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Indonesia tightens security ahead of presidential race result

‘People are dying’: UN official urges aid access for Myanmar’s Rakhine state YANGON: A UN official has urged Myanmar to grant aid workers “predictable, sustained access” to Rakhine state, where fighting between government troops and rebels has displaced nearly 33,000 people since late last year, saying lack of aid has cost lives.Ursula Mueller, a UN…

Indonesia tightens security ahead of presidential race result

‘People are dying’: UN official urges aid access for Myanmar’s Rakhine state

YANGON: A UN official has urged Myanmar to grant aid workers “predictable, sustained access” to Rakhine state, where fighting between government troops and rebels has displaced nearly 33,000 people since late last year, saying lack of aid has cost lives.Ursula Mueller, a UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said authorities had turned down her requests to meet those displaced by the conflict in a region barred to most aid groups since the fighting broke out.“We need access – predictable, sustained access – to reach the people in need,” Muller told Reuters late on Tuesday, at the end of a six-day visit to the southeast Asian nation.“If the assistance, including mobile clinics, cannot get to the people, they just don’t have the services and their needs are not being met and some people are dying.”Reuters could not immediately reach a government spokesman to seek comment.Rakhine has been in the global spotlight since 2017, after roughly 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing a military crackdown in response to militant attacks crossed into neighboring Bangladesh.UN investigators have called for senior military officers to be prosecuted over allegations of mass killings, gang rapes and arson. The military denies widespread wrongdoing.More recently, civilians have been caught up in clashes between the military and the Arakan Army, an insurgent group that recruits from the mainly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population and is fighting for greater autonomy for the state.During her visit, Mueller met senior officials in the capital, Naypyitaw, including state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi who said she was working toward “development and social cohesion” in Rakhine.“I was pointing out the humanitarian needs that are existing that need to be urgently met,” she added.Mueller also visited camps outside Sittwe, the state’s capital, where thousands of Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012. Most lack citizenship and face curbs on movement and access to basic services.Myanmar has been working with the UN on a strategy to close the camps, but it amounts to building new, more permanent homes in the same place rather than letting people return to areas from which they fled, Reuters reported last year.Mueller, who is also a deputy coordinator for emergency relief, said she had discussed the strategy with officials.“It’s not enough to erect buildings on the same site while the underlying causes are not addressed,” she added. “People have no freedom of movement. They are losing hope after seven years in this camp.”

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Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

SRINAGAR, India: India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two…

Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

SRINAGAR, India: India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two countries and poisoned their relations since independence in 1947.But the latest exchange follows India’s decision this month to rip up the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir, sparking protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighboring China.“The exchange of fire is going on,” a senior Indian government official said, calling it “heavy.”One Indian soldier was reportedly killed. Pakistan made no immediate comment on the violence.Late Friday, Pakistan and China succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir — behind closed doors — for the first time since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday hailed the gathering, saying that addressing the “suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”New Delhi insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter.“We don’t need international busybodies to try to tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people,” India’s UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin said after the meeting.US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals to come back to the negotiating table, speaking to Khan by phone on the importance of “reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue.”India on Saturday meanwhile gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir, imposed hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise August 5 gambit.Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored Saturday in the restive Kashmir Valley, the local police chief said.But mobiles and the Internet remained dead in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir state in a 30-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands.Fearing an angry and potentially violent response, India also sent 10,000 extra troops to the area, severely restricted movement and arrested some 500 local politicians, activists, academics and others.The state’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said Friday there would be a “gradual” restoration of phone lines over the weekend, with schools to resume classes in some areas next week.The transformation of Srinagar into an eerie maze of barricades, soldiers and concertinas of barbed wire has failed to stop public anger boiling to the surface.“We want peace and nothing else, but they have kept us under this lockdown like sheep while taking decisions about us,” resident Tariq Madri said.“Even my nine-year old son asked me why they had locked us inside,” he added.Several hundred protesters clashed with police in the city on Friday, who responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.People hurled stones and used shop hoardings and tin sheets as improvised shields, as police shot dozens of rounds into the crowd. No injuries were reported.The clashes broke out after more than 3,000 people rallied in the city’s Soura neighborhood, which has witnessed regular demonstrations this month.A week earlier around 8,000 people staged a protest which also ended in a violent confrontation with police, residents said.“I want the government to know that this aggression and aggressive policies don’t work on the ground,” said 24-year-old Adnan Rashid, an engineering student.Some people took to the streets on Saturday to buy essential goods but most shops in Srinagar remained closed.Mohammed Altaf Malik, 30, said people remained angry about the stripping of Kashmir’s special status “and the way it was done.”“There is widespread corruption and the police here have made it a business to pick up any people it wants and then ask for money to release them from detention,” Malik said as he went to visit a sick neighbor in hospital.“We don’t see anything changing from this for ordinary people like us,” he added.

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Pakistan, India exchange cross-border fire after UN meet on Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India: India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two…

Pakistan, India exchange cross-border fire after UN meet on Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India: India and Pakistan exchanged “heavy” cross-border fire on Saturday, after New Delhi’s move to strip the restive Kashmir region of its autonomy prompted a rare meeting of the UN Security Council.The two foes regularly fire potshots over the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan territory, which is divided between the two countries and poisoned their relations since independence in 1947.But the latest exchange follows India’s decision this month to rip up the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir, sparking protests from the local population, outrage from Pakistan and unease from neighboring China.“The exchange of fire is going on,” a senior Indian government official said, calling it “heavy.”One Indian soldier was reportedly killed. Pakistan made no immediate comment on the violence.Late Friday, Pakistan and China succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir — behind closed doors — for the first time since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday hailed the gathering, saying that addressing the “suffering of the Kashmiri people & ensuring resolution of the dispute is the responsibility of this world body.”New Delhi insists the status of the territory is a purely internal matter.“We don’t need international busybodies to try to tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people,” India’s UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin said after the meeting.US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals to come back to the negotiating table, speaking to Khan by phone on the importance of “reducing tensions through bilateral dialogue.”India on Saturday meanwhile gradually restored phone lines following an almost two-week communications blackout in its part of Kashmir, imposed hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise August 5 gambit.Seventeen out of around 100 telephone exchanges were restored Saturday in the restive Kashmir Valley, the local police chief said.But mobiles and the Internet remained dead in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir state in a 30-year-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands.Fearing an angry and potentially violent response, India also sent 10,000 extra troops to the area, severely restricted movement and arrested some 500 local politicians, activists, academics and others.The state’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said Friday there would be a “gradual” restoration of phone lines over the weekend, with schools to resume classes in some areas next week.The transformation of Srinagar into an eerie maze of barricades, soldiers and concertinas of barbed wire has failed to stop public anger boiling to the surface.“We want peace and nothing else, but they have kept us under this lockdown like sheep while taking decisions about us,” resident Tariq Madri said.“Even my nine-year old son asked me why they had locked us inside,” he added.Several hundred protesters clashed with police in the city on Friday, who responded with tear gas and pellet-firing shotguns.People hurled stones and used shop hoardings and tin sheets as improvised shields, as police shot dozens of rounds into the crowd. No injuries were reported.The clashes broke out after more than 3,000 people rallied in the city’s Soura neighborhood, which has witnessed regular demonstrations this month.A week earlier around 8,000 people staged a protest which also ended in a violent confrontation with police, residents said.“I want the government to know that this aggression and aggressive policies don’t work on the ground,” said 24-year-old Adnan Rashid, an engineering student.Some people took to the streets on Saturday to buy essential goods but most shops in Srinagar remained closed.Mohammed Altaf Malik, 30, said people remained angry about the stripping of Kashmir’s special status “and the way it was done.”“There is widespread corruption and the police here have made it a business to pick up any people it wants and then ask for money to release them from detention,” Malik said as he went to visit a sick neighbor in hospital.“We don’t see anything changing from this for ordinary people like us,” he added.

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17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

LIBREVILLE: President Ali Bongo of Gabon on Friday made his first live appearance in public nearly 10 months after suffering a stroke, attending ceremonies in the capital Libreville.Bongo, whose every move has been scrutinized for signs of ill health, attended commemorations on the eve of the country’s anniversary of independence, an AFP correspondent at the…

17 Chinese, Ukrainian seamen kidnapped off Cameroon

LIBREVILLE: President Ali Bongo of Gabon on Friday made his first live appearance in public nearly 10 months after suffering a stroke, attending ceremonies in the capital Libreville.Bongo, whose every move has been scrutinized for signs of ill health, attended commemorations on the eve of the country’s anniversary of independence, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.It was the first time he had been seen in public outside the presidential palace since falling ill last October, except for appearances that were filmed and edited by Gabonese government or state media.Smiling, the 60-year-old head of state exchanged a few words with security officers before laying a wreath at the tomb of Gabon’s first president, Leon Mba.Bongo walked with a stick and an aide helped him to climb several steps. The ceremony lasted half an hour, which was shorter than in previous years.Speculation about Bongo’s ability to rule the small oil-rich country surged after he suffered a stroke on October 24.He was flown to Morocco for treatment, returning in January. During his extended absence, the army quashed a brief attempted coup.In May, he dismissed his vice president and minister of forests after a scandal erupted over the smuggling of precious timber.Ten members of Gabon’s political opposition, civil society and trade union movement have filed a suit requesting Bongo be assessed to see whether he is medically fit to continue in office.A lower court dismissed the case in May, saying that only the two houses of parliament, or the Constitutional Court acting at the behest of the government, were empowered to determine whether the president was unfit.But the Court of Appeal on Monday said it would hear an appeal by the plaintiffs and set a date for it — August 26.Bongo is scheduled to make a televised speech on Friday evening and then on Saturday attend an annual military parade to mark the country’s independence from France in 1960.Opposition figures have urged the public to turn out in large numbers on Saturday to gain a closer look at his health.Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who became head of state in 1967 and died in June 2009, leaving a legacy of corruption allegations.

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