More than 10,000 Rohingya Flee to Bangladesh since Monday, Says UNHCR


More than 11,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar on Monday in a new surge, said the United Nations refugee agency citing Bangladesh border guards.

“We’re back in a situation of full alert as far as influxes are concerned. It is a big increase to see 11,000,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

“We have had big numbers coming across by the day over the six weeks of this emergency. So we are back up to approaching some of those peak arrivals. Clearly we have to be prepared for more arrivals,” he said.

Many of the refugees are reported to come from the Buthidaung area in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, which is 20-25 kilometers east of Maungdaw.

“Some said they had fled torching and killings back home; one boy was seen with a big gash across his neck,” Edwards said.

“We don’t know at the moment what is driving this,” he added. “Some of these people have fled their homes several days ago and in some cases two weeks ago, so they moved towards the border before coming across.”

There are also indications of more recent problems.

“As you may have seen from media reports which I can’t verify, but there are reports about fires being seen close to the border (and) other problems there,” Edwards said.

More than half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August 25 after insurgent attacks on security forces triggered a violent government crackdown, but the rate had slowed to about
2,000 refugees per day last week, aid agencies say.

The UN has denounced the ferocious military crackdown as ethnic cleansing.

Meanwhile, a massive cholera immunization campaign began on Tuesday near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, aimed at protecting newly-arrived Rohingya and host communities from the disease
which can be deadly, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Some 900,000 oral vaccine doses will be distributed, including 650,000 in an initial 10-day campaign to be followed by a second round from October 31 targeting 250,000 children between one and five years old, the agency said.

There is a “clear and present risk” of the spread of cholera among the population.

Meanwhile, Myanmar launched on Tuesday its first bid to improve relations between followers of different religions since the Rohingya crisis erupted.

Despite growing international condemnation of the refugee crisis, the military campaign is popular in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where there is little sympathy for the Rohingya, and for Muslims in general, and where Buddhist nationalism has surged in recent years.

The party of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi took the first step towards trying to calm communal animosity with inter-faith prayers at a stadium in the biggest city of Yangon, with Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

“This is for peace and stability,” party spokesman Aung Shin told Reuters. “Peace in Rakhine and peace nationwide.”

Traffic was jammed around the stadium as Buddhist monks had nuns packed the stands inside, along with thousands of others.

The Rohingya had pinned hopes for change on Suu Kyi’s party but it has been wary of Buddhist nationalist pressure. Her party did not field a single Muslim candidate in the 2015 election that it swept.

Rohingya are not classified as an indigenous minority in Myanmar and so are denied citizenship under a law that links nationality to ethnicity.

Regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, they face restrictions and discrimination and are derided by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in Rakhine State, and by much of the wider population.

Tehran Warns Harsh Response against Blacklisting Revolutionary Guard

London —Besides to Iran’s Guards’ commander Mohammad Ali Jafari earlier warning the United States against designating its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, saying US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed, State Department spokesman Bahram Qasimi said that Tehran’s response will be firm.

Warnings came after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would announce new US responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy.

“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” Guards’ Jafari said, according to state media.

“If they do, Iran’s response will be firm, decisive and overwhelming,” State Department spokesman Bahram Qasimi was quoted as saying by a news conference.

Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the US, and issued a stark warning to American troops.

“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like ISIS all around the world particularly in the Middle East,” Jafari said.

The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are Iran’s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not.

“The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Jafari said, according to state media.

Trump had accused Iran of financially supporting North Korea, which develops its nuclear missiles, saying that it violates the provisions of the nuclear deal.

“I believe they [Iranians] are funding North Korea. I believe they’re trading with North Korea. I believe they’re doing things with North Korea that are totally inappropriate,” Trump said in an interview with American politician and commentator Mike Huckabee for TBN.

Red Cross to ‘Drastically’ Cut Afghan Operations After Attacks

Afghan men unload a coffin of killed ICRC employee from a car at a hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif

Kabul- The International Committee of the Red Cross will “drastically” reduce operations in war-torn Afghanistan after seven of its employees were killed in attacks this year, the aid group said on Monday.

The announcement underlines the deteriorating security for aid groups in Afghanistan, where the ICRC has been operating for more than 30 years and has been running its fourth biggest humanitarian program.

“Exposure to risk has become our greatest challenge and concern,” Monica Zanarelli, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, told a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

“We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence in Afghanistan,” she said, adding that the decision would particularly affect operations in the north, where facilities in Kunduz, Faryab, and Balkh provinces would be closed or downsized.

Red Cross officials said the assessments are ongoing and could not say how many of its 1,800 staff would be affected.

The humanitarian group will close its facilities in the northern city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, and in Kunduz province, also in the north and a hotbed of Taliban activity.

Operations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif will be scaled back.

The group has suffered a series of deadly attacks in northern Afghanistan, where Taliban and ISIS group militants have intensified their assaults on police and troops.

In February six ICRC employees were killed when their convoy came under insurgent attack in the northern province of Jowzjan.

Two of their colleagues were abducted in a separate incident and only released by their captors last month.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction or killings, but Jowzjan police have blamed local ISIS jihadists who are making inroads in the country.

In the most recent attack, a Spanish physiotherapist working for the ICRC in northern Afghanistan last month was shot and killed by a wheelchair-bound patient.

Lorena Enebral Perez, 38, was shot inside the aid group’s rehabilitation center in Mazar-i-Sharif, where she treated disabled children, women and men including amputees.

Two people were arrested over the deadly attack, including the 21-year-old shooter whom police said was a “regular patient”.

Last December a Spanish Red Cross employee was abducted when workers from the charity were traveling between Mazar-i-Sharif and neighboring Kunduz. He was released several weeks later.

The ICRC has around 1,800 staff including 120 international aid workers in Afghanistan — helping wounded and disabled people, supporting hospitals, making prison visits and assisting prisoners to maintain contact with their families.

In many areas such as the north, they are the only international organization providing such services.

“We understand the consequences to stop our activities in the north but we have no choice,” Zanarelli added.

She said the organization was not leaving Afghanistan but to prevent more losses the “necessity of reviewing our presence is strongly requested”.

The spreading conflict has combined with an increase in criminality, making for more “blurred lines” between the various armed groups which complicate efforts to safely provide aid, Zanarelli said.

“I would say there are more gray areas than there were in the past, and this is certainly what is affecting our capacity to assess our security,” she said.

According to US military estimates, the government controls no more than 60 percent of the country, with the rest either controlled or contested by the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

2 Killed in Shooting at Kenya University


Two people were killed on Tuesday when gunmen opened fire at a university in the Kenyan coastal Kwale county, police and a witness said.

The victims were identified as two female staff members of the Technical University of Mombasa.

Several students, a driver and two policemen were also injured in the shooting.

A witness who did not want to be named told Reuters she and several other students had fled their vehicle when gunmen opened fire on them and had seen blood-covered students being carried from the building as police descended on the campus.

The identity of the gunmen was unclear.

“A bus carrying students of TUM (the Technical University of Mombasa) was ferrying them from their hostels to the campus in Ukunda for classes and was being escorted by a van that had some staff of the college and two escort police officers,” a policeman said.

“Armed men numbering about 10 emerged from the bushes and started firing at the van in front. As a result two ladies who are staff of TUM were killed in the van. The driver of the van and two police officers were injured,” he said.

Somali terrorist group al Shabaab frequently carries out attacks along the Kenya-Somali border and along the Kenyan coast and in 2015 attacked a university in Kenya’s Garissa town, killing 148 students.

On Monday, three people were seriously wounded during opposition demonstrations for changes to Kenya’s electoral commission before fresh presidential elections later this month, a witness said Monday.

An Associated Press reporter said he saw one man get shot and by a man in a car who then hit and injured two other protesters before driving away. Riot police watched as the incident unfolded, the witness said. Police are investigating the shooting and hit and run incident, said Nairobi Central chief Harrison Thuku.

The three were wounded as the government’s human rights group said at least 37 people were killed by police in three days of protests following the announcement of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election in the August vote.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has called for countrywide protests to urge reforms to the electoral commission ahead of the October 26 rerun of the elections.

The Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August re-election citing illegalities in the August 8 vote and the electoral commission’s refusal to allow scrutiny of its computer system.

Justices said that by failing to allow the investigation of the computers the commission failed to disprove Odinga’s claim that hackers infiltrated the servers and altered the vote in favor of Kenyatta.

Human rights groups have accused Kenyatta of using security agents to suppress opposition demonstrations.

Philippines: NY ‘Plotter’ was Allegedly Doctor to Pro-ISIS Militants

The Philippines military said on Monday that a Filipino doctor wanted over a foiled terrorist plot in New York previously treated pro-ISIS gunmen in the mountains of the country’s south.

Russell Salic, 37, had links to the Maute group, which since May had been occupying parts of Marawi city in a bid to establish a so-called ISIS “caliphate” in Southeast Asia, Philippine authorities said. 

“He was among those who were treating wounded members of the Maute group,” military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo told AFP.

Another military spokesman, Major-General Restituto Padilla, told reporters Salic had performed these tasks in visits to Maute training camps before the Marawi attack.

“That’s why his nom de guerre or nickname, based on our information, was ‘Doc’ or ‘Doctor,'” Padilla added. 

Salic, who has been in Philippines custody since April, is wanted by US prosecutors after he and two other were indicted over a plan to conduct bombings and shootings in Times Square, New York’s subway system and concert venues in the name of ISIS.

US prosecutors have said that the attacks were planned for Ramadan last year.

One alleged plotter is already in US custody while the second is in Pakistani custody.

Salic is accused of wiring $423 to the US to help fund the plot, the American justice department said.

He and the suspect in Pakistan now face legal proceedings seeking their extradition to the US.

Salic is under investigation in Manila over his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and beheading of two sawmill workers in April 2016 in the southern rural town of Butig, which the military had blamed on the Maute group.  

Militants Attack DR Congo Base, Killing UN Peacekeeper

Peacekeepers serving in the MONUSCO patrol in their armoured personnel carrier during demonstrations against Congolese President Joseph Kabila in the streets of DRC capital Kinshasa

Militants attacked two military bases in northeastern Congo on Monday, killing a UN peacekeeper and injuring a dozen others, the UN mission and the army said.

The attack took place in Beni where UN soldiers have been battling the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is a Ugandan Islamist group active near the border between Congo and Uganda, a spokesman for the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo said.

Congolese troops had clashed with the rebels in the area on Sunday. The day before, the ADF attacked around 10 motorbike taxis in the locality.

“The Mamundioma base was attacked at 5:30 am (0330 GMT),” the UN mission known by its French acronym MONUSCO said, referring to a village near the city of Beni.

The mission said it had deployed attack helicopters in response to the raid.

The UN did not specify the nationality of the dead soldier or the injured.

“I can confirm an attack on the MONUSCO base at Mamundioma this morning which killed one peacekeeper and injured 12,” said the spokeswoman for the UN’s Congo mission Florence Marchal.

Army spokesman Mak Hazukay said the attacks were carried out simultaneously and blamed the ADF for them. He said the UN base houses Tanzanian peacekeepers that formed part of an intervention brigade which has a mandate to conduct offensive operations against militants.

Congolese authorities have blamed the ADF for massacres between 2014-2016 in the area that killed more than 800 people. However, independent and UN experts say several armed groups as well as national army commanders have been involved.

Political Dispute in Iran after Tightening Restrictions on Khatami

London- The reformist faction in the Iranian parliament has protested “new restrictions” imposed on the country’s former president, Mohammad Khatami, calling them “explicit and obvious” violation of articles of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, 86 MPs have called upon President Hassan Rouhani to step in to prevent the restrictions and report the outcome to the parliament.

However, the spokesman of the judiciary, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has insisted that the restrictions are not “new” and are merely the extension of “old” measures imposed on the reformist ex-president based on a resolution approved by the Supreme National Security Council Secretariat (SNSCS).

Rouhani, who also presides over the SNSCS, has dismissed the judiciary’s claims as unfounded. His ministers have also insisted that the SNSCS has never issued a resolution banning Khatami from attending public ceremonies.

The Reformist faction Omid (Hope) in the parliament issued a statement on Sunday, saying “increasing restrictions on Khatami’s presence at cultural, political and promotional ceremonies” are in violation of the Articles 20, 23, 36 and 37 of the country’s Constitution.

“These restrictions”, the faction asserted, “have increased the former president’s popularity.”

Furthermore, in a reminder for Rouhani, several MPs called upon him, as the head of the Supreme National Security Council, to guard “fundamental rights” and prevent any move that “restricts citizens’ rights”.

The MPs also asked Rouhani to act against the recent conviction of several political activists and report its outcome to the public.

An opposition website close to Iranian Green Movement, Kalemeh has reported that “the Special Clerical Court has sent a letter to former president Khatami informing him that, for a period of three months, he is barred from attending any political and promotional ceremonies.”

The letter was signed by the head of the Special Clerical Court, and the runner-up in the May 19 presidential election, Ebrahim Raeisi.

Based on the letter, 74-year old Khatami is now barred from attending assemblies, conferences, seminars, theaters, artistic ceremonies and performances, including, concerts, recitals and dramas. The letter has gone much further, barring the reformist ex-president from attending non-family gatherings, including private meetings with activists.

Khatami is believed to have played a crucial role in Rouhani’s ascension to the presidency in 2013 and 2017, apparently convincing his second term vice president, the reformist challenger Mohammad Reza Aref to step aside in favor of Rouhani.

Rouhani, categorically denied the judiciary’s claims, affirming on Saturday, “the reason behind the restrictions against Khatami is the fact that they want to punish somebody” [Khatami] for his impact on the “elections”; referring to the time when the former president urged the people to go to the polls.

“If anybody repeats that people should head to the ballot box, they should be punished?” he asked.

American Held as ISIS Suspect, Creating Quandary for Trump Administration

Washington- Trump administration officials are divided over how to handle a United States citizen that the military has held in Iraq for more than three weeks as a suspected ISIS fighter, according to an official familiar with internal deliberations, raising a dilemma that could resurrect some of the biggest wartime policy questions of the post-9/11 era.

Providing the first details about a predicament that the Trump administration has kept draped in near-total secrecy, the official said the problem facing Pentagon and Justice Department officials is how to ensure that the man — who surrendered on Sept. 12 to a Syrian rebel militia, which turned him over to the American military — will stay imprisoned.

It may not be possible to prosecute the man because most of the evidence against him is probably inadmissible, the official said. But holding a citizen in long-term wartime detention as an enemy combatant — something the military has not done since the George W. Bush administration — would rekindle major legal problems left dormant since Mr. Bush left office and could put at risk the legal underpinnings for the fight against ISIS.

Admissible evidence is sparse, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information without authorization, adding that the FBI. and Justice Department were working to build the case. Spokesmen for the National Security Council, the Justice Department and the Pentagon declined to comment on the specifics of this account but did not contest its details.

But the pressure to make a decision is mounting. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas corpus petition asking a judge to order the Pentagon to let its lawyers visit the prisoner and to rule that the government’s holding of him in detention without due process and unable to communicate is unconstitutional.

“The US government cannot imprison American citizens without charge or access to a judge,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an ACLU lawyer. “It also cannot keep secret the most basic facts about their detention, including who they are, where they are being held and on what authority they are being detained. The Trump administration should not resurrect the failed and unlawful policy of ‘enemy combatant’ detentions.”

But it is unclear whether the group has standing to bring that complaint without the man agreeing to let it represent him. Because Trump administration officials have refused to disclose his name, rights groups have been unable to track down any close relative to grant that assent on his behalf.

The Trump administration has said almost nothing about the detainee beyond acknowledging that he exists and was recently visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Spokesmen at the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department have repeatedly demurred when asked for even basic facts about what is happening.

When asked about the case at a security conference at Georgetown University on Sept. 14, two days after the suspect surrendered, John J. Mulligan, the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said he presumed that the individual would probably be charged with material support to terrorism.

The senior administration official partly opened a window onto the matter. The prisoner, the official said, was born on American soil, making him a citizen, but his parents were visiting foreigners and he grew up in the Middle East. The near total lack of contact with the United States slowed efforts to verify his identity, the official said.

The prisoner was interrogated first for intelligence purposes — such as to determine whether he knew of any imminent terrorist attacks — without being read the Miranda warning that he had a right to remain silent and have a defense lawyer present. The government then started a new interrogation for law-enforcement purposes, but after the captive was warned of his Miranda rights, he refused to say any more and remains in military custody in Iraq, the official said.

Investigators have also identified a personnel file in a cache of seized ISIS documents that appears to be about the captive, the official said. But prosecutors could have difficulty getting that record, which was gathered under battlefield conditions, admitted as evidence against him under more rigorous courtroom standards.

As a result, while the Pentagon wants the Justice Department to take the prisoner off its hands, law enforcement officials have been reluctant to take custody of him unless and until more evidence is found to make it more likely that a prosecution would succeed, the official said.

There is a limit to how long the military can hold a citizen without at least letting him talk to lawyers, said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who specializes in national security matters, acknowledging the government’s predicament.

“It would be one thing if this were a cooperating witness who was being kept in incommunicado detention to protect his safety and his intelligence value,” Mr. Vladeck said. “But keeping someone in these circumstances simply because they don’t know what to do with him is not going to help them in court, if and when it gets there.”

The Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that “captured enemy fighters may be detained” as part of the armed conflict against ISIS.

“A US citizen may lawfully be subject to military detention in armed conflict under appropriate circumstances,” he added, pointing to a 2004 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the indefinite wartime detention of an American citizen captured in the Afghanistan war, Yasser Hamdi.

The New York Times

IRGC Warns Washington against Labeling it Terrorist Group

London- Commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp Major General Mohammad Ali Jaafari renewed on Sunday his threats against US regional bases if Washington decided to designate the Guards as a terrorist group.

In a statement delivered during a “strategic” IRGC meeting in Tehran on Sunday, Jaafari warned that if the US imposes new sanctions on the Iranian forces, the move would be considered tantamount to US unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and would therefore end any chances of future dialogue with the US.

JCPOA, which is the nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the Group 5+1 in 2015, includes an agreement to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange of its agreement to limit its nuclear program to peaceful purposes.

Last August, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to enact new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.

“As we previously announced, if the US approves the CAATSA law, Washington will then have to relocate its regional bases out of the reach of Iran’s missiles, which have a range of 2,000 kilometers,” Jaafari was quoted by the Sepah news website, a mouthpiece of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, as saying.

The commander added: “If reports on the US decision to enlist Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist group happen to be true, the Iranian force would also treat the US Army everywhere in the world and especially in the Middle East in the same way as ISIS terrorists.”

Earlier, Trump had spoken about Tehran’s breaching of the nuclear deal.

But Jaafari said: “The Americans should know that the Islamic Republic would use the Trump administration’s stupid behavior toward JCPOA to make great strides in advancing its defensive, regional and missile programs.”

He added that Iran intends to solve regional issues at a place other than the negotiating table.

Kim Jong Un: Nuclear Weapons Safeguarding Peace in Korean Peninsula


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared on Sunday that his nuclear weapons guaranteed the sovereignty of his country, state media reported.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a “powerful deterrent firmly safeguarding the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia,” Kim said, referring to the “protracted nuclear threats of the US imperialists.”

He made the declaration a day after US President Donald Trump said “only one thing will work” in dealing with the isolated country.

He did not elaborate on what he was referring, but his comments seemed to be a further suggestion that military action was on his mind.

In a speech to a meeting of the powerful Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media said Kim had addressed the “complicated international situation”.

In recent weeks, North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test, and may be fast advancing toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

North Korea is preparing to test-launch such a missile, a Russian lawmaker who had just returned from a visit to Pyongyang was quoted as saying on Friday.

Trump has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies.

The situation proved that North Korea’s policy of “byungjin”, meaning the parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy was “absolutely right”, Kim Jong Un said in the speech.

“The national economy has grown on their strength this year, despite the escalating sanctions,” said Kim, referring to UN Security Council resolutions put in place to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.

The meeting also handled some personnel changes inside North Korea’s secretive and opaque ruling center of power, state media said.

Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was made an alternate member of the politburo – the top decision-making body over which Kim Jong Un presides.

Alongside Kim Jong Un himself, the promotion makes Kim Yo Jong the only other millennial member of the influential body.

Her new position indicates the 28-year-old has become a replacement for Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who had been a key decision maker when former leader Kim Jong Il was alive.

“It shows that her portfolio and writ is far more substantive than previously believed and it is a further consolidation of the Kim family’s power,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North website.

In January, the US Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo Jong along with other North Korean officials over “severe human rights abuses”.

Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol, two of the three men behind Kim’s banned rocket program, were also promoted.

State media announced that several other high ranking cadres were promoted to the Central Committee in what the South Korean unification ministry said could be an attempt by North Korea to navigate a way through its increasing isolation.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that his government fully supports the US stance on pressuring North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, with all options on the table.

In a televised debate Sunday among leaders of major political parties, Abe said North Korea had failed to deliver on past promises to give up its pursuit of nuclear technology made during “six-party” talks with Japan, China, the US, Russia and South Korea.

“They used the framework of the dialogue to earn time so that they could develop their nuclear technology,” Abe said. “As the result, their nuclear capability has reached to this level and we cannot afford being deceived by them again.”