunfights with bandits after locating their hideout in the Zango/Paula forest.

Many of the more than 600 male pupils were able to escape during the attack while police engaged in a gunfight, according to Katsina state police spokesman Gambo Isah.

Boko Haram has in the past abducted pupils from schools.

The most serious school attack took place in April 2014, when more than 270 schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitory at the Government Secondary School in Chibok in north-eastern Borno State.

About 100 of the girls are still missing.

Boko Haram said at the time it wanted to stop women from attending schools.

The recent incident at the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara is the worst attack on a boys’ school since February 2014, when 59 were killed during a Boko Haram attack on the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe State.

Boko Haram and the breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are fighting to impose strict Islamic Shariah rule in Nigeria.

Thousands have been killed in the more than 10-year-old insurgency and more than a million people displaced.

Read more: Nigerian schoolgirl rescued after two years as Boko Haram captive

Video of Chibok girls puts pressure on Nigeria’s Buhari

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Categories: Boko Haram, Jihadist rebels, Katsina State, News, Nigeria

US holds Iran accountable for presumed death of ex-FBI agent

The Trump administration for the first time formally blamed Iran for the presumed death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, publicly identifying two Iranian intelligence officers believed responsible for his abduction.

Mr Levinson disappeared in Iran under mysterious circumstances more than a decade ago, and though US diplomats and investigators have long said they thought he was taken by Iranian government agents, Monday’s announcement in the final weeks of the Trump administration was the most definitive assignment of blame to date.

Besides blaming two high-ranking intelligence officers by name, US officials said the Iranian regime sanctioned the plot that led to Mr Levinson’s abduction and lied for years about its involvement in his disappearance through disinformation campaigns aimed at covering up the government’s role.

The announcement comes nine months after US officials revealed that they had concluded that Mr Levinson “may have passed some time ago” though they did not disclose at the time the information that led them to that assessment.

Officials on Monday would not describe any additional information that led them to believe Mr Levinson had died in captivity, except to say that all evidence they had pointed in that direction, or how they came to identify the role of the two individual intelligence officers.

Officials said they were acting now, one month before President Donald Trump leaves office, not for any political reasons but simply because they had finally accumulated enough information to formally hold Iran accountable.

They also said that no agreement with Iran should be reached without a deal to free the remaining handful of US citizens imprisoned in that country.

Mr Levinson vanished on March 9 2007, when he was scheduled to meet a source on the Iranian island of Kish.

For years, US officials would say only that Mr Levinson was working independently on a private investigation.

But a 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that Mr Levinson had been sent on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation.

The family received a video in late 2010 as well as proof-of-life photographs in 2011 in which he appeared dishevelled with a long beard and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit like those given to detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Even then, his whereabouts and fate were not known, and the Iran government has persistently denied having any information about Mr Levinson.

Read more: Iran ordered to pay £1 billion to family of kidnapped FBI agent presumed dead

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Categories: Donald Trump, Guantanamo Bay, Iran, Iranian intelligence officers, News, Robert Levinson

Austrian officials seize weapons destined for Germany’s far-right

Austrian authorities have seized a large cache of weapons and ammunition that were intended to be sold to far-right extremists in Germany.

Police raids in recent days led to the seizure of 70 automatic and semi-automatic firearms, more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition and explosives, officials said.

The main suspect is a 53-year-old Austrian, interior minister Karl Nehammer said.

Mr Nehammer said the police operations had uncovered “a network that shows links between the area of right-wing extremism and organised crime”.

He said that some of those belonged to “the neo-Nazi scene that have sadly also been known in Austria for a while”.

The firearms were allegedly bought with the proceeds from the sale of drugs.

Read More: Teenager Inspired by Anders Brevik convicted in the U.K.

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Categories: Austria, Austrian far right, German far right, Neo-Nazi, News

One dead as IS targets Kabul with mortar shells

The so-called Islamic State terror group has attacked the Afghan capital with a barrage of mortar shells, killing at least one civilian and wounding a second.

The extremist group said it was behind the violence on its affiliated Amaq News website, saying it fired 10 Katyusha rockets towards Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Three shells hit the airport early on Saturday morning, slightly damaging a Kam Air aircraft.

Kam Air, which provides domestic and international flights, was Afghanistan’s first privately-owned airline when it began operating in 2003.

A window of one of the aircraft parked at the airport was damaged by a ricocheting piece of a shell, according to an airport official. No-one was hurt and the aircraft was empty at the time.

The 10 shells were fired from a vehicle parked on the northern edge of the capital, with several rounds landing in residential areas of the city.

Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate has carried out similar attacks in the past, including last month when it claimed credit for firing two dozen mortar rounds that killed eight civilians and wounded 31.

It also claimed the killing earlier this week of Afghan journalist Malala Maiwand in eastern Nangrahar province.

Read More: Afghan translators who fought with us have been let down

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Categories: Afghanistan, Attack on Kabul, Hamid Karzai, Islamic State, Mortar attack, News