June 22, 2017 at 9:24 am

Mexico murder rate reaches record high

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Mexico registered more than 2,000 murders in May, a record high for any month since 1997, underlining the country’s struggles to deal with the trade in narcotics.

There were 2,186 murder investigations in May, according to the latest government statistics released on Wednesday, surpassing the previous monthly high of 2,131 in May 2011.

Some cases may include multiple homicides, and the number of murder victims reported in May was 2,452, the highest for any month in a separate series of data that only goes back to 2014.

The deadliest state was Guerrero, in the south, a hotspot in Mexico’s war on drugs where 216 people were killed. 

Murder investigations in the first five months of the year totaled 9,916 cases, up nearly 30 percent from the same period in 2016.

The violence surrounding the multi-billion-dollar drugs trade has contributed to a slump in the popularity of President Enrique Pena Nieto, and could undermine support for his Institutional Revolutionary Party in next year’s presidential race.

In the western state of Sinaloa, where rival factions have been battling for control of the Sinaloa drug cartel since its kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was extradited to the US in January, 154 people were killed, the highest number in six years.

Since Mexico first sent the military to fight drug trafficking in 2006, a wave of bloodshed has left more than 200,000 people dead or missing, as rival cartels wage war on each other and the army.

Discoveries of bodies tossed by the roadside, strung up on bridges as warnings to rival drug gangs, or buried in mass graves have become regular events in Mexico.

The capture or killing of major drug bosses during the past decade led to an increase in the number of gangs fighting each other over turf and battling government forces.

According to statistics from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Mexico’s murder rate in 2015 was 16.35 people per 100,000, higher than the US rate of 4.88 but much lower than in many countries in Central America and the Caribbean.

In an investigative piece for The Nation, Dawn Paley details the “spectacular violence” that has accompanied the drug war project.

“In 2014, Mexico ranked as the country with the third-most civilians killed in internal conflict, after Syria and Iraq. Bodies have been buried, burned, displayed in public places, hung from bridges and overpasses or beheaded and left at city hall.”

A report at The Intercept last year noted that in Mexico “98.3 percent of crimes [went] unpunished in 2013, according to Mexican government statistics.” 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/mexico-murder-rate-reaches-record-high-170622052056456.html

at 9:24 am

Deadly car bomb hits Afghanistan’s Lashkar Gah

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A car bomb exploded outside a bank in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern Afghan province of Helmand, killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens, officials said.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said at least 50 people were wounded, including members of the police and army, civilians and staff of the New Kabul Bank branch where the attack took place.

The blast took place around 12 noon local time (08:00GMT), according to Zwak, when civilians and members of the security forces waiting to collect their pay.

“Civilians and military are among the wounded,” Zwak said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said the explosion took place outside a branch of Kabul Bank.

“This private bank has been targeted before. It does handle salary payments for security forces,” he said.

“Because it has been targeted before, it does have very tight security. But there’s only so much you can do with a car bomb outside.”

Last month, at least three people were killed and many wounded in an attack on a bank in the eastern city of Gardez.

Lashkar Gah is situated just over 550km from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul.

More to follow… 


Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/deadly-car-bomb-hits-afghanistan-lashkargah-170622082624332.html

June 21, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Ex-Saudi crown prince pledges allegiance to successor

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Former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has pledged allegiance to his successor Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

A royal decree on Wednesday removed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a 57-year-old nephew of the king, as next in line to the throne and replaced him with Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who was previously the deputy crown prince.

In televised images released by the state’s channel, Mohammed bin Salman, the former deputy crown prince, greeted his predecessor and said: “I will never give up your advice.”

The new crown prince was also named as deputy prime minister, and maintained his defence minister role.

King Salman called for royals to pledge allegiance to his son at the Safa Palace in Mecca after the Ramadan Taraweeh prayers.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that, in the interests of the country’s citizens, King Salman had already pledged allegiance to the new crown prince on behalf of the governors in the kingdom.

The king issued a decree last weekend restructuring Saudi Arabia’s system for prosecutions that stripped Mohammed bin Nayef of long-standing powers overseeing criminal investigations.

Instead the newly named Office of Public Prosecution and prosecutor will now report directly to the monarch.

Younger Saudis regard the ascent of Mohammed bin Salman as evidence that their generation is taking a central place in modernising and reforming a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the older generations.

READ MORE: Saudis ‘reject’ Turkey offer to build base in kingdom

Mohammed bin Nayef, who is credited with putting down an al-Qaeda bombing campaign and establishing close ties with the United States, was also relieved of his role as interior minister.

He had taken over the formidable and effective security structure built by his father, the late Crown Prince Nayef.

The position was given to Mohammed bin Nayef’s nephew, 28-year-old law graduate Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud.

The royal decree also included an extension of the Eid al-Fitr holiday by a week, from 10 to 17 days, to mark the occasion.

Mohammed bin Salman embarked on major overseas visits, including a trip to the White House to meet US President Donald Trump in March.

That visit to Washington helped to lay the foundation for Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May, which marked the president’s first overseas visit.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said this is the first time Saudi Arabia has such a young prospective king”.

“The king feels it is time to leave a legacy,” he said.

“The last two years the deputy crown prince has actually been leading while the crown prince was on the side,” Bishara added.

“It was just time to give him the official title.”



Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/saudi-crown-prince-pledges-allegiance-successor-170621143155165.html

at 9:21 pm

Iconic Grand al-Nuri mosque in Iraq’s Mosul ‘blown up’

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The landmark Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul and its leaning minaret have been blown up, according to reports, with the Iraqi army blaming ISIL for its destruction and the armed group accusing a US-led coalition air raid.

In recent days, US-backed Iraqi forces have been pushing deeper into the last remaining areas held by ISIL in Iraq’s second city. 

“Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 metres of the Nuri mosque, Daesh (ISIL) committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque,” Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Grand al-Nuri mosque is where ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a speech proclaiming the creation of a “caliphate” [Reuters]

In a statement on its Amaq website, ISIL blamed US aircraft for destroying the mosque.

Grand al-Nuri mosque is where ISIL’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a rare appearance in June 2014 and made a speech while standing at a pulpit to proclaim the creation of a “caliphate”.

Battle for Mosul

Iraqi forces earlier on Wednesday said they had started a push towards the mosque. A US-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the Mosul offensive which began in October 2016.

The forces had encircled on Tuesday the armed group’s stronghold in the Old City, the last district under their control in Mosul.

READ MORE: Iraqi forces launch assault to take Mosul Old City

Iraqi officials had privately expressed the hope that the mosque could be captured early next week in time for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the “caliphate”, even though ISIL would continue to control territory west and south of the city, the largest they had control of in both Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and is believed to be hiding in the border area between Iraq and Syria, according to US and Iraqi military sources.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/iconic-grand-al-nuri-mosque-iraq-mosul-blown-170621193402284.html

at 9:21 pm

Will war of words hamper efforts to end Gulf crisis?

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More than two weeks have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a travel blockade.

But their grievances are still limited to little more than rumours and whispers.

US state department says the prolonged dispute is becoming increasingly confusing.

There has been a steady flow of harsh words between the countries involved.

Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, the Qatari ambassador to the US, wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal this week, responding to the UAE’s assertion that Qatar supports “terrorism”.

He said the UAE was singled out in the 9/11 Commission’s report for its role in laundering money to terrorists – and Emiratis, not Qataris, were among the hijackers.

Presenter: Sohail Rahman


Khalid Alkhater – research fellow at Cambridge University

Hillary Mann Leverett – former White House diplomat

Shafeeq Ghabra – professor of political science at Kuwait University

Source: Al Jazeera News

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2017/06/war-words-hamper-efforts-gulf-crisis-170621203226795.html

at 9:17 am

Philando Castile killing: Police video sparks outrage

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Police car video of a Minnesota officer shooting a black motorist, whose dying moments were livestreamed on Facebook, has been made public for the first time, just days after the officer was acquitted at trial.

The footage captures the fateful exchange between Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black motorist, and police officer Jeronimo Yanez in an incident that sparked nationwide protests last year.

The dashcam video – part of a trove of documents, images and audio from the investigation – shows Yanez approaching Castile’s car and explaining that he was pulled over for broken brake lights. 

The 29-year-old Yanez, who was found not guilty of manslaughter and other charges, began shooting only seconds after Castile told the officer he had a gun.

“Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me,” Castile said.

Before Castile finished that sentence, Yanez began pulling his weapon out of the holster.

Yanez said, “Ok. Don’t reach for it then”.

There is shouting, and Yanez screamed “don’t pull it out” before firing into the car.

The dashboard camera footage taken from St Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez’s squad car illustrated how a simple traffic stop shifted in an instant to a deadly confrontation.

When Yanez opened fire, another officer near the car jumped back, and Yanez began yelling at the driver.

Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker, had a permit to carry the weapon.

As more police and an ambulance arrived, Yanez could be heard breathing heavily and swearing and trying to explain his actions to fellow officers.

Although the squad-car footage was described repeatedly and was shown to jurors in the courtroom, it had never been released publicly.

The shooting on July 6, 2016, gained widespread attention because Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

The release of the video made some people even angrier about the death.

“One thing that it suggests is that the officer may have taken those actions because Castile was black,” Melanie Sloan, former prosecutor, told Al Jazeera.

“It’s unlikely that someone would warn an officer that he was armed before shooting that officer.”

Steven Belton, the black president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, said the video showed “a 21st century lynching” and was “powerfully painful”.

He said it is a reminder of black men “hanging from trees, black men being shot, beaten, stabbed for being black”.

He said Castile was “gunned down like a rabid animal”.

Officer ‘feared for his life’

Marcell Lenoir, a 24-year-old insurance worker from suburban Brooklyn Center, referred back to testimony that the officer thought Castile resembled a suspected armed robber.

“He already thought in his mind that this was a suspect in a robbery, and he just panicked and he messed up,” said Lenoir, who is mixed race, African-American and white.

Yanez testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun and he feared for his life.

Officers pulled Castile from the vehicle and began CPR. Yanez was then off-camera, but was heard talking through his body microphone.

Yanez’s acquittal prompted days of protests, including one in St Paul last Friday that attracted thousands and shut down Interstate 94 for hours.

Eighteen people were arrested. 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/philando-castile-killing-police-video-sparks-outrage-170621051241173.html

at 9:17 am

Mohammed bin Salman named Saudi Arabia’s crown prince

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has appointed his son, Mohammed bin Salman, as heir, in a major reshuffle announced early on Wednesday.

A royal decree removed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a 57-year-old nephew of the king, as next-in-line to the throne and replaced him with Mohammed bin Salman, 31, who was previously the deputy crown prince.

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the newly-announced crown prince was also named deputy prime minister and maintained his post as defence minister.

The former crown prince was also fired from his post as interior minister, the decree said.

The decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, the decree said.

The council is made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family.

The Saudi king called for a public pledging of allegiance to the new crown prince early on Wednesday, the channel said.

Mohammed bin Nayef promptly vowed loyalty to his successor after the decree. 

Restructuring power

Some royal observers had long suspected Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power under his father’s reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

The young prince was little known to Saudis and outsiders before Salman became king in January 2015. He had previously been in charge of his father’s royal court when Salman was the crown prince.

Over the weekend, the king had issued a decree restructuring Saudi Arabia’s system for prosecutions that stripped Mohammed bin Nayef of longstanding powers overseeing criminal investigations.

Instead King Salman ordered that a newly-named Office of Public Prosecution and prosecutor report directly to the monarch.

OPINION: The Gulf crisis – Royal ambitions and shaky alliances (June 15)

Mohammed bin Nayef was not believed to have played a significant role in Saudi and UAE-led efforts to isolate Qatar for its alleged support of Islamist groups and ties with Iran.

The prince had appeared to be slipping from public eye as his cousin, Mohammed bin Salman, embarked on major overseas visits, including a trip to the White House to meet President Donald Trump in March.

That visit to Washington helped lay the foundation for Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May, which marked the president’s first overseas visit.

The trip was promoted heavily by the kingdom as proof of its weight in the region and wider Muslim world.

Yemen and Iran

Despite Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitions, which include overhauling the kingdom’s economy away from its reliance on oil, the prince has faced criticism for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which he oversees as defence minister.

The war, launched more than two years ago, has failed to dislodge Iranian-allied rebels known as Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, and has had devastating effects on the impoverished country.

Rights groups say Saudi forces have killed scores of civilians and have called on the US, as well as the UK and France, to halt the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the Yemen war.

The newly-minted crown prince also ruled out any chance of dialogue with Iran.

In remarks aired on Saudi TV in May, Mohammed bin Salman framed the tensions with Iran in sectarian terms and said it is Iran’s goal “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shia doctrine.

He also vowed to take “the battle” to Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia’s rivalry has played out in proxy wars across the region.

They back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen and they support political rivals in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/saudi-arabia-appoints-king-salman-son-crown-prince-170621033707437.html

at 9:17 am

Uber’s CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick steps down

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Uber’s troubled CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick has resigned after a shareholder revolt, the company said in a statement.

Wednesday’s announcement came after a shareholder revolt as the company launched a new campaign to change its image amid a number of sexual harassment claims in the workplace, among other concerns.

The company’s board confirmed the move, saying that Kalanick is taking time to heal from the death of his mother in a boating accident “while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history”. 

On Tuesday, five of the ride-hailing app’s major investors demanded the chief executive step down immediately in a letter delivered to him in Chicago.

In a statement, Kalanick said his resignation would help Uber go back to building “rather than be distracted with another fight”, an apparent reference to efforts on the board to remove him.

A week ago, the 40-year-old said he would taken an indefinite leave of absence from the company. He will remain on the board of directors.

The resignation came after a series of costly missteps under Kalanick.

On Tuesday, Uber embarked on a 180-day programme to change its image by allowing riders to give drivers tips through the Uber app, something the company had resisted under Kalanick.

READ MORE: Uber’s Travis Kalanick apologises for berating driver

The San Francisco based company is trying to reverse damage done to its reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft, and an investigation into efforts to mislead government regulators.

Uber’s board said in a statement that Kalanick had “always put Uber first”.

Earlier this year, Uber came under fire through a #DeleteUber campaign, following Kalanick’s acceptance to serve as an adviser to US President Donald Trump.

Kalanick later stepped down from the advisory council.

The company’s hard-charging style has led to legal trouble.

The US Justice Department is investigating Uber’s past usage of phony software designed to thwart local government regulators who wanted to check on whether Uber was carrying passengers without permission.

Uber is also fighting allegations that it relies on a key piece of technology stolen from Google spin-off Waymo to build self-driving cars.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/uber-ceo-founder-travis-kalanick-steps-170621075340221.html

June 20, 2017 at 9:11 pm

US ‘mystified’ by Gulf states’ position towards Qatar

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The US state department says it is “mystified” that Gulf states have not released details about their grievances towards Qatar more than two weeks after they imposed a blockade on the country.

Heather Nauert, the state department spokesperson, said in Tuesday’s press briefing that the more time goes by, “the more doubt is raised” about the anti-Qatar measures imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and their allies.

“At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns regarding Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries,” she said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

READ MORE – Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

The three Gulf nations cut off sea and air links with Qatar, and have ordered Qatari nationals to leave their countries. They also urged their citizens to return to their respective nations, disrupting the lives of thousands in the region and restricting their freedom of movement.

Sanctions have also disrupted food and other imports into Qatar. 

The UAE said this week the sanctions could last for years unless Doha accepted demands that the Arab powers plan to reveal in coming days.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Doha would not negotiate with its neighbours to resolve the dispute unless they first lift the trade and travel restrictions.

Qatar has denied all accusations made by its neighbours.

Over the last two weeks US President Donald Trump has taken a tougher stance against Qatar, while the State Department had previously sought to remain neutral. 

Qatar hosts a US military base, Al-Udeid, which more than 11,000 US and coalition forces are deployed or assigned to and from which more than 100 aircraft operate.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/mystified-gulf-states-position-qatar-170620185107951.html

at 9:11 pm

NHRC chairman: Qatar’s blockade is a new Berlin Wall

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Qatar’s Chairman of National Human Rights Committee Ali bin Samikh al-Marri has said that the blockade imposed on his country is like a “new Berlin Wall”.

Speaking at a European Parliament meeting in Brussels, Marri urged the body to visit the NHRC headquarters to see what he referred to as the suffering of Qatari citizens by the new regulations of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is not just a case of diplomatic ties being cut off,” Marri said. “What is happening is not a boycott but an unjust blockade and a collective punishment for Qatar’s citizens and residents.”

Since the Gulf crisis broke out more than two weeks ago, the three countries had cut off diplomatic ties and given Qatari citizens residing within their borders approximately 14 days to leave.

READ MORE on Qatar-Gulf crisis: All the latest updates

Authorities of the three countries later backtracked and said that there would be exceptions for mixed-nationality families. However, the NHRC has documented cases where mothers were separated from their children.

Marri spoke of the “damages” caused by these rules, saying that they “directly affect international conventions on human rights”.

Amnesty International has condemned this decision on and said that the Bahraini, Emirati and Saudi governments have “needlessly put mixed-nationality families at the heart of a political crisis”.

Marri also informed European parliamentarians on Bahrain and the UAE’s new laws of punishing their citizens who expressed solidarity with Qatar with a prison sentence that ranges from five to 15 years.

The chairman called on international institutions to take quick steps to ensure Bahraini, Emirati, and Saudi governments to reverse their recent decisions. He also called for the preparation of reports and data documenting the various types of violations that have occurred in large numbers, particularly with regard to the displacement of families.

“We are ready to visit these three countries to discuss and resolve the humanitarian crisis,” he added.

Al Jazeera’s reporter in Brussels said the European delegates who attended the meeting will deliberate the case with their parties and parliament committees before deciding on the matter.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Article source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/nhrc-chairman-qatar-blockade-berlin-wall-170620192848794.html

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