Death Toll In Iraq Protests Reaches 63

Iraqis mourn a demonstrator reportedly killed the day before during anti-government protests in the eastern city of Diwaniya, during his funeral in the central holy shrine city of Najaf on October 26, 2019.  AFP

 

At least 63 people have died in two days of anti-government protests in Iraq’s capital and across its south, a national rights watchdog said Saturday. 

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said the highest tolls from clashes since Friday were in the southern provinces of Dhi Qar and Missan.

Protests in the south have taken a new turn, with demonstrators torching government and paramilitary offices.

One Dead, Two Missing In Landslides Weeks After Typhoon Hits Japan

This picture shows scaffoldings, hit by typhoon Faxai, at a parking lot at Haneda airport in Tokyo on September 9, 2019. jiji press / AFP

 

One person was killed and two others were missing in landslides on Friday, a local official said, as Japan was hit by heavy rains just two weeks after a deadly typhoon barrelled through the country.

A woman in her 40s was sent to hospital and another woman in her 60s was unaccounted for after landslides triggered by downpour struck two houses in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, said a local disaster management official.

“She was later confirmed dead in hospital,” the official told AFP.

A separate landslide destroyed a house also in Chiba and a man in his 60s was missing, he said, adding that rescuers continued their search for the two missing people.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued warnings of heavy rains, landslides and floods in a swathe of areas including eastern and central Japan.

“As risks of disasters have already increased, please be extremely vigilant about landslides, rise in river water volumes and floods as rains will continue,” the JMA warned on its Twitter account.

Non-mandatory evacuation orders were issued to more than 340,000 residents in the Fukushima region and 5,000 people in Chiba, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Footage showed cars splashing through roads partly inundated with water, and swollen rivers seemingly on the verge of flooding.

Some 4,700 houses in the region were without power by Friday evening, while some train services were suspended, officials said.

Japan was hit by typhoon Hagibis about two weeks ago, with the death toll from the violent storm now standing at more than 80.

Residents still picking up the pieces after that storm expressed frustrations over reconstruction delays and their fear of another disaster.

“I’m a bit worried that if an evacuation order is issued, we will have to leave here,” a woman in Nagano in central Japan who was cleaning up mud told NHK.

Many of the river banks and levees that were breached during Typhoon Hagibis have not yet been repaired.

Four Killed As Police Fire On Bangladesh Protesters

Demonstrators receive medical treatment in a hospital after police fired on people protesting over a Facebook post by a Hindu who allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed, in Barisal on October 20, 2019. MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP

 

At least four people were killed and nearly 50 injured on Sunday after police fired on thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims protesting a Facebook post by a Hindu who allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed, officials said.

Mob attacks over Facebook posts perceived to be blasphemous have emerged as a major headache for security forces in Bangladesh, where Muslims make up some 90 percent of the country’s 168 million people.

Some 20,000 Muslims demonstrated at a prayer ground in Borhanuddin town on the country’s largest island of Bhola to call for the execution of the young Hindu man, who was arrested Saturday over charges of inciting religious tension.

Police said they opened fire in self-defence after some of the crowd threw rocks at their officers.

“At least four people were killed and up to 50 people were injured,” police inspector Salahuddin Mia told AFP.

He said extra police and border guards were being deployed in the town.

The death toll is expected to rise, with Bhola Sadar Hospital duty doctor Tayebur Rahman telling AFP at least seven of the 43 people taken to hospital were fighting for their lives.

“We have sent the critically injured people to the regional hospital in Barisal (city). Their conditions are not stable,” he said.

In 2016, angry Muslims attacked Hindu temples in an eastern town over a Facebook post was put up allegedly mocking one of Islam’s holiest sites.

In 2012, Muslim mobs torched Buddhist monasteries, houses and shops in the coastal Cox’s Bazar district following a Buddhist youth’s alleged defamatory photo post of the Koran.

Bangladesh has also experienced a number of attacks on people from religious minorities, secular bloggers, publishers, writers and foreigners, many claimed by Islamist militants.

AFP

10 Killed In Fresh Firing Across Kashmir Border

People gather during funeral prayer for victims of cross border shelling in Nosari sector in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on October 20, 2019.  SAJJAD QAYYUM / AFP

 

At least ten people were killed Sunday in firing along the de facto India-Pakistan border in Kashmir, officials said, as both countries accused each other of trying to destabilise the disputed region.

Tensions escalated between the nuclear-armed neighbours after India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy on August 5 and imposed movement and communications restrictions to quell unrest.

Officials from the two countries accused each other’s militaries of firing across the so-called Line of Control.

India’s army chief General Bipin Rawat told reporters in New Delhi infiltration across the border has occurred repeatedly since August 5.

Two soldiers and a civilian were killed and three others injured in “unprovoked fire by Pakistan” in the mountainous Kupwara district, a spokesman for the army told AFP earlier Sunday.

Several homes were damaged in the attack and three civilians were being treated in a hospital, he added.

Rawat said his troops used larger-round artillery fire to hit “terrorist camps” across the border.

But Islamabad accused the Indian army of targeting civilians, with the foreign affairs ministry saying six were killed, while several others — including women and children — were seriously hurt in areas near the Line of Control.

The military added that one soldier also died, taking the toll in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to seven.

The shelling came ahead of two key Indian state polls on Monday, where nearly 100 million people can cast their votes in northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is aiming to win a second term in the states, and one of the BJP’s main campaign platforms has been the stripping of Muslim-majority Kashmir’s autonomy.

There has been a jump in deaths in recent days with five people killed in Indian Kashmir on Wednesday, two days after New Delhi restored mobile phone and text services.

Indian authorities said repeatedly during the lockdown that Kashmir has been mostly peaceful.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947 and was the spark of two wars and numerous skirmishes.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged in the valley since 1989, claiming tens of thousands of lives, mostly civilians.

AFP

One Dead, Four Injured In Guinea Protests

Guinea Map

 

A 16-year-old boy was killed and four other people were injured Monday when police in the Guinean capital Conakry opened fire in clashes with protestors, a doctor said.

The incident happened in the suburb of Sonfonia Gare, on a day of demonstrations called to oppose constitutional changes that could enable 81-year-old President Alpha Conde to seek a third term in office.

In the district of Cosa, an opposition stronghold, police fired stun grenades and teargas against groups of protesters, an AFP reporter saw.

An alliance of unions, opposition parties and civil society groups called the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) had appealed for a massive turnout.

Conde is a former opposition figure who in 2010 became the West African state’s first democratically-elected president, but his tenure has been marred by a crackdown on protests.

Last month he called on the public to prepare for a referendum and elections, stirring speculation that he is planning to overcome a constitutional bar on a third term. The next presidential ballot is due to be held late next year.

The opposition says about 100 people have been killed since Conde took office in 2010, winning re-election five years later.

About 20 people have been arrested since Saturday, according to the FNDC.

AFP

Six Killed After Heavy Rains Hit DR Congo’s Capital

Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said. 

The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Five people were killed in the capital’s Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station.

One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added.

“Our community is stricken,” Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help.

Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities.

Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain.

The passage is Kinshasa’s main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.

AFP

Nearly 100 Killed As Iraqis Protest

Iraqi protesters take part in a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services, and unemployment, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s central Khellani Square on October 4, 2019. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

 

Renewed protests took place under live fire in Iraq’s capital and the country’s south Saturday as the government struggled to agree a response to days of rallies that have left nearly 100 dead. 

The largely spontaneous gatherings of demonstrators — whose demands have evolved since they began on Tuesday from employment and better services to fundamental government change — have swelled despite an internet blackout and overtures by the country’s elite.

Among the 94 dead across the country since Tuesday, 55 were killed in Baghdad while 250 others in the capital were treated for sniper wounds, the Iraqi parliament’s human rights commission said.

Nearly 4,000 people have been wounded since the protests began in Baghdad and spread to cities across the south, it added.

On Saturday, dozens gathered around the oil ministry in central Baghdad, facing live rounds fired in their direction, an AFP photographer said.

Thousands also descended on the governorate buildings in the southern cities of Diwaniyah — where gunfire was unleashed into the air — and in Nasiriyah, AFP correspondents said.

A curfew in Baghdad had been lifted on Saturday morning.

Parliament had been due to meet at 1:00 pm (1000 GMT) but could not reach quorum, after firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s bloc of 54 lawmakers and other factions boycotted the session.

The former militia leader threw his weight behind the demonstrations on Friday with a call for the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

Sadr’s movement has the power and organisation to bring large numbers of supporters onto the streets, but at the risk of alienating many of those whose protests in recent days have been based on rejecting all of Iraq’s feuding political factions.

Parliamentary speaker Mohammad al-Halbusi had extended a hand to protesters saying “Your voice is being heard”, and he had been hoping to discuss job creation and social welfare schemes with lawmakers in the session.

 ‘We don’t want parties’ 

But the mainly young, male protesters have insisted their movement is not linked to any party or religious establishment and have scoffed at the recent overtures by politicians.

“These men don’t represent us. We don’t want parties anymore. We don’t want anyone to speak in our name,” said one protester late Friday.

Abu Salah, a 70-year-old resident of Baghdad with wispy white hair and a matching beard, said the streets would be full until Iraqis saw real change.

“If living conditions don’t improve, the protests will come back even worse,” he told AFP.

The protests have presented the biggest challenge yet to the Iraqi premier, who came to power a year ago as a consensus candidate promising reforms but whose response to the demonstrations has been seen as tepid.

“Abdel Mahdi should have come forward with decisive changes, like the sacking of leading politicians accused of corruption,” said Iraqi analyst Sarmad al-Bayati.

Political and religious rifts run deep in Iraq, and protests are typically called for by party or sect –- making the last five days exceptional, said Fanar Haddad an expert at Singapore University’s Middle East Institute.

“This is the first time we hear people saying they want the downfall of the regime,” Haddad said.

 ‘No magic solutions’ 

Sadr, a former militia leader turned nationalist politician, demanded on Friday that the government resign to clear the way for a fresh election supervised by the United Nations.

His bloc is the largest in parliament, and his intervention sets the scene for a possible showdown with the speaker, who has made his own bid to make political capital out of the protests.

Calling Saturday’s parliamentary session, Halbusi pledged he would “take off his suit jacket and be the first among the protesters,” if he did not see the government improve living conditions.

Adel Mahdi appealed on Friday for more time to implement his reform agenda in a country plagued by corruption and unemployment after decades of conflict.

“There are no magic solutions.”

But his pleas for patience appear to have underestimated the intensity of public anger.

Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani used his weekly prayer sermon to urge authorities to heed the demands of demonstrators, warning the protests could escalate unless clear steps are taken immediately.

Sistani has repeatedly acted as final arbiter of the politics of Iraq’s Shiite community, which dominates the government.

AFP

Iraq Death Toll Rises To 44 As Chaotic Protests Spike

 

Clashes intensified Friday across Iraq as protesters swarmed streets and clashed with police in an uptick in violence that has left 44 dead including six security forces in the past four days.

Security forces said “unidentified snipers” had killed four people including two police in Baghdad, and AFP journalists reported hearing rapid automatic rifle fire across the capital in what appeared to be the most chaotic day of protests yet.

Earlier on Friday, Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged authorities to heed the demands of demonstrators, warning the protests could escalate unless immediate and clear steps are taken.

Sistani, who is revered among Iraq’s Shiite majority, appeared to pile new pressure on Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi as he battles to quell the unrest.

In his first speech since protests began Tuesday, the premier appealed for patience from the young unemployed who have formed the mainstay of the protests, saying his not yet year-old government needs more time to implement reforms.

But despite his plea, a curfew and an internet blackout, Iraqis thronged the iconic Tahrir Square on Friday and clashed with the anti-riot police, AFP reporters said.

Security forces opened up with a barrage of gunfire and reporters said they saw several people hit by bullets, some in the head and the stomach.

“We’re not infiltrators,” protesters in the capital shouted, responding to accusations from Iraqi officials that “aggressors” were behind the protests.

Bullets whizzed through streets aimed at crowds of protesters whose numbers bulged as more trucks arrived.

Demonstrator Sayyed told AFP the protests would continue “until the government falls”.

Sistani urged the government to take “clear and practical steps” and act now “before it’s too late” to address popular grievances.

After his sermon, parliament announced that it would dedicate Saturday’s session “to examining the demands of the protesters”.

‘No Magic Solutions’ 

Protests first broke out in Baghdad on Tuesday and have since spread across the Shiite-dominated south.

They are unusual because of their apparent spontaneity and independence in a country where rallies are typically called by politicians or religious figures.

At least 44 people, including six police have been killed — 10 on Friday alone — with hundreds wounded in four days, medical and security sources said.

Medical sources say that most of those killed were hit by live rounds but do not specify who was shooting.

The Iraqi human rights commission reported wounded protesters were being arrested from hospitals, slamming a heavy-handed approach by security forces.

In the southern city of Diwaniyah, where two people were killed on Friday, AFP reporters said protesters had breached the main gate at the governor’s compound and were headed towards the main building.

Sistani voiced dismay at the mounting death toll.

“There are attacks on peaceful protesters and security forces which we reject and condemn,” he said.

Sistani’s message is a huge blow to Abdel Mahdi’s government. The top cleric has repeatedly acted as final arbiter of the politics of Iraq’s Shiite community, which dominates the government.

On Friday, Adel Mahdi asked for more time to implement his reform agenda in a country plagued by corruption and unemployment after decades of conflict.

“There are no magic solutions,” he said.

‘Lethal Force’

Riot police have unleashed water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire to clear the streets of protesters, who amassed despite curfews and an internet blackout across three-quarters of Iraq.

On Friday, Abdel Mahdi gave his full support to the security forces, insisting they were abiding by “international standards” in dealing with protesters.

As protests and clashes gained in intensity, many Baghdad shops and petrol stations remained shuttered Friday.

In a residential area near the protest site, crowds gathered to buy vegetables and fruit, with one shopkeeper saying the price of tomatoes, grapes and other greens had risen threefold.

Northern and western provinces that were ravaged in the 2014-2017 war against the Islamist State group have remained relatively quiet.

The United Nations and Amnesty International urged Iraqi authorities to respect the right of peaceful assembly.

“We are worried by reports that security forces have used live ammunition and rubber bullets in some areas, and have also fired tear gas canisters directly at protesters,” Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.

Amnesty International’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf condemned the use of “lethal and unnecessary force”.

An internet blackout was a “draconian measure… to silence protests away from cameras and the world’s eyes”, she added.

Five More Bodies Found After Morocco Migrant Shipwreck

Morocco Rejoins African Union

 

The bodies of five more Moroccans were recovered Monday after their inflatable boat headed for Spain sank off Casablanca, raising the death toll to at least 12, local officials said.

Seven bodies were found hours after the migrant boat sank in the Atlantic on Saturday and three other Moroccans pulled out of the water unconscious were hospitalised.

It was unclear how many people were on the boat, and rescue workers have kept up their search.

Since January, more than 15,000 migrants have reached Spain by sea, according to Spanish authorities.

Many depart from Morocco’s northern Mediterranean coast, just a few dozen kilometres (miles) from the south of Spain, far shorter than the Atlantic route.

But overall arrivals in Spain by sea have decreased significantly this year.

Last year, Moroccan authorities stopped some 89,000 “irregular immigration attempts”, of which 29,000 were by sea, according to official figures.

The European Union committed 140 million euros ($155 million) in 2018 towards managing migration from Morocco.

The migrants come mostly from West African countries, but in the past two years increasing numbers of young Moroccans have tried to leave, driven out by social inequality and high youth unemployment.

AFP

Eight Killed In Burkina Faso Attacks

Burkina Faso on the map.

 

At least eight people were killed in two attacks in the north of Burkina Faso, security sources said on Sunday.

They were the latest in a series of attacks that claimed 17 lives Saturday, in violence generally blamed on a long-running jihadist insurgency in the poor, fragile Sahel region.

Seven people were killed on Saturday at around 6:00 pm local time, by an armed group in Deneon village in Bam province, one security source told AFP.

A soldier was also killed on Saturday when an army unit was attacked in Deou in Soum province, said another security source, who confirmed the attack on Deneon.

Security sources already reported a deadly raid Saturday morning on another northern village, Komsilga, in Zimtanga district.

Around 20 attackers on motorbikes killed nine villagers and set fire to shops and motorcycles.

Security had been stepped up in the region and the security sources were searching the zone, said a security source.

Burkina Faso has become part of a seven-year-old jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region.

More than 585 people have been killed since early 2015, according to an AFP toll.

Many of the attacks have been attributed to groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda, and others to the so-called Islamic State group.

The Burkinabe army, which itself has suffered heavy losses, has been unable to stop the attacks.

The violence, which at first was concentrated in the north of the country, has spread to other regions in the east and west.

AFP

Yellow Fever Kills 16 In Bauchi

No fewer than 16 people have been killed from the recent outbreak of Yellow Fever in Bauchi State.

The Executive Chairman of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Rilwanu Mohammed confirmed the incident to Channels Television.

According to him, the increase in the death toll followed the citizens’ rejection of vaccination during the state-wide exercise.

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Speaking further, he stated that no fewer than 119 suspected cases of yellow fever were recorded in the state out of which 20 tested positive and 16 already dead.

He explained that the state is planning to go into all the areas where the outbreak had been confirmed to carry out a door to door spraying and fumigation exercise.

Bodyguard Of Saudi Arabia King Killed In Shooting

File photo: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

 

A personal bodyguard of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has been shot dead and seven others wounded, including security forces, during an altercation at a friend’s home, authorities said Sunday.

General Abdelaziz al-Fagham, who was frequently seen by the king’s side, died Saturday evening in the western city of Jeddah, police said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“Fagham was visiting his friend at his home in Jeddah when (an) acquaintance, Mamdouh al-Ali, entered the residence,” it said.

“The conversation between Fagham and Ali escalated… Ali left the home, came back carrying a gun and fired at Fagham, injuring two others in the household, a Filipino worker and brother of the house’s owner.”

Al-Ekhbariya state television reported that the incident was triggered by a “personal dispute”, without giving further details.

Ali himself was later killed and five security personnel wounded in a shootout when the suspect “refused to surrender”, SPA said.

It added that Fagham died in hospital from his injuries and that an investigation had been launched.

The general, close to the king, was well known among Saudis.

His death sparked sharp reactions on Twitter, with some condemning the killing of the Saudi ruler’s “guardian angel”.

AFP