Posts Tagged ‘state of emergency’

Italy declares state of emergency after Genoa bridge collapse

August 16, 2018

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has declared a 12-month state of emergency in Genoa after the collapse of the Morandi Bridge. The cause of the collapse remains unclear, but several possibilities have been flagged.


Italian rescue workers in the city of Genoa continued to search through the rubble on Wednesday night, in hope of finding survivors of  the Morandi bridge collapse.

It remains unclear what actually caused a 100-meter (328-foot) section of the massive structure, known as Genoa’s “Brooklyn Bridge,” to cave. The bridge collapsed amid torrential rain on Tuesday, causing vehicles on the bridge to fall some 45 meters.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini did not speculate on how many people may be trapped in the debris but said that 1,000 rescue workers were taking part in the search for survivors.

Genoa: State of emergency declared

Developments on Wednesday

  • The death toll has reached 39, according to authorities.
  • Sixteen people were injured, nine of whom are in serious condition.
  • Authorities evacuated 630 people from nearby apartments, due to concerns about the stability of remaining large sections of the bridge.
  • Italy’s transport minister called for senior managers at Autostrade per l’Italia, the company operating the bridge, to resign.
  • Autostrade per l’Italia said it carried out regular checks before the collapse that provided reassuring results and the maintenance program had been approved by the Transport Ministry.
  • The transport minister said the company could face millions of euros in fines.

‘Unacceptable in a modern society’

Genoa Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters that the investigation into the collapse would focus on human error. In particular, any possible design flaws in the bridge’s construction or any inadequate maintenance will be examined.

Cozzi said he didn’t know who might be responsible but also added that the tragedy “wasn’t an accident.”

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the tragedy “unacceptable in a modern society.” He said that “all infrastructure” across the country needed to be double-checked. “We must not allow another tragedy like this to happen again,” he added.

Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli blamed Autostrade per l’Italia, the private company that runs much of Italy’s motorway network, for the incident.

The company was guilty of “serious shortcomings,” would have its concession to run the motorway network withdrawn and would face fines of up to €150 million ($170 million), Toninelli wrote on Facebook. Conte on Wednesday confirmed the government’s intention to revoke the firm’s contract.

Interior minister points finger at EU austerity

Meanwhile, Salvini blamed the European Union for making Italy unsafe. “Funds that would be spent on health and safety “are not allowed to be billed according to strict … rules imposed by Europe,” the euroskeptic politician told local broadcaster Radio24. “You always have to ask for permission to spend money,” he added. He did not mention any particular European rules on how Italy keeps its roads safe.

President Sergio Mattarella echoed the calls for better conditions on Italian roads.

“Italians have the right to modern and efficient infrastructure that accompanies them safely through their everyday lives,” Mattarella said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the world leaders who sent their condolences.

The Morandi Bridge: The Morandi Bridge was designed by Riccardo Morandi and built in 1967. It was built using reinforced concrete which was the best-known technology at the time. It is one of Genoa’s most important pieces of infrastructure, providing a link to the Italian Riviera and France’s southern coast.

Why it happened: The cause of the collapse is still unknown, but some of the potential causesinclude a possible lightning strike due to the storm at the time of the collapse, an engineering failure, aging infrastructure and corrosion.

Concerns over infrastructure: Following the bridge’s collapse, Italy’s CNR civil engineering society said the working lifespan of bridges built during the 1950s and 1960s was only about 50 years. The Morandi Bridge has been in use for more than five decades.

law/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)


Turkey’s anti-terror bill sends the wrong message for the economy and diplomacy

July 25, 2018

t has been a month since the June 24 elections and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has almost established the most essential parts of his new administration, although more needs to be done in the coming period.

Erdoğan announced his vice president and 16 ministers on July 9 and issued a number of presidential decrees to build his administration, including nine agencies and four offices, a process that is being accompanied with a major change in the state’s key bureaucracy.

Image may contain: 1 person

The last two weeks have shown economy will be the key priority of Erdoğan’s government under the control of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak who has been appointed as the Treasury and Finance Minister.

Albayrak has already proven to be a very active minister who is promising to put things back on track in regards to macroeconomic balances with the participation of all relevant stakeholders. He, at the same time, has been conveying strong messages to ease the concerns of international economic circles and financial institutions over the independence of the Central Bank.

Image result for Berat Albayrak, photos


The second priority of Erdoğan’s government is security. That is why a 29-article legislation that grants excessive powers to governors and other state bodies has been rushed to parliament immediately after the termination of emergency rule. In his address to parliament on July 24, Erdoğan made it clear he would not give an ear to criticisms voiced by other countries and opposition parties.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) describe this law as the graver version of the state of emergency, which violates the Turkish constitution. Opposition spokespeople underlined many articles of this law were in contradiction with universal rights and fundamental freedoms while the government argues that this legal move is no different from measures taken by France in late 2017 after the removal of a two-year long state of emergency.

The third priority is about foreign policy. Ties with the Netherlands and Germany as well as Austria are seemingly improving in bilateral terms as a result of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s efforts. In a meeting with some journalists on July 23, Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s intention to develop better ties with all countries, particularly in the European continent, hinting new trilateral and four-way mechanisms with prominent partners, including France and Germany.

Çavuşoğlu underlined Turkey’s readiness to reconcile with the European Union as well as the fact that Turkey does not have the luxury to turn its back on the world’s wealthiest international organization. Upgrading the Customs Union and introducing a visa waiver for the Turkish nationals could be areas on which Turkey and the EU can develop their cooperation, according to the minister.

However, these three priorities contradict one another because of the probable negative impact of the anti-terror law on achieving economic and diplomatic targets. There are serious concerns that this new law will institutionalize emergency rule for another three years at the expense of further deteriorating the state of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

This situation is obviously not ideal for attracting foreign investment, which looks for stability, predictability, and a well-functioning rule of law. It also conveys the message that Turkey is still far from the normalization process.

As for foreign policy, this law will definitely put another hurdle before any attempt to engage with the European Union, if, of course, the government has such an objective. Plus, it will also further complicate Turkey’s demands for upgrading the Customs Union and visa exemption for Turkish nationals.

It is symbolically important that the first legislative activity of the Turkish Parliament under the new presidential system is the one that de facto extends the state of emergency for another three years. Clearly, this bill does not send the right message to the outer world about the government’s future policies.

By Serkan Demirtas

Turkey sacks 18,500 state employees in new decree

July 8, 2018

Turkish authorities ordered the dismissal of more than 18,500 state employees including police officers, soldiers and academics, in a decree published on Sunday.

The Official Gazette said 18,632 people had been sacked including 8,998 police officers in the emergency decree over suspected links to terror organisations and groups that “act against national security”.

Some 3,077 army soldiers were also dismissed as well as 1,949 air force personnel and 1,126 from the naval forces.

© AFP | Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Another 1,052 civil servants from the justice ministry and linked institutions have been fired as well as 649 from the gendarmerie and 192 from the coast guard.

Authorities also sacked 199 academics, according to the new decree, while 148 state employees from the military and ministries were reinstated.

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish media dubbed the decree as the “last” with officials indicating the state of emergency could end as early as Monday.

The emergency has been renewed seven times and the latest period is officially due to end on July 19.

Over 110,000 public sector employees have been removed previously from their jobs via emergency decrees since July 2016 while tens of thousands more have been suspended in a crackdown criticised by Ankara’s Western allies.

Turkey accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the attempted coup. The majority of those fired under the emergency are accused of links to Gulen.

The government refers to the movement as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation”. Gulen strongly denies any coup links and insists his movement is a peaceful organisation.

Sunday’s decree shut down 12 associations across the country as well as three newspapers and a television channel.

Human rights defenders including Amnesty International have lambasted the purges as arbitrary but Turkey says they are necessary to remove the Gulen movement’s infiltration of state bodies.

Earlier this year, the government said more than 77,000 people had been arrested over alleged links to Gulen.


Turkey’s opposition scents success against Erdogan — “Wind in their sails”

June 1, 2018

Image result for erdogan, photos

Tukrey’s authoritarian president may be in a spot of bother

VICTORY for Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AK) party in presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24th should have been a foregone conclusion. The strongman enjoys unwavering support from his religious base, indirect control over practically all big news outlets, and emergency powers that allow him to rule by decree, lock up some critics and make others think twice before speaking.

The second-largest opposition party in parliament, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has been in effect banished from the airwaves. Its candidate for president, one of Mr Erdogan’s most outspoken rivals, Selahattin Demirtas, was arrested in 2016 on trumped-up terrorism charges, and is leading his campaign from a prison cell.

No automatic alt text available.

The president’s opponents are still the underdogs in the coming votes, to be held early and for the first time simultaneously. But they seem to have picked up momentum—and found the right candidates.

Muharrem Ince, the nominee of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is a popular firebrand and one of the few secular politicians capable of connecting with religious voters. Born into a conservative family, Mr Ince prays regularly and defends the right of female civil servants to wear the Islamic headscarf, but also seems to enjoy an occasional drink. Meral Aksener, a veteran nationalist and a former minister of the interior, has propelled herself and her Iyi (“Good”) party from obscurity to the national stage. Remarkably for a party founded less than a year ago, Iyi seems poised to receive well above 10% of the vote in the parliamentary election. Recent polls give Mrs Aksener herself up to 20% in the first round of the presidential contest. Mr Demirtas has also polled in the double digits—not bad for a politician forced to communicate with the outside world through his lawyers and a few social-media accounts.

Image result for Muharrem Ince,photos

Muharrem Ince

Mr Erdogan’s opponents have taken a few pages out of the president’s playbook. Earlier this year AK formed an electoral coalition with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), whose leader spent years calling Mr Erdogan a dictator only to change tack in exchange for help fighting off an internal challenge. By hitching its wagon to the ruling party’s, the MHP will no longer have to clear the 10% threshold needed to enter parliament.

The opposition has responded in kind. Soon after Mr Erdogan called early elections, the CHP, Iyi, the Felicity Party (SP) and the small Democrat Party forged an alliance of their own, paving the way for even the smallest of the group to send a few members to parliament. A surprising display of solidarity followed. When rumours started to fly that Iyi might be barred from running in the elections due to a controversy about the timing of its party congress, the CHP loaned it some of its own MPs. (Any party with at least 20 members of parliament can take part in the elections.) Each of the two main opposition hopefuls has promised to endorse the other in the second round against Mr Erdogan, assuming he does not win outright.

The opposition has been less magnanimous towards the HDP, which was not invited to join the alliance. Most Turks view the party as a front for the PKK, a Kurdish insurgent group. But some overtures have been made. The presidential contenders have all called for Mr Demirtas to be released before the elections, a plea the courts and the government have ignored.

The sight of the CHP, a secularist party, in cahoots with the SP, an Islamist one, probably has their respective founders, Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, and Necmettin Erbakan, a former prime minister, turning in their graves. But desperate times make for desperate bedfellows. Temel Karamollaoglu, the SP’s leader, says the alliance is a marriage of necessity designed to rescue what remains of Turkey’s democracy from Mr Erdogan’s grip. The president and his men have less in common with political Islam than with crony capitalism, says Mr Karamollaoglu. “There is no justice,” he says. “The separation of powers is gone.”

The opposition parties have vowed to scrap Mr Erdogan’s new constitution, which passed by a sliver in a 2017 referendum marred by irregularities and allegations of fraud. The changes will kick in immediately after the elections, reducing parliamentary oversight, abolishing the office of prime minister and concentrating all executive power in the hands of the president. Mr Ince describes this as a recipe for a “one-man regime” and promises to change the constitution again to return to parliamentary rule “as soon as possible”. He and others also pledge to end the state of emergency, which began days after an abortive coup in July 2016, and which has served as cover for sweeping government repression. They may be able to do this, if they can win enough seats to wrest control of parliament from the AK.

For now, Mr Erdogan’s biggest headache is a currency crisis largely of his own making. The president has long insisted on holding lending rates down to keep the economy firing on all cylinders. The central bank has obliged. But the resulting credit binge has come at a cost. The value of the Turkish lira has fallen by half against the dollar since 2015. Following an interview in May in which Mr Erdogan repeated his odd view that high interest rates cause inflation and signalled he would take even greater control of monetary policy after the elections, the currency lost 10% of its value in a week. It strengthened only when Mr Erdogan ceded to orthodoxy and allowed the central bank to raise rates (see article). Turkish companies that racked up mountains of foreign debt may now be on the verge of default. Despite his authoritarian record and wacky economic theories, the markets have always preferred Mr Erdogan and his AK to the fragmented opposition. Over the past month they may have had a change of heart.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Wind in their sails”

Erdogan’s policies driving Turkey to the edge, challenger says — “I see that a wind of change is blowing”

May 16, 2018

President Tayyip Erdogan is driving Turkey “to the cliff” through ideological politics and a determination to control the central bank, the main opposition party’s presidential candidate said on Wednesday as the lira hit new record lows.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

FILE PHOTO: The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks at Chatham House in central London, Britain May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Muharrem Ince, who seeks to end Erdogan’s 15-year hold on power in next month’s elections, said the central bank and other economic institutions must be able to operate independently.

Erdogan said this week he plans to take greater control of the economy after the June 24 presidential and parliamentary polls, comments which drove the lira to fresh record lows. It is down 15 percent against the dollar this year.

“He’s taking the country to the cliff. The central bank needs to be independent, and the other economic bodies need to be autonomous. The rules need to operate,” Ince told Reuters in an interview.

The victor in next month’s election, held under a state of emergency imposed after a failed coup in 2016, will exercise sweeping new executive powers after Turks narrowly approved a constitutional overhaul in a referendum last year. The changes come into effect after the June vote.

Polls show Erdogan is comfortably the strongest candidate, though he could face a challenge if the presidential vote goes to a second round in July and his opponents rally around the other remaining candidate.

Ince, 54, a combative parliamentarian and former physics teacher, has energized his secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) since he started campaigning and may emerge as the leading opposition candidate – although he faces competition from former interior minister Meral Aksener.

Aksener’s nationalist Iyi (Good) Party and the CHP have joined with two other smaller parties in an opposition alliance for the parliamentary election. She and Ince are competing separately in the presidential vote.


Ince said the president was driven by “ideological obsessions” and pushing Turkey in the wrong direction.

Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, wants lower borrowing costs to boost credit and new construction, and has said the central bank will not be able to ignore the president’s wishes. That has fueled concerns about the bank’s ability to fight double-digit inflation.

Since his Islamist-rooted AK Party swept to power in 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics. His power is reinforced by a near-monopoly of broadcast media coverage. Most TV channels show nearly all his campaign rallies, but rarely offer a platform to his opponents.

“The state of the media is heartbreaking. They have surrendered, they have kneeled,” Ince said, adding he had told broadcasters that unless they started to cover his speeches, he would hold a rally directly outside their offices to shame them.

If elected, Ince pledged to reverse some of the powers granted to the new presidency, saying it handed total control of the budget, judiciary and executive to one person.

Several European Union countries have expressed alarm that those changes are pushing Turkey deeper into authoritarian rule. Turkey is still a candidate for EU membership, though negotiations have stalled over rights concerns and other issues.

Erdogan says the increased powers are necessary to tackle security threats following the failed coup and conflict on Turkey’s southern borders with Syria and Iraq.

“No mortal should be given such authority,” Ince said. “It shouldn’t be given to me either.”

Against Erdogan, a skilled campaigner, the CHP has struggled to win support beyond its core base of secular-minded voters. In the last parliamentary election in November 2015 it took 25.3 percent of the vote.

Ince has pledged to be a non-partisan leader if elected, styling himself as “everyone’s president” and promising not to live in the 1,000-room palace built by Erdogan in Ankara.

“I see that a wind of change is blowing,” he said, pointing to what he described as a new atmosphere at his political rallies compared to last year’s referendum campaign.

“The momentum I have garnered is very different – there is a strong wind and people feel excitement,” he said.

Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Gulsen Solaker in Ankara; Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones


Erdoğan kicks off election campaign in CHP stronghold İzmir

April 27, 2018

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will begin working intensely for the early June 24 general and presidential elections as President and Chairman of the AK Party Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will kick off the campaign tomorrow in the western province of İzmir, a city known for being a stronghold for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Image may contain: sky, plant and outdoor

In the last Nov. 1, 2015 elections, the CHP garnered nearly 47 percent of the vote in İzmir. Yet, the AK Party has an improving trend in İzmir province. While the CHP received 55 percent of the vote in the 2009 local elections in İzmir, its votes dropped to 49 percent in 2014, and the AK Party increased its votes by 5 percent by reaching from 30 percent to 35 percent from 2009 to 2014 in the CHP stronghold. Erdoğan places great emphasis on increasing votes in İzmir, the third most-populated metropolis in Turkey. Traditionally, the electoral base in the western coastal city is known to be secularist and have center-left tendencies, making it a more strategic location for the AK Party’s broader strategy of winning the elections.

Erdoğan is expected to visit around 50 provinces and more than 20 districts to meet with voters across the country. According to media reports yesterday, the AK Party cadres have been instructed by Erdoğan to use the limited time as effectively as possible. The party’s roadmap for the electoral propaganda has been set out in Central Executive Board (MYK) and Central Decision Board (MKYK) meetings, and Erdoğan has called on everyone to give their best in the process.

The AK Party has also taken the holy month of Ramadan into consideration, during which practicing Muslims are fasting during the day. In this respect, AK Party deputies and members will hold rallies in the day; gather with citizens for fast-breaking events in the evening and for sahur [early breakfast before the fasting begins] in the morning.

Erdoğan is expected to announce his party’s electoral manifest on May 6 in Istanbul.

With this strategy, the AK Party will seek to reach out to as many voters as possible by coming together at least three times. Since there are only less than 60 days left until the crucial elections, the ruling party is taking the issue seriously. In addition to Erdoğan’s rallies, Prime Minister and Vice Chairman Binali Yıldırım will also attend events.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that aside from the objective of winning the presidential elections, the AK Party will also accelerate efforts to gain the majority in Parliament. According to some sources, AK Party deputies have been stressing that winning the presidential elections would not be enough, and that the results must also impact the balance in Parliament. Party officials underline that a majority needs to be obtained so that the new presidential governing system functions well. AK Party authorities contend that “in a Parliament consisting of 400 AK Party and 200 opposition bloc, you would face problems even if you won the presidential elections.”

It has been argued that if the party of the president and the majority party in Parliament are not one and the same, it might lead to a deadlock that prevents the ratification of significant regulations.

During the run-up to the elections, the AK Party deputies are expected to inform the party supporters regarding the issue and highlight the significance of gaining a majority in Parliament. The issue is also considered as significant by the opposition bloc, who underscore gaining the majority in Parliament.

More than 50 million Turkish citizens will head to ballot boxes on June 24 for the parliamentary and presidential elections after the AK Party and the MHP called for early elections last week.

“Turkey is still governed by the system that we can call ‘the old one.’ Even though it seems as if there is no serious problem, we may be confronted with the diseases of the old system,” Erdoğan said, also citing security reasons with regard to the need for early elections.

Daily Sabah


Is Turkey’s Erdogan ‘Irreplaceable’? Abdullah Gul may try to find out… Speaks of ‘Normalization’

April 27, 2018

Image may contain: 5 people, closeup


  • Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology
  • A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law

 ANKARA: Rumors are rife in Turkey that former President Abdullah Gul could emerge as a possible contender against his once close political ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the June elections.

Gul, who along with Erdogan was among the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, has met with opposition leaders amid speculation he could run as a presidential candidate for the main opposition alliance.

Erdogan called the snap election, which will select the president and Parliament members, last week, catching opposition parties off guard.

Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology.

However, Gul, who served as Turkey’s president from 2007 to 2014, has increasingly criticized Erdogan’s handling of the aftermath of an attempted coup in 2016.

A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law that exempted civilians who fought against the coup attempt in 2016 from criminal liability.

Slams Erdogan

He also openly slammed the repeated extension of the state of emergency in Turkey, which has been in place since the coup, and called for normalization in the country.

With his conciliatory approach to politics and leadership in the rapprochement process with Armenia and the Kurds in Turkey, Gul was widely respected by the international community as president.

Asked about speculation on Gul’s candidacy, Erdogan said on Tuesday: “I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Alliances with the sole motivation of hostility toward Erdogan are being formed,” he added.

If nominated by the opposition camp, Gul is expected to announce a manifesto that promises a return to the parliamentary system by abolishing the executive presidential changes to the constitution approved by a controversial referendum last year.

He is also said to be announcing a new constitutional draft and suggesting an alternative council of ministers focused on improving the Turkish economy.

The deadline to submit applications for the presidential candidacy is May 4.

Gul held talks with the leader of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), Temel Karamollaoglu, on Wednesday and met former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara a day earlier, according to Turkey’s pro-government daily Haber Turk.

Other opposition figures are also meeting to discuss alliances for the election on June 24. Karamollaoglu met Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Meral Aksener, who heads the right-wing nationalist Good Party (Iyi Parti).

Electoral opportunity

Kilicdaroglu has described the upcoming elections as an opportunity to salvage the country from what the opposition claims is Erdogan’s increasingly draconian rule.

“Abdullah Gul’s name is not on the CHP agenda,” said Ozgur Ozel, parliamentary group leader of CHP. But the SP still insists on his candidacy.

According to experts, for the other candidates to surpass Erdogan they will need the votes of all the other opposition parties and some of the AKP constituencies.

Polls show that Erdogan, who has dominated the top rungs of power in the country for more than 15 years, enjoys about 50 percent of voter support.

“This means that a candidate would need to appeal to Turkish nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Islamists and secularists in order to get more votes than Erdogan who has a much more solid base,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News.

Gul appears to be the best alternative in this regard, experts said.

However, the decision by the newly founded Iyi Party on whether they would join other opposition parties to nominate Gul as the opposition block candidate would be critical.

If Erdogan does not win the presidency in the first round of voting — by securing at least 50 percent plus one vote — then a second round will be held within two weeks.

If the race is between more than two candidates, Erdogan would win the presidency again, said Dr. Emre Erdogan, co-founder of an Istanbul-based research company, Infakto Research Workshop.

“Hence, the calculus of Gul’s move is simple: Exchanging mid-to-long-term uncertain gains, with certain short-term victories, namely being the next president of Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Nominating conservative Gul will cost the CHP some ultra-secular votes, but considering the discipline of its voters, the price will be minuscule and easily compensated by Kurdish voters who favor Gul, Dr. Emre Erdogan said.

“Among all alternative scenarios, only the nomination of Gul seems to be the one with the highest potential to influence the outcome,” he said.


Eight Egyptian soldiers, 14 militants killed in Sinai attack: army

April 14, 2018


CAIRO (Reuters) – Eight Egyptian soldiers and 14 militants were killed in fighting in central Sinai on Saturday when gunmen carrying explosive belts and grenades targeted a military checkpoint, the army said.

The attack was the largest against Egyptian security forces since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won a second term in office last month, promising to work for stability and security in Egypt.

It also came just hours after the country extended a state of emergency imposed a year ago.

The militants attacked the checkpoint at around dawn, an army statement said. Four of them detonated their explosive belts, killing the soldiers and wounding 15 others, it added.

 Illustrative: Egyptian army conscripts stand guard outside the Suez Canal University hospital in the eastern port city of Ismailia on November 25, 2017, where the victims of a bomb and gun assault on the North Sinai Rawda mosque a day earlier.. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Illustrative: Egyptian army conscripts stand guard outside the Suez Canal University (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed) — FILE photo

Egypt has been fighting an Islamist insurgency in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula since Sisi ousted Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, after popular protests against Mursi’s rule.

Sisi in November ordered the military to defeat militants in north Sinai within three months, after an attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people, the deadliest such incident in the Arab world’s most populous country.

The military launched what it said was a major operation against the militants in February, a month before Sisi was re-elected in a vote featuring just one other candidate, a strong supporter of the president.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; writing by Arwa Gaballa; editing by Clelia Oziel

Buddhist mobs target Sri Lanka’s Muslims despite state of emergency

March 7, 2018


COLOMBO (Reuters) – Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and businesses belonging to Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims overnight, police said on Wednesday, despite the imposition of a state of emergency to restore peace in the bitterly divided island.

Police imposed an indefinite curfew in the central highlands district of Kandy where the violence has been centered since Sunday night following the death of a Buddhist youth in an altercation with a group of Muslims.

But police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said there had been “several incidents” throughout Tuesday night in the Kandy area, popular with tourists for its tea gardens.

Sri Lankan soldiers and police officers outside a vandalized building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy, on Tuesday after mob attacks there. Credit Pradeep Pathiran/Associated Press

“The police arrested seven people. Three police officers were injured from the incidents,” Gunasekara told Reuters. There was no information about how many civilians had been injured in the attacks, he said.

Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites.

Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

President Maithripala Sirisena imposed a state of emergency for seven days on Tuesday, aiming to stop the violence from spreading to other parts of the country still healing from a 26-year civil war against Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.


Elite Sri Lankan forces and police officers stand guard near a house burnt down in the clashes in Digana, central Kandy (Reuters)

A government minister said the latest violence in Kandy had been whipped up by people from outside the area. “There is an organized conspiracy behind these incidents,” Sarath Amunugama, a senior minister told reporters in Colombo.

He said the government will implement the rule of law impartially in the overwhelmingly Buddhist nation in which Muslims make up 9 percent of the 21 million population, the smallest minority after ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus.

Police ordered Dialog Axiata, the country’s largest mobile phone service provider, to restrain internet connections in the Kandy district after postings appeared on Facebook threatening attacks on Muslims.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilalt; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Michael Perry

Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

March 6, 2018


© AFP/File | Sri Lankan police have imposed a curfew in the riot-hit central district of Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics
COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots that have killed at least two people and damaged dozens of mosques and homes.”The cabinet of ministers decided on tough measures, including a 10-day nationwide state of emergency,” Minister of City Planning Rauff Hakeem said as police imposed a curfew in the riot-hit central district of Kandy.

The government deployed heavily-armed police commandos in the hill station region, which is popular with tourists, after rioters defied an overnight curfew and went on the rampage.

The curfew in the district was extended after the body of a Muslim man was pulled from the ashes of a burnt building, threatening to further raise communal tensions that have flared up across Sri Lanka in recent weeks.

The emergency declaration gives authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods, and allows the government to deploy forces where needed.

It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has resorted to such a measure. The island nation was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades as government forces battled Tamil rebels in a civil war that ended in 2009.

Hakeem said the riots were concentrated in Kandy — home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics — but the government wanted to send a strong message given outbreaks of communal violence elsewhere recently.

A police spokesman said earlier Tuesday hundreds of commandos from the police Special Task Force had been deployed to Kandy to restore order and enforce the curfew.

Muslim homes, business and mosques were badly damaged in riots Monday triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of a mob last week.

The Sinhalese are a mainly Buddhist ethnic group making up nearly three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Muslims account for 10 percent of its population.

More than two dozen arrests have been made and an inquiry opened into police conduct in Kandy, just the latest region to be plagued by religious and ethnic conflict.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese.

The government dismissed the allegation as baseless and ordered the arrest of those fomenting unrest in the area.

Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

In June 2014 riots between Buddhists and Muslims left four dead and many injured.

That violence was instigated by a Buddhist extremist group whose leaders are on trial accused of spurring religious conflict.