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Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

Al-Qaeda-linked group claims deadly UN base attack in Mali

2017-06-09

LONDON – A powerful Al-Qaeda-linked group on Friday claimed an attack on a United Nations camp that killed three peacekeepers in Kidal in Mali’s troubled north.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links, posted a statement on its Telegram channel saying it had targeted the UN base “with a set of mortar shells”, wounding soldiers and causing significant material damage, the SITE extremism monitor reported.

The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said earlier on Friday their Kidal camp “came under heavy rocket/mortar fire” and “a little later a position nearby was attacked” outside their base, killing three peacekeepers and wounding eight more.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, also known as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, is a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links formed in March.

Led by the Malian jihadist Iyad Ag Ghaly, a former leader of the Ansar Dine Islamists, the group has claimed multiple attacks on domestic and foreign forces since its formation.

The UN mission said it “condemned in the strongest terms these cowardly attacks against its personnel and the danger they cause for the civilian population.”

The attack is just the latest to target the 12,000-strong force in the west African nation. Guinean and Chadian soldiers make up the majority of troops stationed at the Kidal camp.

MINUSMA began work in 2013, providing security and assisting Malian troops struggling to keep the country safe. It has been targeted constantly by jihadists, with dozens of peacekeepers killed.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, including Ansar Dine, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, the Islamists have now spread further south.

Since 2015, jihadists have targeted Mali’s center and their activities have spilled over into neighboring countries including Niger and Burkina Faso.

Their last attack killed two peacekeepers on May 23 near Aguelhok, near the border with Algeria, while a Liberian peacekeeper was killed earlier in May close to Timbuktu.

Both attacks were also claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims.

France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to buttress the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region, with its base in Mali.

The force would be under a separate command from MINUSMA and France’s own counter-terror force in the Sahel region, but will be backed by the UN and European Union.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83467.

UN chief to meet rival Cyprus leaders in New York

May 31, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus at U.N. headquarters in New York amid faltering reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the meeting Sunday evening will aim to carry out a review of the state of play in negotiations that are now at a standstill. Aleem Siddique, a U.N. spokesman in Cyprus, said the U.N. chief looks forward to welcoming the leaders to New York.

Last week, U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide broke off mediation efforts after the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, failed to agree on how to move the peace process toward a final summit aiming for a comprehensive accord.

Guterres has intervened in an apparent bid to prevent the two year-old talks, which have made significant headway at reunifying the island as a federation, from unravelling. On Tuesday, Anastasiades warned that talks were now at risk of deadlock because of an insistence by Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots to keep Turkish troops deployed on the island even after a peace deal.

Turkey has maintained 35,000 troops in the country’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since mounting an invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them removed as part of any peace deal. Anastasiades has proposed the deployment of an international police force to oversee security.

The minority Turkish Cypriots say a peace deal must include the deployment of Turkish troops they see as their only security guarantee. Anastasiades insists on prioritizing at a final summit in Geneva an agreement on withdrawing Turkish troops before resolving all other outstanding issues.

Akinci maintains that all issues should be discussed in a give-and-take process.

UN report shows hundreds of Central African Republic abuses

May 30, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A sweeping new United Nations report identifies hundreds of human rights violations in Central African Republic since 2003 that may amount to war crimes, including massacres, gang rapes and entire villages burned to the ground.

Tuesday’s report comes amid growing fears that the country terrorized by multiple armed groups is once again slipping into the sectarian bloodshed that left thousands dead between late 2013 and 2015. U.N. investigators highlight more than 600 abuses over a 12-year period, and are urging both prosecution and the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission. While the report refrains from identifying the alleged perpetrators unless they are already the subject of sanctions or an arrest warrant, those identities are known and are being kept in a confidential database, officials said.

“In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes,” said Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the U.N. special representative for the country.

The International Criminal Court is already examining abuses dating back to 2003 in Central African Republic. While the U.N. report does not characterize the worst sectarian violence as genocide, it does “identify facts which may warrant further investigation to determine whether the elements of the crime may have been met.”

Central African Republic exploded into violence in late 2013 after mostly Muslim rebels from the Seleka coalition terrorized civilians in the capital until the Seleka leader stepped down from power. A mainly Christian militia that arose in opposition to the rebels then carried out horrific violence against Muslim civilians in retaliation, even though few of them supported Seleka in the first place.

At one point, Muslims were stoned to death with rocks by mobs in the street, at times decapitated and mutilated. Those fleeing for their lives in truck convoys to the country’s north and beyond to Chad were slain by mobs in many cases.

Violence ebbed with the installation of a civilian transitional government and with the arrival of U.N. peacekeepers who replaced a regional force. The country held fairly peaceful national elections in 2016, though this year has seen an explosion of sectarian conflict in areas previously untouched by such tensions such as the southeast.

The fragile peace is in many ways maintained by separation. Many towns no longer have Muslim communities after people fled and never returned. Mosques have been destroyed. More than 500,000 people remain internally displaced while others remain in neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Congo, officials said.

While Tuesday’s report urges justice to be done, it also offers a grim view of the challenges: Armed groups still control more than half the country. Most courts were looted and destroyed during the rampant violence by armed groups.

“The number of police personnel, their equitable deployment across the country and the resources available to them, considering the country’s vast geography, are wanting,” the report says. “Magistrates appointed to the courts in many of the provinces and other judiciary personnel often choose to remain in Bangui because of insecurity and a lack of amenities for their work and welfare. Virtually all the country’s lawyers are based in Bangui.”

Any criminal proceedings must include those equipped to work with sexual violence survivors, the report says. More than 650 victims were reported between December 2013 and July 2014 alone. In one case, a single victim was raped by up to 20 perpetrators, the report says.

It references the recent case of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre as one possible example. Habre was convicted last year of crimes against humanity in a special court set up Senegal. The charges included rape and forced sexual slavery carried out by subordinates under the legal principle of “command responsibility.”

Tuesday’s report says the violence committed by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels could constitute crimes against humanity, along with the retaliatory violence carried out by the mostly Christian anti-Balaka against Muslim civilians.

A “campaign of killings and persecution” by government soldiers against civilians in the north-central and northwest regions between 2006 and 2009 also could constitute crimes against humanity, it says.

3 vie for top WHO post in UN health agency election

May 20, 2017

GENEVA (AP) — A British physician, an Ethiopian former health minister and a Pakistani expert in non-communicable diseases are the three finalists vying for the top job at the World Health Organization in an election on Tuesday, aspiring to land a key U.N. post that confers great power to set worldwide medical priorities — and great responsibility as the world’s go-to person when emergencies like Ebola, Zika and SARS strike.

For the first time, WHO’s governing body made up of 194 member states will choose from three candidates — not one pre-selected by its executive board, as in past years. The closed-door vote is perhaps the highlight event of the 10-day World Health Assembly, which will also lay out strategies on issues like the fight against polio, preparedness for pandemic flu, and antimicrobial resistance.

Many are looking for further reform at WHO after the decade-long tenure of Dr. Margaret Chan, a politically savvy native of Hong Kong whose tenure nonetheless has been blighted by a flawed response to the Ebola outbreak in three west African countries that killed more than 11,000 people.

Politics, as much as policy prescriptions, will be in the minds of many government envoys as voting begins Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a look at the candidates for the next five-year term starting July 1:

David Nabarro: The British physician led the U.N. response to some of the biggest health crises in recent years, including bird flu and Ebola. Although he has years of experience dealing with outbreaks, critics say his decades of work at WHO make him too much of an insider and that he may be unable to introduce the radical change needed to overhaul the agency.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: A former health minister from Ethiopia, he would be the first WHO director-general from Africa and is believed to have wide support from many African member states. Ghebreyesus is credited with expanding Ethiopia’s health system and helping introduce initiatives that cut malaria deaths. The only non-medical doctor in the running, he has also been dogged by allegations that he covered up cholera outbreaks during his administration, despite international regulations requiring countries to report outbreaks of the bacterial disease.

Sania Nishtar: A Pakistani doctor, she has worked on non-communicable diseases for years and once served as a government minister responsible for issues including health, science and information technology. Unlike her competitors, Nishtar has little experience with outbreaks. During her campaign, she issued 10 pledges for action, including “transparency and accountability in all areas of its work” and a promise that the WHO leadership “will not be subject to special interests.”

UN set to wrap up Haiti peacekeeping mission in mid-October

April 13, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Security Council is set to wrap up the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti by mid-October after more than 20 years, in recognition of “the major milestone” the country has achieved toward stabilization following recent elections.

The council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a draft resolution that extends the mandate of the mission, known as MINUSTAH, for a final six months during which the 2,370 military personnel will gradually leave.

The resolution will create a follow-on peacekeeping mission for six months to be known as MINUJUSTH comprising 1,275 police who will continue training the national police force. It says the new mission should be operational when the old mission’s mandate ends on Oct. 15.

The United States is currently reviewing the U.N.’s 16 far-flung peacekeeping operations to assess costs and effectiveness. U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Tuesday that thanks to recent elections in Haiti “the political context is right” for a new and smaller mission.

The draft resolution recognizes the country’s return to “constitutional order” and major steps toward stabilization following presidential and legislative elections. But it also recognizes the need for international support to strengthen, professionalize and reform the police — and to help the country promote economic development and face the “significant humanitarian challenges” following Hurricane Matthew which struck last October.

The draft reiterates the need for security in the country to be accompanied by efforts to address “the country’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters.” Sandra Honore, the U.N. envoy for Haiti, told the council on Tuesday that “Haiti’s political outlook for 2017 and beyond has significantly improved” following elections. This has opened “a crucial window of opportunity to address the root causes of the political crisis” that preceded the elections and address “the many pressing challenges facing the country,” she said.

The draft resolution says that MINUJUSTH, in addition to helping train the police, should assist the government in strengthening judicial and legal institutions “and engage in human rights monitoring, reporting and analysis.”

It would also authorize the new mission “to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence” in areas where it’s deployed and “to use all necessary means” to carry out its mandate in supporting and training Haiti’s police.

Bodies of American, Swedish UN experts found in Congo

March 29, 2017

BENI, Congo (AP) — The bodies of an American and a Swedish investigator with the United Nations and their Congolese interpreter were found in Central Kasai province, authorities said Tuesday, more than two weeks after they disappeared while looking into recent violence there.

“After tests … it is possible to identify the bodies as the two U.N. experts and their interpreter as being found near the Moyo river,” Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said. Investigations will continue to seek other missing Congolese colleagues, he said.

Michael Sharp of the United States and Zaida Catalan of Sweden, along with interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi and two motorbike drivers, went missing March 12 while looking into large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups.

Congo’s police inspector general, Charles Bisengimana, said the bodies were found Monday between the cities of Tshimbulu and Kananga, the provincial capital. The confirmation came a day after Sharp’s father, John Sharp of Hesston, Kansas, wrote on his Facebook page that the bodies of two Caucasians had been found in shallow graves in the search area, saying there was a high probability the dead were his son and his son’s colleague.

“All other words fail me,” he wrote. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world body would conduct an inquiry into what happened to the two experts. He said the cause of their deaths hadn’t yet been determined.

“Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC (Congo) in order to help bring peace to the country and its people,” Guterres said in a statement, sending his condolences to their families.

Sharp and Catalan’s disappearance is the first time U.N. experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch has said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces.

Parts of Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for decades, but violence in the Kasai provinces in central Congo represents a new expansion of tensions. The Kamwina Nsapu militia has been fighting security forces since last year, with the violence increasing after government troops killed the militia’s leader in August. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the U.N.

When asked earlier Tuesday whether the investigators’ disappearance could be a turning point in the U.N. sending experts to the region, Guterres’ deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said: “We hope that we could continue to send experts to do their necessary monitoring activities wherever they need to go. Of course, that needs to be undertaken with full respect and understanding of the security condition on the ground.”

Associated Press writer Al-Hadji Maliro reported this story in Beni and AP writer Saleh Mwanamilongo reported from New York. AP writers Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Congo must help search for missing UN experts: Rights group

March 25, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Congo’s government must cooperate with United Nations efforts to locate experts who have been missing in the violent Kasai region for nearly two weeks, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.

Uruguayan peacekeepers and Tanzanian special forces who deployed to find the six people, including ones from the United States and Sweden, have faced a lack of cooperation, the rights group said. The U.N. mission in Congo said its movements have been restricted by security forces in Kananga, the provincial capital of Kasai Central.

Saturday’s statement comes after the U.N. reported the discovery since January of more than two dozen mass graves in three Kasai provinces. And five videos have emerged in recent weeks that appear to show Congolese soldiers firing on militia members — a spike in deadly violence in recent months in the formerly quiet region.

“The missing U.N. team reflects a bigger picture of violence and abuse in the Kasai region,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. She called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to establish a commission of inquiry into abuses there.

Michael Sharp of the U.S., Zaida Catalan of Sweden, interpreter Betu Tshintela, driver Isaac Kabuayi and two motorbike drivers went missing March 12 near a remote village south of Kananga. They were looking into recent large-scale violence and alleged human rights violations by the Congolese army and local militia groups.

Their disappearance is the first time U.N. experts have been reported missing in Congo, Human Rights Watch said, and it is the first recorded disappearance of international workers in the Kasai provinces.

Parts of Congo, particularly the east, have experienced insecurity for more than two decades since the end of the Rwandan genocide led to the presence of local and foreign armed militias, all vying for control of mineral-rich land.

But the Kasai Central province where the U.N. experts were abducted represents a new expansion of tensions. Large-scale violence erupted in the Kasai region in August when security forces killed the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia. More than 400 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced since then, according to the U.N.

Human Rights Watch said it has received reports of scores of people killed in recent weeks. While the violence is linked to local power struggles, there are also clear ties to Congo’s political crisis, according to Human Rights Watch. Anger has been growing in the country at long-delayed presidential elections, and dozens were killed in December amid protests as President Joseph Kabila stayed on past the end of his mandate. A deal reached between the ruling party and opposition to hold elections by the end of this year, without Kabila, remains fragile as the U.N. urges its implementation.

The rights group said security forces have been known to back local leaders seen as loyal to Kabila. Meanwhile, militia groups support those who are believed to support the opposition. Militia members have recruited large numbers of children, and using crude weapons have attacked security forces and some government buildings in Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Sankuru, and Lomami provinces, Human Rights Watch said.

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