Gambian President Appoints Controversial Interior Minister

Gambia's Adama Barrow Says Win Heralds 'New Hope'
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow PHOTO: AFP

 

Gambian President Adama Barrow on Thursday reshuffled his government, controversially appointing as interior minister a former police chief who was in post when a political activist was murdered.

Solo Sandeng’s death in custody in April 2016 sparked a political movement that eventually ousted former leader Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the tiny West African nation with an iron fist for 22 years.

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Sandeng’s killing encouraged a weak and split political opposition to unite behind Barrow who went on to beat Jammeh in a December 2016 election.

Barrow also appointed a defence minister, former Olympic sprinter Sheikh Omar Faye, for the first time in 22 years, a statement said. The functions were previously exercised by the president

Gambian prosecutors in March 2018 charged eight former spies with conspiracy to murder Sandeng while nine more, including the National Intelligence Agency former chief Yankuba Badjie, are already on trial.

AFP

French Parliament To Grill Minister Over Macron’s Aide Assault

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses of a special congress gathering both houses of Parliament (National Assembly and Senate) at the congress hemicycle room in the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris.        CHARLES PLATIAU / POOL / AFP

 

France’s interior minister Gerard Collomb was due to appear before parliament on Monday, as opposition MPs accused the government of a cover-up over a former top presidential security aide who was charged with gang violence.

In the most damaging scandal to hit President Emmanuel Macron since he took office last year, Alexandre Benalla was charged Sunday after he was caught on video assaulting May Day protesters.

An employee of the ruling party, Vincent Crase, was also charged over the incident, with the footage going viral on social media.

The president has yet to comment publicly on the scandal. But after a meeting of top government ministers at the Elysee late Sunday, a close aide said Macron considers the facts in Benalla’s case as “unacceptable”.

The source added that Macron will speak out about the matter “when he thinks it necessary” and that he promised it “had not been and will not be treated with impunity”.

Benalla was initially punished in May with a two-week suspension from active duty, the president’s office said, yet he continued to appear in Macron’s security details.

Benalla, 26, was fired Friday after video footage emerged showing him hitting a man at least twice as riot police looked on while breaking up a May Day protest in Paris.

The opposition accuses Macron, who came to power on pledges to restore transparency and integrity to the nation’s highest office in order to ensure a “republic of responsibility”, of covering up for Benalla.

The Law Commission of the lower house of parliament will publicly grill Interior Minister Collomb from 10:00 am (0800 GMT) on Monday, after media reports suggested he knew about Benalla’s assault but kept quiet.

If true, opposition MPs warned they would demand his resignation.

Three high-ranking police officers, already suspended on suspicion they illegally gave Benalla video surveillance footage of the incidents to help him try to clear his name, have been charged with misappropriation of the images and violating professional secrecy.

Benalla, who was shown in video footage wearing a police helmet with visor as well as a police armband, was additionally charged with impersonating a police officer, as well as complicity in the unauthorised use of surveillance footage.

Parliament revolt 

After publishing the first video of the incident last Wednesday, French daily Le Monde posted a second video showing Benalla violently wrestling a young woman to the ground during the scuffles on a square near the Rue Mouffetard, a picturesque Left Bank street.

Just days after the May 1 demonstrations, which were marred this year by anarchists who clashed with police, Macron had tweeted that “everything will be done so that those responsible will be identified and held accountable for their actions”.

In a third video, published by the Mediapart investigative news site, police officers are seen kicking and punching a young man even after he has been immobilised on the sidewalk.

The man and woman seen in the videos have come forward and plan to testify, a source close to the inquiry said.

The government has been forced to suspend debate on a constitutional reform bill after a revolt by lawmakers, who have announced investigations by both the National Assembly and Senate.

“If Macron doesn’t explain himself the Benalla affair will become the Macron affair,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen posted on Twitter.

“Why the devil did he insist on protecting a second-rank employee who should have been kicked out of the Elysee months ago?” rightwing daily Le Figaro asked in an editorial Sunday.

But ruling Republic on the Move (LREM) party spokesman Gabriel Attal defended the president’s silence.

If Macron speaks now, “we’d have indignant commentators everywhere saying his comments could influence the inquiry,” Attal said.

‘Macron defenceless’ 

Adding to the controversy, Le Monde reported Friday that despite his suspension Benalla was allowed this month to move into a palatial mansion along the Seine reserved for Elysee workers.

He was also being provided with a car and chauffeur, the paper said.

Investigators have searched Benalla’s home in the Paris suburb of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, where a city hall official said Benalla was supposed to have married on Saturday.

The scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for Macron, whose approval ratings fell to a record low of 39 per cent last week, defying analysts’ expectations of a post-World Cup bump.

“Macron defenceless”, the Journal du Dimanche said in a front-page headline on Sunday over a picture of the president and Benalla.

AFP

Two Killed In Marseille Shooting

French Interior minister Gerard Collomb (C) speaks to police officers in a northern area of Marseille, southern France, on May 24, 2018. BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP

 

Two more violent deaths occurred overnight in the southern French city of Marseille, known for its turf wars for control of the drug trade, officials said Saturday.

A masked gunman armed with an assault rifle stormed into a sports club at around 1:00 am on Saturday in the northern district of Estaque and shot dead a man in his thirties with a police record for dealing in drugs, Marseille prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux told AFP.

A 28-year-old bus driver who was in the line of fire was also killed. He was playing cards in the building and had no police record.

The deaths came 24 hours after Interior Minister Gerard Collomb visited the sprawling port city.

A total of 18 cartridges were found in the building, Tarabeux said.

A total of 11 people this year have been killed in Marseille in shootings related to criminal gangs. Last year, 14 people were killed in similar attacks in the Bouches-du-Rhone department, where Marseille is located.

AFP

Portugal Interior Minister Resigns After Wildfires Kill Over 100 People

 

Portugal’s Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa resigned Wednesday as criticism mounts over the government’s handling of a series of deadly forest fires that killed more than 100 people in four months.

Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted her resignation, his office said.

On Sunday, a series of deadly wildfires broke out in the centre and north of the country which killed 41 people and injured another 71, the civil protection agency said.

Similar huge blazes in June killed 64 people and injured 250 near the central Pedrogao Grande region, in what were the deadliest wildfires in the country’s history.

As the toll mounted on Monday, a small rightwing party had called for the minister to step down. Costa initially resisted the demand but by Wednesday appeared to have backed down.

After the tragedy in June, the government came under mounting criticism for failing to develop a coherent strategy to fight forest fires, which has further sharpened over its inability to prevent another devastating disaster this weekend.

On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered in Lisbon under the pouring rain to demonstrate their anger over the government’s failings, shouting “Shame!” and “Resign!” in a protest organised through Facebook.

“A hundred people are dead and nobody is taking responsibility… We need answers!” one demonstrator said on national television.

On Monday, Costa reaffirmed his pledge to prevent new tragedies by carrying out “fundamental reforms” in forest management and firefighting.

But a day later, conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called on the socialist government to “bear all the consequences of this tragedy”.

The CDS-PP, which had called for the minister’s resignation, has tabled a motion of no confidence in the government over its failure to prevent the fires, but it looks set to be easily overcome by the Socialist majority.

No date has been set for the vote.

“The Assembly needs to clarify whether or not it wishes to keep the government in place,” he said, noting that if the motion failed, the government would have a more solid base from which to carry out the necessary reforms.

Portugal on Tuesday began three days of national mourning for the victims.

AFP

Terror Attacks On Germany A Wake-Up Call — Buhari

Terror Attacks On Germany Are Wake-Up Call — BuhariPresident Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said that the latest terror attacks on Germany are a wake-up call for the rest of the world to show sympathy and solidarity towards Chancellor Angela Merkel in the global effort to neutralise and obliterate terrorists’ agenda against humanity.

The Nigerian leader also extolled Chancellor Merkel’s strong leadership qualities and her compassion towards immigrants from the Middle East and other countries.

President Buhari said he appreciated the Chancellor’s support for Nigeria in dealing with its own domestic challenges, including terrorism.

12 people were killed with 48 injured after a man ploughed a lorry into a Christmas market in Berlin.

Initial reports suggested the driver was an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker who arrived in Germany in February.

The Berlin market attack suspect Anis Amri, was later shot dead by police on Friday morning after he was approached by police during a routine patrol in Milan.

Reports say the man opened fire on police who asked him for ID during a routine patrol in the Sesto San Giovanni area in the early hours of Friday

German authorities say fingerprints they provided have confirmed the dead man is Amri. They are trying to find out if he had accomplices.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) group has released a video purporting to show Amri pledging allegiance to its leader, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He does not make any reference to the Berlin attack, which IS claimed soon afterwards. It is not clear when or where the video was filmed.

Shortly before releasing the video, IS acknowledged Amri’s death in Milan.

Berlin Market Attack: German Police Begin Probe

Berlin Market Attack: German Police begin ProbeThe German police have begun investigations into the cause of what they believe to be a terrorist attack, after a man ploughed a lorry into a Berlin market, killing 12 people and injuring 48.

They have detained the driver, who security sources say is an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker who arrived in Germany in February.

Report says the man was known to the police for minor crimes, but not terror links.

“Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was deliberately steered into the crowd at the Christmas market…,” police said on Twitter.

“All police measures related to the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are progressing at full steam and with the necessary diligence.”

German politicians had avoided branding the bloodshed a terror attack in the hours immediately following, but Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere told ARD Television: “There are many things pointing to one”.

The truck crashed into people gathered on Monday evening around wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church – left as a ruin after World War Two – in the heart of former West Berlin.

On Tuesday morning the black truck was still visible at the site of the incident and a few candles and roses had been laid by the entrance to a nearby station.

Flowers were being laid in the center of the nearby Kurfuerstendamm, a prestigious shopping street.

Reuters report a woman was crying as she stopped by the flowers.

Death Of Fish Seller Triggers Protests In Morocco

Death Of Fish Seller Triggers Protests In MoroccoThousands of Moroccans have held protests in several towns and cities after a fish seller was crushed to death in a refuse lorry trying to retrieve fish confiscated by police.

The death of Mouhcine Fikri in the northern town of al-Hoceima on Friday drew widespread anger on social media over what is seen as police violence.

His death drew parallels to that of a Tunisian fruit seller in 2010 which helped spark the Arab spring uprisings.

The interior ministry said in a statement Sunday that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has asked interior minister, Mohammed Hassad to visit Fikri’s family and to ensure a “meticulous” investigation.

The interior and justice ministries have also pledged to hold an investigation.

Footage circulating online appears to show Fikri jumping into a garbage truck to retrieve his fish, before being crushed to death by the truck’s compactor.

The general directorate for national security released a statement on Sunday denying its local officers were involved in Fikri’s death. Authorities have not commented on the circumstances of his death.

The Moroccan Human Rights Association condemned the “heinous” incident and recalled another incident in Hoceima, in which five youths died during 2011 protests of the February 20th Movement.

FG Will Restructure Nigerian Prisons – Dambazau

Abdulrahman Dambazau PrisonsThe Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd), says the Federal Government will commence total restructuring of Nigeria’s prisons.

He announced the plan on Tuesday at a meeting organised for senior officers of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

The Minister said that the reform is coming as part of measures to forestall cases of prison breaks in the near future.

General Dambazau noted that the present situation of prisons across the country calls for structural changes as some of them have not been remodelled in the last 100 years.

He informed the officials that another area the government would focus on is the provision of close circuit cameras for adequate security, as recommended by the House of Representatives.

The Interior Minister further warned that the government would not fail to take punitive measures against officers who become complacent in the discharge of their duties.

The meeting became important after the jail breaks in Kuje Prison, Abuja and another at the Koton Karfe Prison in Kogi State happening within two months.

The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), Jafaru Ahmed, on his part gave an update on the recent Koton Karfe prison break.

He called on all senior officers in the Prisons Service to buckle up as he equally vowed that the law would catch up with any official found wanting.

Mr Ahmed also urged Nigerians to provide information that would be helpful to officials of the NIS in the discharge of their duties.

34 Migrants Die In Niger Republic

Niger RepublicA total of 34 migrants, including 20 children, have been found dead in Niger Republic’s vast desert, after being abandoned by their smuggler.

In a statement, the Government said that Agadez, which is in the landlocked country’s arid north, is a popular way-station for migrants attempting to traverse the Sahara Desert and reach Libya and eventually Europe.

The Interior Minister, Bazoum Mohammed, on Wednesday explained that the migrants had died of thirst. He stated that of the adult migrants, nine were women and five were men.

Two victims have been identified as Nigerian but the nationalities of the others were not yet clear.

Last year, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that about 120,000 people crossed through Agadez.

However, IOM confirmed that 37 migrants died in the desert last year.

Army Repels Boko Haram Attack On Military Base In Yobe

Boko HaramBarely a day after the Interior Minister led a delegation to Yobe State to assess the extent of destruction by Boko Haram militants, the insurgents have attacked the 120 Taskforce Battalion of the Nigeria army in the state.

It was gathered that the militants attacked the Army base stationed in Goniri town in Gujba Local Government Area at about 4:00AM but were repelled by soldiers who engaged them in a gun battle.

The Spokesman of the 27 Task Force Brigade in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital Lieutenant George Okupe, told Channels Television that some of the militants were sighted by security forces around Tashan-Fulani village in Tarmuwa Local Government Area of the state, which is 35 Kilometres north of Damaturu.

He said 17 of the militants were killed while several others escaped with severe gunshot injuries in the encounter which lasted several hours, with many of the residents reportedly fleeing the violence.

One of the residents told our correspondent in the state that they heard heavy gunshots and explosions and had to run for safety, adding that the battle continued into the early hours of Friday.

The Spokesman also said that 300 rounds of assorted ammunition were recovered from the suspected Boko Haram fighters along with several explosive devices.

Goniri is one of the communities recently recaptured by security forces who are currently working to clear the town and other surrounding community preparatory to the return of the residents who are spread in IDP camps in Yobe and Borno states.

We Do Not Carry Arms, Shiite Spokesman Says

ShiiteThe Acting Spokesman of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim Musa, has insisted that the Nigerian Army is to blame for the crisis between the Shiite sect and soldiers in Kaduna.

Mr Musa was the guest of Sunrise Daily on Channels Television where he relayed what transpired on Saturday, December 12, between members of the sect and soldiers which initially led to the killing of seven persons.

He explained that trouble started when the sect members felt uncomfortable with the presence of soldiers on a day they were having their procession, recalling that soldiers had opened fire on them in a similar situation in 2014.

“Last year the soldiers opened fire on the Muslim brothers while they were doing a Quds Day rally. So with this in mind the brothers told them that it is not proper for them to be stationed just opposite the Hosenia and they asked them to move back.

“When the soldiers who were many in number, decided to move back, then the brothers started thinking that they had gone to bring more reinforcement; that was when the crisis started.

“It was then that the Army Chief’s convoy came and the brothers were not comfortable with what might transpire. After some negotiation with both sides, they then started opening fire and killed seven people on the spot and they got passage after dispersing the brothers.

“What surprised us is when the Army Chief had passed, why should they come back and lay siege on the Hosenia? They also went to the residence of our leader, Sheik Ibrahim Zak-Kaky and this confrontation went on right from 1pm on that beautiful Saturday down till Sunday morning,” he said.

The spokesman accused the Army of killing several members of the Shiites sect and using grenades during the onslaught.

Machete Is Not A Weapon

Mr Musa also exonerated the sect members from initiating the violence that has left several people dead.

“Our Muslim brothers, right from our history in the movement for the past 40 years, it is known that we have never taken any arms, we have never attacked anybody. We are only trying to make people understand the true teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (s.a.a.w.).

“We don’t carry arms and even the soldiers confessed that they didn’t see any gun or something of that nature. They only saw catapult and other local tools like machetes,” he said debunking claims that the sect members used petrol bombs to attack the soldiers.

“We have never made any petrol bombs but machetes. Who hasn’t any machetes in his house? Machete is just what you use in cutting something that is strong. So I see no reason why machete should be termed as a weapon, machete is not a weapon.

“How can you compare a gun and a machete? It’s just ridiculous, it’s not possible, we haven’t ever used any petrol bomb throughout our 40 years in this movement, and we have never carried arms.

“So they are just trying to make it up that we are the ones who attacked them and it’s ridiculous to say we tried to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff.”

Ulterior Motives

He also accused the Army of having ulterior motives, claiming that there must have been a plan to attack the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

“If there was no ulterior motives, after the passage of the Chief of Army Staff, they might have taken us to the Police or they should call higher authorities then the matter could be discussed and we can identify what the cause of the problem was but they did not stop there. They came back encircling the Hosenia and killed thousands of people there.

“In the mortuary of the Ahmadu Bello University hospital, it was confirmed to us that about 800 corpses were there before they took them yesterday.

“If it is just a matter of passage, it is a small issue but they encircled the place and went after the Sheik, which means it has already been planned that they want to attack the whole movement itself.”

 

Shiites Reject FG’s Investigative Panel, Demand Fresh One

kaduna-ShiiteMembers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria have kicked against the composition of an investigative panel of enquiry into the recent clash between their members and soldiers in Zaria, which left scores of their members dead.

The members, in a statement through their spokesman, Ibrahim Musa, expressed lack of confidence in the constituted panel being headed by the Area Police Commander.

The Shiites said that the Area Commander, being of a junior officer when compared to the perpetrators of the attack on their members, might not be fair to all parties, since the matter involveed a high ranking officer of a Lt. General.

They also expressed sadness over the inability of the Interior Minister, LT General Abdulrahaman Dambazau, to visit injured members who were being treated in the Hospital, during his visit to Zaria.

The sect, however, demanded that a high powered investigative panel be constituted, which would be headed by a high ranking officer. They also demanded a leader whose members would cut across human rights organisations and other highly respected elder statesmen.

Part of their statement read: “The Army authorities today evacuated the corpses they deposited at the morgue of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital and buried them in unknown mass graves.

“This is a very unfortunate episode in the massacre of innocent Muslims conducted by the Nigerian Army.

“How can people whose parents and relatives are all known be buried without proper Islamic burial? This is against all known Islamic laws and principles and even the international laws. The Nigerian Army has desecrated our dead.

“We hereby demand the location of the mass burial, and the interrogation of those who ordered the operation”.

Early this week the Federal Government sent a high powered delegation led by the Interior Minister, General Dambazau to assess the situation.