Saturday, October 31, 2015

Russia Scoffs as Islamic State Says it Brought Down Plane With 224 Aboard
Egypt officials inspect wreckage in Sinai.
Tribune wire reports

The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for bringing down the Russian Metrojet plane in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula — but it has offered no evidence and is not known to have the capability to do so.

It is not clear what caused the plane crash Saturday morning that killed 224 people on the flight from Egypt to St. Petersburg. Egyptian officials say the pilot reported technical difficulties and wanted to make an emergency landing. The Metrojet crashed in an area where Egyptian forces have been battling an Islamic insurgency.

Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov has scoffed at the IS claim, telling the Interfax news agency that such reports "must not be considered reliable."

Militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down any commercial airliners or fighter jets but there have been media reports that they have acquired Russian shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles. These missiles, however, are only effective against low-flying aircraft or helicopters.

The plane crashed in a remote mountainous region in the Sinai Peninsula about 20 minutes after taking off from a Red Sea resort popular with Russian tourists, the Egyptian government said.

There were no survivors, the Russian Embassy in Cairo said on its Twitter account.

Adel Mahgoub, chairman of the state company that runs Egypt's civilian airports, said that, except for three Ukrainian passengers, everyone on board was Russian. An Egyptian Cabinet statement said the passengers were 138 women, 62 men and 17 children. It said the aircraft, an Airbus 321, was 18 years old. There were seven crew members.

Most of the bodies recovered so far from the crash site were burned, said Egyptian military and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A civil aviation ministry statement said Egyptian military search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the passenger jet in the Hassana area some 44 miles south of the city of el-Arish, an area in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces have for years battled a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency which is now led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.

It said the plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh shortly before 6 a.m. for St. Petersburg in Russia and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after takeoff.

Egyptian Prime Minister Seherif Ismail briefly toured the crash site before he went to the Red Sea city of Suez where some of the victims' bodies were being taken before they are sent on to Cairo, the Cabinet statement said.

According to Russian news agencies, the Russian airliner was a charter flight under contract with the St. Petersburg-based Brisco tour company.

Russian airlines became infamous for poor safety in the early years following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which brought severe financial troubles and regulatory disorder. Although accidents have diminished in recent years, crashes persist, many of them blamed on human error.

The Egyptian officials said the aircraft was cruising at 36,000 feet when contact with air traffic controllers was lost.

Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said an investigative team has arrived at the crash site to examine the debris and locate the flight's recorders, or the "black box."

Separately, Russia's Investigative Committee, the country's top investigative body, has opened an investigation into the crash, according to a statement issued Saturday by committee spokesman Sergei Markin.

Earlier in the day, an Egyptian official with the government's Aviation Incidents Committee told local media that the plane had briefly lost contact but was safely in Turkish airspace.

Later, the same official, Ayman al-Muqadem, said the plane had crashed and that the pilot, before losing contact, had radioed that the aircraft was experiencing technical problems and that he intended to try and land at the nearest airport. The aircraft crashed at a site near the el-Arish airport, he said.

It was not immediately possible to independently confirm that technical problems caused the plane to crash.

Mahgoub said the aircraft had successfully undergone technical checks while at Sharm el-Sheikh's airport. A technical committee from the company was headed to Sharm el-Sheikh to collect security camera footage of the plane while it sat at the airport, including operations to supply it with fuel and passenger meals as well security checks, he said.

The aircraft had overnighted at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, according to the Cabinet statement.

Roughly three million Russian tourists, or nearly a third of all visitors in 2014, come to Egypt every year, mostly to Red Sea resorts in Sinai or in mainland Egypt.

"It is too premature to detect the impact this will have on tourism. We need to know what happened first," Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Rasha Azazi told The Associated Press.
Putin Orders to Form Commission on Kolavia Plane Crash in Egypt
October 31, 13:50 UTC+3

The Russian leader expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash

MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to form a commission on Kolavia’s plane crash in Egypt, the Kremlin press service reported on Saturday.

Putin has expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.

He also has ordered Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov to urgently send to Egypt rescue planes to assist at the Kolavia’s plane crash site, the Kremlin press service said.

Putin has ordered the Emergencies Ministry and Health Ministry to provide assistance to families of the victims in the plane crash.

According to preliminary reports, Kolavia’s A321 plane crashed 100km from Arish in North Sinai.

Al Arabiya TV channel said citing Egyptian security services that the airliner was completely destroyed. There were 224 people onboard.

Moscow warns against using incorrect information about situation with Russian plane

October 31, 12:49 UTC+3

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, verified information will be provided via the Russian Embassy in Egypt or Russian Foreign Ministry’s department of information and media

MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry has warned against using incorrect information about the situation with the Russian passenger jet, official spokesperson Maria Zakharova told Rossiya 24 TV channel on Saturday.

"As soon as we can provide verified information, we will do it via the Embassy in Egypt or [Foreign Ministry’s] department of information and media," Zakharova said.

Zakahrova earlier wrote on her Facebook page that the Russian Embassy in Egypt is working on clarifying the situation with the Russian plane belonging to Kogalymavia air company.

"The staff of the Russian Embassy in Egypt are clarifying the situation around Russia’s Kogalymavia plane. As soon as verified information is received, it will reported to the media," she wrote.
Egyptian Authorities Report There Are No Survivors in Russian Airbus A321 Plane Crash
October 31, 15:58 UTC+3

According to preliminary information, the aircraft A321 of the airline Kolavia carrying out flight Sharm el-Sheikh - Petersburg crashed on Saturday, October 31, 100km from Arish in North Sinai

CAIRO, October 31. /TASS/. According to the Egyptian authorities there are no survivors in Russian Airbus A321 plane crash, Associated Press reported Saturday.

"There are no survivors in Russian plane crash," the authorities confirmed.

Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov has told journalists that Moscow will actively participate in the investigation of Kolavia plane crash in Egypt.

"We maintain working contacts with all air traffic controllers. In any case, we can talk about causes of the crash only after all information is analyzed and an international investigation is conducted in accordance with the Chicago Convention. Russia will actively participate in this investigation. As soon as any results are received, we will promptly share them with everyone involved," Sokolov said.

"We know where the mark vanished. It disappeared on the Israeli-Egyptian border or around it," he noted. "We have the full version of technical documents. The airliner had an airworthiness certificate and was allowed to perform international flights," Sokolov added.

"Together with Egyptian aviation authorities, we will investigate this accident at the site. We can already say that it was not an incident. A catastrophe happened with our airliner. The governmental commission is starting its work on investigating the causes of the crash," he said.

According to preliminary information, the aircraft A321 of the airline Kolavia carrying out flight Sharm el-Sheikh - Petersburg crashed on Saturday, October 31, 100km from Arish in North Sinai. Al Arabiya TV channel said citing Egyptian security services that the airliner was completely destroyed. There were 224 people onboard.

According to the Civil Aviation Ministry of Egypt 3 men, 138 women and 17 children aged from 2 to 17 years were on board of the Russian aircraft that crashed in Egypt.

According to the airport’s administration report, all passengers and crewmembers were Russian citizens.

Bodies of at least 100 people recovered at crash site of Russian Airbus A321

October 31, 14:39 UTC+3

63 men, 138 women and 17 children aged from 2 to 17 years were on board of the Russian aircraft

CAIRO, October 31. /TASS/. Bodies of at least 100 people recovered at crash site of Russian Airbus A321 in Egypt, Reuters reports.

63 men, 138 women and 17 children aged from 2 to 17 years were on board of the Russian aircraft that crashed in Egypt, Civil Aviation Ministry of Egypt said Saturday.

According to the reports, no survivors are yet found. Meanwhile, one of the black boxes have been found at Kolavia’s A321 plane crash site in Sinai.

Earlier Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport has handed documents on technical condition, pre-flight inspection, jet fuel volumes and number of passengers onboard the Russian plane.

According to the airport’s administration report, all passengers and crewmembers were Russian citizens.

According to preliminary reports, Kolavia’s A321 plane crashed 100km from Arish in North Sinai.

Al Arabiya TV channel said citing Egyptian security services that the airliner was completely destroyed. There were 224 people on board.

Russian plane leaves Egypt’s airspace before disappearing from radars near Larnaca

October 31, 11:18 UTC+3

Russia’s Rosaviatsiya aviation agency has confirmed that the Russian passenger plane went missing in Sinai, the agency’s official spokesman Sergey Izvolsky told TASS

CAIRO, October 31. /TASS/. The Russian passenger plane has left Egypt’s airspace before disappearing from radars near Cyprus’ Larnaca, Sky News Arabia TV channel reported on Saturday.

The plane that took off from the Sharm el-Shaikh airport in the morning was carrying 212 people.

It was earlier reported that the plane crashed in the central part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The Egyptian Embassy’s consular department is checking the information about the Russian plane.
Egypt’s PM says Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai.

The civilian airliner that lost contact with air traffic controllers and was feared crashed in Egypt’s Sinai has contacted Turkish air traffic controllers, Reuters reported on Saturday citing Ayman al-Muqaddam, the head of the central air traffic accident authority in Egypt.

Russian passenger plane was scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg at 12:10pm Moscow time, according to the Pulkovo airport.

The flight is operated by A321 belonging to Kogalymavia company.

Reuters earlier reported that the passenger plane that disappeared from radars in Egypt’s Sinai carried 212 people.

Russia’s Rosaviatsiya aviation agency has confirmed that the Russian passenger plane went missing in Sinai, the agency’s official spokesman Sergey Izvolsky told TASS on Saturday.

"According to preliminary reports, the Airbus A320 belonging to Kagalymavia, Flight 92-68, en route from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg has took off at 6:51 am Moscow time. At 7:14am it failed to contact Larnaca (Cyprus) and disappeared from radars. The plane carried 212 passengers and seven crewmembers," Izvolsky said.

A Russian plane that requested an emergency landing at one of closest airports shortly before disappearing from radars, a source in the Cairo International Airport said on Saturday.

The airliner was flying at 9,000 meters when the plane’s captain contacted air traffic controllers and requested emergency landing due to radio station malfunction. Connection with the plane was lost after that.
Russian Passenger Aircraft With 220 On Board Crashes Over Egypt
31 Oct, 2015 07:22

A Russian plane carrying over 220 people from Egypt to Russia disappeared from radars, and crashed in central Sinai, according to Russian and Egyptian authorities.

Kolavia Flight 7K9268, an Airbus A321, went off radar 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport, Sergey Izvolskiy told the media citing preliminary data.

The plane was carrying 217 passengers and 7 crewmembers, he added. Seventeen of the passengers were children.

The Russian embassy in Egypt initially said all on board were Russian citizens. Later, the Belorussian embassy said one of the passengers was Belorussian. Egyptian authorities said three of the victims were Ukrainian, but Kiev didn’t immediately confirm that.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail confirmed that the Russian plane did go missing over Sinai and said a cabinet-level crisis committee has been convened to deal with the incident.

The crash site was discovered hours later in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai, Egypt’s aviation ministry reported.

The plane was destroyed and all passengers and crewmembers were killed in the crash, Egyptian military and rescue officials told AP. Earlier, media reports suggested there might have been some survivors.

The Egyptian military told RT access to the crash site may be difficult for the press due to the volatile security situation in the Sinai. Large parts of the peninsula are dangerous due to the presence of militants, with only coastal areas in the north and south adequately guarded by security forces. The crash site is in the Hassana area 35 km south of Arish, the largest city in the Sinai.

The flight was traveling from the Egyptian resort to St. Petersburg. It belonged to the Kogalymavia airline, which also uses the brand name Metrojet, an operator popular among Russian tourists going to Egypt. The plane was supposed to contact air traffic in Turkish Cyprus’ Larnaca after leaving Egypt’s airspace, but failed to do so.

The tourist operator Brisco charted the ill-fated flight. The company is a business affiliate of Metrojet and they said the captain of the Airbus was an experienced pilot familiar with the aircraft.

“The captain was Velary Nemov, who has 12,000 flight hours under his belt, so he is definitely an experienced man. Of those, some 3,800 hours he spent piloting Airbus 320s. So we don’t have any reason to suspect human error from the crew,” a spokesman for Brisco said.

The plane climbed to its designated altitude of over 10,000 meters before rapidly losing speed, dropping and then vanishing from radar. Some reports in the Egyptian media cited eyewitnesses as saying the plane was on fire as it fell.

A source at Sharm El-Sheikh Airport told RIA Novosti the pilot of the missing plane requested a change of course, saying the jet would have to land in Cairo. The source said the crew of the crashed plane had complained to the airport’s technical service that the jet had engine problems.

The rapid drop the Airbus 321 reportedly experienced before crashing indicates pretty unusual circumstances and would suggest an emergency descent maneuver conducted by the crew, Captain Richard Woodward, former vice-president of the Australian and International Pilots' Association (AIPA), told RT.

“If engines had failed, that would give you a dramatic loss of speed initially, but the crew would have lowered the nose and commit what is called a glide descent,” he explained. “My initial thought was that it might have been an emergency descent by the crew because they had a pressurization problem or dare I say perhaps a bomb on board.”

Russia has declared Sunday a day of national mourning for the crash victims.

Metrojet had a fatal incident in 2011, when one of its planes caught fire on a runway in Surgut Airport in Russia’s Urals. Three people died and 40 were injured as the plane burned out in just 10 minutes.

The last large-scale Russian airline incident happened in November 2013, when Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363 crashed at Kazan International Airport while attempting to land. Fifty people died in the incident.
Syria Conflict: Progress Made at Vienna Meeting
October 31, 2015

VIENNA/MOSCOW. — World leaders said progress has been made in talks to resolve Syria’s civil war after “historic” talks in Vienna, but they continue to differ on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Vienna talks involved Iran, Syria’s ally, for the first time.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said there were grounds to start a UN-led peace process.

The meeting sought to close the gap between the US and its allies, who support the rebels, and the key foreign allies of the Syrian government, Russia and Iran.

The four-year-old war in Syria, which began with an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, has left 250 000 people dead and forced half the country’s population — or 11 million people — from their homes.

Russia and Iran have recently stepped up their military involvement in the conflict, backing forces loyal to Mr Assad.

But the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab nations have long insisted that Assad cannot play a long-term role in Syria’s future.

After the eight-hour meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was some common agreement among those attending, including on a new Syrian constitution and the role of the UN in Syria.

“As far as we are concerned, we think that Bashar al-Assad has no place in the future of Syria,” Fabius said. “Other people, other countries think differently, particularly Iran.”

More talks will be held within two weeks, he said.

“This meeting was definitely not an easy one,” said Ms Mogherini, “but for sure an historic one as we had, for the first time, all the actors around the table and I would say a very constructive atmosphere.”

Meanwhile, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared “the world needs Russia” as he met with the country’s leader Vladimir Putin in a controversial visit to Moscow Thursday.

“I’m happy to be here in Moscow, and you know my conviction that the world needs Russia,” Sarkozy told reporters ahead of his hour-and-forty-five-minute-long closed door meeting with Putin at the Russian leader’s residence just outside the capital.

“Russia and Europe should work together. . . To discuss, listen and respect, this is the destiny of France and Russia.”

The meeting between the two men, the third since Sarkozy left the Elysée Palace in 2012, comes at a time of fraught relations between the Kremlin and current French President François Hollande over Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine and recent military intervention in Syria.

Hollande has been one of the most outspoken opponents of working with Putin’s ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in finding a solution to the Syria conflict.

In a speech before students of the MGIMO, Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations, Sarkozy called on the West to end Russia’s isolation and declared the country an “indispensable” partner in resolving the conflict in Syria.

“We must merge the two coalitions into one,” Sarkozy said, referring to the rival US- and Russia-led military campaigns.

“Without Russia, one cannot meet the great challenges of this world,” he said, adding that the global role of Putin is “more positive than negative, despite our differences”.

A smiling Putin praised Sarkozy for his “impressive” speech.

“I am so happy to see you, Nicolas,” Putin said warmly.

Paris blasts Sarkozy’s ‘parallel diplomacy’

The trip has not gone down well with Paris, however.

French junior minister for higher education and research Thierry Mandon said Sarkozy had no business short-circuiting French foreign policy.

“Diplomacy is complicated, he is like a dog in a bowling alley in this affair,” he said on France 2 television.

The vice president of the French parliament’s France-Russia friendship group, Green Party member François Michel-Lambert, said Sarkozy’s “parallel diplomacy” was damaging for the country.

“It is amazing that the former head of state does not have a sense of statesmanship,” he said. — Agencies.
How Africa is Tackling ‘Next Generation’ Fears in Academia
October 30, 2015
Mignonne Breier Correspondent

Africa has many intellectuals and rich traditions of indigenous knowledge. Despite this, the continent has made a limited impact on global theory or research. This is consistent with global trends. Theory from the global south is widely ignored by the global north.

There is anxiety in many quarters about a shortage of academics in Africa’s universities. These worries have led to a spate of programmes to identify, develop and retain a “next generation” of scholars for the continent.

Many of these initiatives are being driven by international agencies. But their success actually depends on local commitments by governments, institutions and individual academics.

To understand efforts to build a “next generation” it is important to first examine why Africa’s universities are facing this problem. What’s holding Africa back?

Despite their inevitable differences, African universities have several shared challenges. These include:

1. limited government funding;

2. a rapid growth in undergraduate enrolments;

3. low postgraduate enrolments and graduation rates;

4. a general shortage of academic staff, and particularly those who hold PhDs; and relatively limited production of research.

Africa’s brain drain and limited research output is rooted in what Beninese philosopher Paulin Hountondji calls “extroversion”. This describes the dependence of African scholars on the intellectual resources of the global north.

It is a phenomenon that originated in the colonial era and persists today.

The continent is seen as a source of empirical data and a site for the application of research findings rather than for the apex of academic work — theory-building. African academics also experience imbalances and exploitation in international partnerships. Africa has many intellectuals and rich traditions of indigenous knowledge. Despite this, the continent has made a limited impact on global theory or research. This is consistent with global trends. Theory from the global south is widely ignored by the global north. Research — as measured by criteria set by academic institutions and publishers in the global North — is not a high priority in African universities. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa. The region’s share of global research output amounted to just 0.72 percent in 2012. And most of it emanated from South Africa.

Turning the tide — slowly

Some work is being done in different areas to improve the situation.

Overseas scholarship programmes have helped to increase the number of African doctoral graduates.

The problem comes once they return to the continent. Many PhD graduates from these programmes are overloaded with teaching and administration by older colleagues who resent their success.

In many cases their universities don’t have institutional research cultures or decent physical infrastructure.

These frustrations can drive bright young academics out of the space entirely.

In terms of research and collaboration, respect for higher education is growing among international agencies and African governments.

Researchers from the global North have realised that they need strong research partners in viable African universities. These partnerships help to attract international funding and encourage the best possible research about problems that affect both the world and the continent.

Several foundations have provided extensive funding for “next generation” programmes in Africa. The Association of Commonwealth Universities recently introduced an innovative blended learning programme called STARS to support early career researchers.

STARS is being piloted at universities in, among others, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. It will be made available across the developing world through a creative commons licence by late 2016.

The topics are the standard fare of researcher development programmes: how to write journal articles or grant proposals, or manage research projects. The difference is that each module is authored and presented by a researcher from an African institution. The material draws on issues and examples relevant to the continent. Another boost for research was the formation in March 2015 of the African Research Universities Alliance.

It aims to “build African research excellence as a ‘vital precondition’ for the continent to develop and exert control over its future’”. Its 15 members include universities from Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

South Africa’s quest for a “next generation” has a slightly different dynamic. It needs young academics who can compete internationally – and who are representative of all the country’s population groups. This comes after decades of racial exclusion and inequality entrenched by the apartheid government.

It won’t be a quick process: 48 percent of all permanent academics and 70 percent of professors are white.

That’s a sharp contrast with the 91 percent of the population and 80 percent of public higher education students who are black – African, Coloured and Indian.

The South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has created 125 new, permanent lectureships for mainly black “potential academics” through its New Generation of Academics Programme. These scholars will be able to study for their masters or doctoral degrees while being fully paid. They will also be paired with mentors, given funding to attend conferences and must participate in researcher development initiatives.

The department is also spending millions on Research Development Grants which are given to all universities to build the research capacity of their academic staff. The highest allocations are being made to some historically disadvantaged institutions with very poor research profiles. However, many of these institutions are facing a conundrum. They have the money to build their research capacity but lack the research, management and supervisory capacity to spend it appropriately. For this reason universities with strong research traditions are required to collaborate with others that are less research productive.— The Conversation.

The initiatives which DHET suggests are similar to those which my own university, the University of Cape Town (UCT), has offered since 2003 in its Emerging Researcher Programme. The programme has used funding from the university, government and international foundations to provide varying levels of support to more than 600 academics to date.

The programme offers mentoring, seminars, writing workshops and small, targeted research grants. It uses retired and current senior academics. It claims some credit for the fact that between 2003 and 2014 publication output per UCT academic increased by nearly 80 percent and weighted research output, which includes masters and doctoral graduations, increased by 55 percent.

In 2003 only 40 percent of UCT had PhDs. By 2014 the proportion had reached 67%, the highest in the country while the national average was 39 percent.

Money isn’t all that counts

All these initiatives suggest that universities in Africa will not crack the “next generation” problem without substantial funding. While the importance of funding should not be underestimated, it will not bring about long-lasting change without changes in institutional and individual mindsets.

Senior academics must realise that the future of academia might depend on their support for young academics who might not share their cultural backgrounds.

Some of the newcomers might be better qualified than their seniors – and so present a threat. Others will be so inexperienced they might be dismissed as a potential waste of time.

Young academics need to take responsibility for their own development, and use the opportunities provided by centralised and faculty programmes to engage with other early career researchers and form their own support networks and lobby groups.

Institutions need to be actively involved in the shaping of proposals to ensure that international programmes are in tune with local needs and conditions.

The shortage of “next generation” academics is a long-standing problem. It won’t disappear without very concerted efforts.- The Conversation

Mignonne Breier is a Research Development Manager, University of Cape Town
How Buhari Should Address the Biafran Activists Issue, by Chekwas Okorie
October 25, 2015
By Yinka Ajayi
Nigerian Vanguard

Chief Checkwas Okorie, founder of embattled All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in this interview, calls on President Buhari administration to be creative in addressing Biafra agitation issue.

The agitation for Biafra has continued several decades after civil war. What is the problem?

The issue for the agitation for Biafra has to do with agitation for self-determination by people wish to be treated with fairness, equity and justice.

Most of the young men on the street agitating for Biafra were born after the war and so looks like they do not know what led to the war. They cannot understand why their own people since they were born are invariably different from their peers in other parts of the country.

The South-east has suffered the most neglect from the Federal Government of Nigeria in terms of road construction. Even under  former President Jonathan’s administration, it was not any better.

The Buhari’s administration has just begun, so we cannot blame him that much. The matter was not picked up because Buhari became President; the Biafran agitation had been there practically since early 90s. But if  Buhari manages to address the agitation, the issue will die down. After all the Niger-Delta militancy preceeded the late President Yar’Adua. But his political moves doused the tension in that region with the initiative of amnesty.

It was the mismanagement of the Boko-Haram issue by the extra judicial killings of their leader that generated trouble in that region andt has turned to war  in Nigeria.

Arresting of agitators of the emancipation of Biafran state in my view, we have not learning from the Boko-Haram experience.

The promoter of Biafra Radio, Nnamdi Kanu, has been arrested by the DSS sparking protests in some major Igbo towns. What is the way out?

The government should release him unconditionally. If government feels her right has been infringed upon,she can go to court to press charges against him. You are aware that he has good lawyers to defend him. If care is not taken, it will become a celebrated case that would be tried under Nigeria laws. Because we have heard about radio Kudirat, it was not a properly registered radio. One of the ministerial nominees, Kayode Fayemi, said he had headed an illegal radio station before. Even the pro-APC radio that operated during the campaign period was not properly registered. I have not listened to Radio Biafra to know its position but I was informed that it is aggressive. It is people’s choice to decide to tune to it or not to.

I understand there have been attempts to use technology to jam the frequency of the radio but the attempts appear to have failed. The arrest of Boko-Haram leader Muhammed Yusuf was given as reason for the violence and spread of Boko-haram that has developed into a full-blown war in the North-east.

The fact that so many people came out to protest the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu shows he has a very large followership! And the followership may result into violent force, if mismanaged and I don’t think Nigeria can afford another violent crisis at this point in time we are battling Boko-Haram. We were able to manage Niger-Delta militancy very well, we should device a creative way to address the issue of agitation.

But does these not show that the Igbo question has not been addressed adequately?

Precisely, that is what I imply. The Igbo expectation have not been met and government policies are not adequately implemented. The entire South-east  area is ravaged by erosion, unusable roads, the Second Niger-Brigde has become what politicians use as campaign. We are not even talking about representation at the centre. I believe strongly that government is yet to perform up to expectations.

But don’t you think some set of Igbo are over reacting on the issue?

The Igbo are very constrained, there are so many things that happened to Igbo leaders that will never happen to northern leaders and Nigeria will remain the same. There are so many intolerable utterances Igbo are swallowing.

Was that what led to your agitating in the last National Conference for peaceful means of break-up ingrained in our Constitution?

I saw it as a lasting solution to the whole problem. Don’t forget that every region including South, East and West has always agitated for true federalism. This true federalism has been frustrated by those benefiting at the structure Nigeria is presently running.

The exit clause that I   advocated for was nothing out of proportion. There is an exit clause in ethopian constitution. We also have an exit clause in the constitution of Canada; that is why every 10years, there is always a referendum to review their being together.

The one that took place in scotland sometime ago is an example of where there was a referendum to opt-out of United Kingdom! How did Britain handle it, they made more concession to the Scottish people and most Scottish felt with the concession there was no need opting out of a bigger union and they voted in favour of the union.

How do you think President Buhari should address the Ndigbo question?

President Buhari just assumed office. He is taking his time to organise his cabinet. Although few changes are there that benefit everybody because is not only Igbo people that are enjoying electricity or benefit from his anti-corruption efforts, but the specific need of the South-East people is citizenship right because they are the ones who are more dispersed and more settled in other parts of Nigeria than any other ethnic group. So the citizens right is very crucial to the igbo interest.

We expect that he addresses issues as they are brought to him. And if he is unable to address them, its will become subject of the next election in constitutional change of power.

Of Fulani Rapists and Enugu Women Protest

October 31, 2015
By Sheddy Ozoene

Rural women in Enugu state, who now live in fear and torment of Fulani herdsmen, are now asking their husbands and the government they elected into office, to protect them. The women whose main preoccupation is subsistence farming, can no longer venture into distant farms alone for fear of being raped and/or killed by Fulani herdsmen who have virtually taken over their farms.

The horrendous incidents prevail in several communities in Igboland, but in Udi and Ezeagu Local Governments Areas of Enugu state, the impunity of herdsmen has become more pronounced.

Hundreds have suffered humiliation in their hands and the hapless women had borne their burden silently, expecting that their husbands will rise to the occasion of protecting them. Though the state government has on several occasions assured that something was being done to arrest the situation, their efforts are yet to yield any impact.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has since stepped in to give the victims a voice and be in the forefront of addressing the issue especially in Udi and Ezeagu LGAs. Under the aegis the Church’s Mothers’ Union/ Women’s Guild led by the Bishop’s wife, Mrs. Achogaonye Eze, they had decided enough was enough. Penultimate Tuesday, they had mobilized women in their hundreds from the adjourning Local Governments of Enugu-North, Enugu-East, Udi and Ezeagu Local Governments Areas of Enugu state on a protest march to the state government.fulani-widows

At the state House of Assembly, they displayed placards calling on the state government to quickly halt incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen who have taken over their farmlands and rendered them unable to feed their children. Some of the placards read: ‘Fulani herdsmen kill our people’, ‘Herdsmen Now Carry AK 47;’ ‘Fulani herdsmen should leave our farmlands’.

The protest which drew attention to the heinous activities of the herdsmen, also warned of an impending anarchy in the event that government at both state and federal levels continue to remain indifferent to the security threat in the area in particular, and Igboland in general. It was indeed a peaceful demonstration but the anger in them was unmistakable.

Their leader, Mrs Eze lamented that the herdsmen have so far defied every entreaty by community leaders and public-spirited individuals to resolve the recurring problem, adding that the women whose lives are now in perpetual danger, cannot continue to keep quiet. “Women are daily being molested, maimed and raped while their farmland and livestock are routinely destroyed” she said.

Just the other day, they were alleged to have killed two men at Eke community, while incidents of robbery have become commonplace on the major roads, especially at Ugwu Onyeama, the major entry into the state capital. According to Mrs Eze, “unless the government at state and federal levels rise to the duty of protecting defenceless citizens, the herdsmen will continue to put women in Igboland in grave danger”.

The women, like their menfolk in Udi and Ezeagu areas, are obviously helpless. Having complained to the law enforcement agencies to no avail, the herdsmen who are usually armed with sophisticated weapons have become even more daring, defying even the community vigilante groups. Women and young men are now afraid to go to the farm unless they are in groups for fear of rape or outright killing.

Apart from the recent incident at Eke community where two men were allegedly killed by the herdsmen, they had also allegedly kidnapped a woman and her pregnant daughter in Nze community on the allegation that the family benefited from a stolen cow. They had stormed the villages claiming that their cows are missing and threatening to kill people if the cows are not found.

In other places like Umuoka, Aguobu Owa, Olo and Ngwo, men have received machete cuts and others killed outrightly for daring to ask why his farmland was destroyed or why their wives were raped in their farms. In Okpatu, Obioma, Nsude and Abor, men hardly go to farms anymore for fear of being killed, resorting only to farming around their homes. There are ongoing cases between the villagers and the Fulanis over rape of women and wanton destruction of crops which were reported to the police to no avail.

Two days ago, Mrs Eze had again gathered women of the area at the Ejindu Centre of the Diocesan headquarters in Ngwo to review the last protest march and plan their next line of action. Not only has she forwarded a formal letter to the state government as requested by the Speaker of the House of Assembly, they also plan to take the demonstration to the state governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the state Government House the next time around.

The activities of Fulani herdsmen who came into the various communities subtly and were well received as tenants and fellow Nigerians, have become a thorn in the flesh of the people of Enugu state. While they have terrorized their hosts with their sophisticated weapons and raped their women with abandon, there is the general feeling of helplessness among the hosts whose complaints to the police have met with little attention.

The situation may not be different in other parts of the North Central and Southern Nigeria as the fatal clashes in Benue state and the abduction of Chief Olu Falae in far away Ondo state attest. If the events of the past few years are not enough to drag state governments in Igboland out from their comfort zones, the question must be asked: for how long will this anarchy prevail before they act to address the issue?

Sheddy Ozoene is Director of Communications for the Anglican Diocese of Enugu North
Nigeria Broke, Can’t Pay Ministers – Buhari …Says Powerful Nigerians Frustrating Anti-graft War
Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
Nigerian Punch

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday gave an insight into the shape his cabinet would take, saying the country would be lucky if his administration is able to have half the number (21) of the 42 ministers that operated under the last administration.

He said he only sent names of 36 ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation because the constitution stipulates that each state of the federation must have representatives in his cabinet.

He said not all the 36 nominees would be ministers as some of them would only sit in the cabinet in order to meet that constitutional provision.

Buhari disclosed this in an interview he granted the Nigerian Television Authority and Channels TV shortly before he left New Delhi where he participated in the third summit of the India-Africa Forum.

The President was asked whether his reduction of the number of ministers from 42 as it was under former President Goodluck Jonathan to 36 would result into the reduction of the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies and eventual purging of the civil service.

Buhari said, “There was no reduction (of ministers) to 36. What the constitution says, and we cannot work outside the constitution, is that there must be a cabinet representative from each state.

“Yes, there used to be 42 ministers, I think we will be lucky if we can have half of that now because we cannot afford it.

“Others may not be substantive ministers but they will sit in the cabinet because that is what the constitution says and we cannot operate outside the constitution.”

When asked specifically whether he will reduce the number of ministers, Buhari said, “Of course! Unless you can volunteer to be paying them (ministers).”

When asked the criteria used in compiling his ministerial nominees, the President explained that his three previous attempts at the Presidency afforded him the opportunity of knowing many Nigerians.

He said that experience afforded him the opportunity of knowing those who fell by the wayside when the journey became tough and those who soldiered on.

“I have just talked about Nigerians, especially the elite, sitting and reflecting on serious national issues.

“How many times did I attempt to be the President of Nigeria? How many times did I end up in the Supreme Court? Does is it mean every time, I don’t know people in this country?

“I know people who we were going together but fell by the wayside because it was too tough. You know I contested in 2003, 2007, 2011. I think Nigerians should stop taking things for granted as far as we are concerned,” he said.

When confronted with the fact that one of his nominees caused division among senators elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, the President said the nominee must be one of those suggested to him.

“This is a team work. I said I know people but there are people (nominees) that I accepted from other people in our team that I trust without even knowing them.

“Maybe the one that has problem in the National Assembly, I doubt if I have ever met him in my life.

“But then, I am working with others. I did not walk into the Presidency alone. I have to depend on all the other three tiers of government from all parts of the country.

“We thank God and technology that this time around, we are able to make it,” the President said.

When the President was asked to react to the claim that his administration is slow in the development of infrastructure, Buhari wondered where the government would get the money from.

He said he inherited a country that was vandalised materially and morally.

He said it got to a stage that the government could not afford to pay salaries.

The President recalled that the situation degenerated to a level that the Federal Government had to help 27 of the 36 states to pay salaries.

Buhari said, “Where is the money? You must have known that the Federal Government had to help 27 of the 36 states to pay salaries.

“Nigeria cannot pay salaries. The Federal Government itself had to summon the governor of the Central Bank to see how it would pay salaries not to talk of the agreements we signed with foreign countries, counterpart funding and so on.

“This country was materially vandalised and morally so and you are in a position to know even more than myself unless you are testing my knowledge whether I know it or not.”

When asked to be categorical on whether the country is broke, Buhari replied, “Of course, Nigeria is broke.”

The President denied allegation that his administration had been selective in its anti-corruption war.

He said he had not lost sleep on the allegation because those indicted would be confronted with documents that incriminated them.

Buhari identified unnamed prominent Nigerians as those constituting stumbling blocks to the anti-graft war, saying their target is to discourage the government from going ahead with the war.

He said, “I cannot tell you offhand how much we have recovered (in looted funds) but those who said we have been selective, if they have not been involved in corruption, they would not mind; they will even encourage us to get whoever has compromised his position in the trust given to them.

“So, I see it in the papers, I watch it on the screen but I have never lost sleep over it because those who are not corrupt should only encourage us to even do more.

“But those who are interested, those who have abused the trust will go to any length including bribing people to give false information.

“I have not been selective. Whoever is caught, the documents that incriminate him or her will be used to prosecute him (or her) for Nigerians to know really who has abused trust.

“The stumbling blocks are big, corrupt Nigerians that have the capacity to compromise the integrity of a lot of people, either the law enforcement agencies or journalists to make sure that they discourage the government from pursuing them and recovering public funds from them or punishing them. Those who aspire to public office, we will make sure what they are going to get is service and not looting.”

On the timeline given the Nigerian military to end insurgency, Buhari said he remained optimistic that the feat could be achieved.

He said it should be a source of worry to Nigerians that before now, Nigerian military and other law enforcement agencies were getting accolades across the world when they could not secure 14 of the nation’s 774 local government areas before a change in government.

“The main objective is to get rid of Boko Haram whether it is within the time limit we gave to the military or outside of it, we remain focused in our objective and we will support them.

“Government will support the military and other law enforcement agencies to make sure that Boko Haram is removed from Nigeria and from our neighbours in the Lake Chad Basin Commission countries.

“I am an optimistic person. I am sorry for those who have already given up. I remain confident that our military and other law enforcement agencies are more than equal to the task.

“Don’t forget that I made an earlier statement to the effect that the Nigerian military and police earned accolades all over the world: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, etc.

“They earned international respect and then here you are, the Nigerian military and other law enforcement agencies could not secure 14 local governments out of 774 until the government was changed.

“I think Nigerians should sit and reflect about what they should get worried about and about how to support the administration,” he added.

Responding to a question on whether it is true that some looters have started returning their loot secretly to government coffers, Buhari said, “I do not want to let the cat out of the bag now.”

When told that his name sends shivers down the spines of some Nigerians, Buhari said he did not want to be feared but be respected.

“I don’t want to believe you. I will like to believe you if you say Nigerians respect me but I don’t want to be feared, I want to be respected,” the President said.

Buhari said he would like to be remembered as a leader who did not only fight the civil war, but one that also fought corruption to a standstill.

“If we survive it, I want to be remembered that Nigerians have found out that I was genuine; I was a real patriot, not that I only fought the civil war but that I fought corruption to a standstill,” he said.

He described a grant promised Nigeria by India during his visit as a great relief.

He said, “It is a major relief. It will solve our unemployment problems and if goods and services are produced, our foreign exchange will not suffer so much. All that the Indian companies will be asking for is the repatriation of their profit which is part of the agreement and then some essential raw materials which are not available in Nigeria.

“I think the benefit is very clear.”
Corporation to Extend Water Delivery to More Lagosians
By Editor
October 30, 2015 6:32 am

LAGOS Water Corporation has disclosed plans to take Water delivery to the next level in Yaba, Ebute Metta and Iwaya Zones.

The acting Managing Director of the Corporation, Engr. Deji Johnson said during Stakeholders Sensitisation Forum on Rehabilitation and Expansion of Distribution network at the Yaba Local Council Development Area Office, Adekunle, Lagos, recently that he believes an improvement in the water pipelines and mains will improve water delivery in Lagos, because, currently, some of the pipes are leaking and encrusted due to age barriers.

Johnson said the sensitization exercise was aimed at letting the people to know what the LWC is doing. “I believe with LWC Contractors, Co-coordinator and Workers, things will definitely work out well.  LWC has developed a Master Plan with the hope that by year 2020, we’ll be able to meet the water demand of Lagos State.”

The Project Coordinator, Engr. Ipaye Raimi, told the gathering that the company was laying a new pipe of about 56 Kilometers.

“We urged you to assist us by curbing the activities of the Area boys in order to serve you better. We are providing you treated water, far better than borehole water, which is not treated and not hygienic”.

According to him, by year 2020, Lagos State population will hit 29 million. We are planning for this huge population, and this was the purpose for introducing the Lagos Water Master Plan.

He said, “LWC is changing from Galvanized pipe to High Density Pipe (HDPE). The reason for this, is, currently, 60 per cent of the water the Corporation produces is un-accounted for, and part of the problems is the wastage through the old pipes. HDPE pipe of about 110-315 Diameter is being introduced in Yaba, Ebute-Metta, Iwaya, Onike axis as a measure to curb the water wastages. About 3,500 houses would be provided with pre-paid meters to help regulate water wastages.

He further disclosed that the project is jointly funded by World Bank and French Government.
No More Devaluation of Naira, Says CBN
By Isiaka Wakili
Nigeria Daily Trust
Oct 30 2015

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that there was no intention to further devalue the currency.

 Addressing State House correspondents on Friday, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said the apex bank was rather concentrating on how to improve and deepen the foreign exchange market by improving supply of foreign exchange into the market.

Emefiele said the CBN was also concentrating on how to reduce the import of items that could be produced locally.

"There have been a lot of talks on whether or not we want to depreciate our currency again. The truth is that we had adjusted the currency by depreciating it from N155 to N197 in February this year. There is no intention to depreciate or adjust the currency any longer. The president has been very clear on this. The vice president has been very clear on this.

"And let me further reiterate our position at the Central Bank of Nigeria that we're not considering any further depreciation of the currency. What we're trying to concentrate on right now is how to improve and deepen the foreign exchange market by improving supply of foreign exchange into the market. And to do so, we're trying to encourage people to export and earn your export proceeds and use your export proceeds to to import whatever you need to import,” he said.

"We're also concentrating on how to reduce the import of items that we can produce in the country today.
“So that is our focus. I’m saying and very soon, the CBN will be launching a campaign called PAVE, which means produce locally, add value and export your products and earn your foreign exchange for your imports. This is the only way we can support the efforts of CBN in intervening and providing foreign exchange in the market to meet the import needs of our people,” Emefiele stated.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Buhari May Swear in Ministers Wednesday
By Isiaka Wakili & Ismail Mudashir
Nigeria Daily Trust
Oct 30 2015 5:30AM

PDP senators walk out of the Senate chambers to protest Rotimi Amaechi’s clearance as a ministerial nominee, before his confirmation at the National Assembly in Abuja yesterday.

President Muhammadu Buhari is to assign portfolio and administer the oath of office on his ministers “most likely on Wednesday”, Daily Trust has learnt.

A source at the Presidency, who craved anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, disclosed this to our correspondent yesterday.

“The first major official assignment before Mr President in November is the inauguration of his cabinet. Arrangements have already been made for this and this [will] most likely happen on Wednesday”, the source said.

In the same vein, an aide to one of the ministers-designate also told our correspondent last night that his principal had received a message from the Presidency that the inauguration would take place on Wednesday.

“The inauguration is taking place Wednesday next week, according to what I heard my boss saying this (yesterday) afternoon,” the aide said.

But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said only the president would communicate when he would inaugurate his cabinet.

Adesina, who said he could not confirm exactly when the ministers-designate would be sworn in, added they would have to notify their family members.

Senate confirms Amaechi, 17 others

The Senate yesterday confirmed former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi as minister, along with 17 other nominees.

This is even as senators of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) walked out from the Senate chamber after failing to stop Amaechi’s confirmation.

With the confirmation, the Senate has confirmed all the 36 nominees submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari for cabinet position.

The confirmation of the ministerial nominees started after the Senators returned from a closed session that lasted for 1.20 minutes.

Our correspondent reports that at the end of session, senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were seen around the Senate President Bukola Saraki while their PDP counterparts, including the Deputy Senate Ike Ekweremadu, gathered around the Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio.

Immediately, the Senate resumed sitting, Akpabio drew the attention of the senate president to the need to debate the report on the petition against Amaechi.

Saraki noted the observation of Akpabio and the confirmation proper commenced.

Our correspondent reports that in less than 20 minutes, the senators confirmed 17 of the nominees as Senator Achonu Nneji (PDP, Imo North) announced the withdrawal of petition written against the Imo State nominee Professor Anthony Anwuka.

PDP ambush on Amaechi

Our correspondent reports that the trouble started when it got to the confirmation of Amaechi.

Saraki asked the chairman of the Ethics, Privileges and Public petitions committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu to present the report on petition against Amaechi.

Presenting the report, Anyanwu said his committee was unable to recommend the consideration of Amaechi’s confirmation as there was a court case on the matter.

Not satisfied with the report, the Senate Leader Ali Ndume moved a point of order (53), saying the committee lacks the power to make any recommendation as the matter was before the court.

But Akpabio refused to second the motion; rather, he insisted that the rules of the Senate must be adhered to.

“I want us to follow our rules and not our sentiment.  The leader is moving the motion to shut down the debate,” he said.

After Akpabio spoke, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East) took to the floor and recommended that the confirmation of Amaechi be suspended.

However, BabajideOmoworare (APC, Osun East) opposed Sekibo, saying the recommendations of the committee can be amended, and seconded the motion by Ndume.

Senator BiodunOlujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) said: “Mr. President from all indications, we have been shutdown. Mr. President there is a moral burden not only on us but President MuhammaduBuhari.”

After she spoke, all the PDP Senators walked out of the chamber in protest but the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu stayed behind.

Senator Barnabas Gemade (APC, Benue) then suggested that they carry on the confirmation of Amaechi.

Saraki put a question on the report of the petition against Amaechi and the senators unanimously voted against it. Amaechi was eventually confirmed.

Others confirmed yesterday include Adamud Adamu (Bauchi), Prof Anthony Anwuka (Imo), Okechukwu Enelamah (Abia), Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa), Ms. Aisha Abubakar (Sokoto), Khadija Bukar Abba (Yobe), Claudius Daramola (Ondo) and Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu).

The rest are M. Dan-Ali (Zamfara) Barrister James E. Ocholi( Kogi), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Mustapha Shehuri (Borno), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri (Bayelsa), Prof Isaac Adewole Folorunsho (Osun), Pastor Usani Usani Uguru (Cross River), Abubakar Bwari Bawa (Niger) and Barrister Adebayo Shittu (Oyo).

Earlier, the Senate confirmed  Chris Ngige (Anambra), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Amaechi  (Rivers),  Babatunde Fashola (Lagos),  Abdulrahman Dambazau (Kano), Aisha Alhassan (Taraba), Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Kemi Adeosun (Ogun), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Hadi Sirika (Katsina),  Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa), Solomon Dalong (Plateau),  Ibe Kachikwu (Delta), Osagie Ehanire  (Edo), Audu Ogbeh  (Benue), Udo Udo Udoma  (Akwa Ibom) and Lai Mohammed (Kwara)
Others are Amina Mohammed (Gombe), Ibrahim Usman Jibril  (Nasarawa), Anthony Onwuka (Imo), Muhammadu Bello (Adamawa).

Saraki thanked his colleagues and said the nominees have the capacity to contribute towards the development of the country.
Last UK Gitmo Detainee, Known as “The Professor,” Released and Sent Home
By Joshua Keating

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, landed in the United Kingdom on Friday after being released following nearly 14 of years imprisonment. He returns to his wife and four children, one of whom he has never met. Aamer was first captured in 2002 by bounty hunters who were going after al-Qaida suspects to turn over to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. accused him of fighting with the Taliban and having met with Osama Bin Laden. He maintains he was there doing charity work. He was cleared for release back to his native Saudi Arabia by the Bush administration in 2007 and again by a task force that reviewed his case in 2009, but fearing the fate that would befall him there, lawyers and successive British governments have pushed for him to be sent to Britain where he moved in 1996 and has permanent residency thanks to his wife, a U.K. citizen. Prime Minister David Cameron raised the case in January at a White House meeting. The administration only gave final clearance for his release in September and he had been awaiting a mandatory 30-day congressional review period.

The unusually long delay in resolving his case raised suspicions among his supporters that he was being singled out for punishment as a particularly uncooperative prisoner, or that the U.S. and British governments were worried about the political trouble he could make once he was out.

Aamer has claimed that he was abused during his detention at both Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and Guantanamo including beatings, forced blood withdrawals, prolonged solitary confinement, and being kept in freezing conditions. He also says a British intelligence officer was present at an interrogation in Afghanistan during which his head was repeatedly slammed into a wall by his American interrogators. He may be entitled to as much as $1.5 million from the U.K. government under a settlement with 15 other British residents and citizens over government involvement in their renditions. At Guantanamo he was reportedly known as the “professor” for his eloquence and for leading protest actions including several hunger strikes.. (He complained in 2013 after Gitmo authorities confiscated his copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.)

Aamer’s release leaves 112 detainees at the facility, 52 of whom have been approved for transfer. The majority of those left in the prison are from Yemen, and the ongoing conflict in the country has complicated U.S. efforts to send them home.

The administration is fighting both Congressional Republican—Sen. John McCain being a notable exception—and the clock in an effort fulfill the pledge Obama made in the first week of his presidency to close the facility. The president vetoed a defense authorization bill last week in part because of restrictions it put on his ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo. However, under the budget deal reached with Congress this week, Obama may end up having to sign the act, despite the Gitmo provisions.

Defense Department officials have been looking at Colorado’s supermax prisons as well as military brigs in Charleston, South Carolina and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as possible relocation sites for the prisoners not cleared for transfer to other countries, but Republicans at both the state and national levels are staunchly opposed to housing ex-Gitmo detainees in the United States. 
Israel Restricts Palestinians’ Entry Into Part of Hebron
New York Times
OCT. 30, 2015

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military on Friday barred Palestinians who do not live in a particularly tense part of the West Bank city of Hebron from entering the area, and, according to local residents, it prevented young men from visiting an Islamic shrine nearby.

The restrictions, which residents said were the most severe in more than a decade, followed a spate of stabbings in and around Hebron during the past two weeks, including one in the Old City on Thursday that wounded a soldier.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, declined to detail the new restrictions or say how long they would be in place. A military statement referred vaguely to “precautionary measures” taken “in order to contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well being of Israelis.”

A written order from Col. Yariv Ben Ezra, an Israeli commander in the area, provided by a Palestinian activist in the area, Issa Amro, indicated that anyone who did not live in a section of Hebron’s Old City controlled by the military or who did not have a special permit to enter would be blocked. “No one is to enter this area or sojourn into it,” the order said. “Anyone who is found in the closed zone will be obliged to leave it immediately.”

Three residents said Israeli officers went house to house on Friday in Palestinian areas near four Jewish settlements recording the identity cards of residents. Emad Abu Shamsiya, an activist who lives there, said he at first refused to cooperate but was told by an officer, “If your name isn’t on the checkpoint, you, your wife and your sons won’t be able to move.”

Mr. Abu Shamsiya said he had not witnessed anything similar since 2003, during the violent second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, when the Israeli military maintained strict curfews on six West Bank cities.

Mr. Amro, a leader of a local group called Youth Against Settlements, said the military also blocked Palestinian men 15 to 25 years old from praying on Friday at the Hebron holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque and to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Similar age limits for worshipers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in recent months were among the grievances that helped fuel the wave of recent Palestinian attacks against Israelis and violent demonstrations.

Israel’s decision to withhold the bodies of Palestinians shot dead after attacks or attempted attacks on Jews have also fanned the flames, particularly in Hebron, a culturally conservative city. Residents see the decision as an affront to the Muslim tradition of immediate burial. By Friday night, Israel had released the bodies of seven Palestinians, five of them from Hebron, which had been held for many days, angering their families and communities.

As families of the dead were awaiting the bodies’ return on Friday night at an Israeli checkpoint, Hebron’s mayor, Daoud Zaatari, said, “I think that this is the least they can do at this critical time.”

Violence continued on Friday after a month of almost daily attacks and clashes between Palestinians protesting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Israeli security forces.

Local news outlets reported that an 8-month-old baby died after inhaling tear gas Israelis used to quell a demonstration near the baby’s home in Beit Fajjar, a village near Bethlehem. Wael Thatka, a journalist who was at the scene, said the family had told him the baby had a heart problem that appeared to have been worsened by the gas.

In Jerusalem, a security guard killed a Palestinian who the police said had stabbed and wounded an American citizen. Two other Palestinian men were shot, one fatally, after they apparently tried to stab Israeli police officers near Nablus, a West Bank city.

At a military checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah, in the West Bank, an Israeli security force jeep hit a Palestinian demonstrator, and soldiers pushed away medics and photographers who rushed to the chaotic scene, according to video posted on news websites and social networks. Israeli news outlets reported that the demonstrator had been holding a broken bottle and appeared to have been trying to harm a border-police officer, but Palestinians portrayed the episode as an example of Israel’s use of excessive force.

Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Ramallah, West Bank.
Knife-wielding Palestinians Strike in West Bank, Jerusalem; Two Dead

Knife-wielding Palestinians attacked Israelis in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank on Friday and police said they had shot dead two assailants, in a further wave of violence spurred partly by tensions over a Jerusalem holy site.

Four people, including another Palestinian assailant, were wounded in the incidents at an Israeli paramilitary police checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Nablus and at a tram station in East Jerusalem, ambulance officials said.

There were also violent confrontations on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah and in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians massed at the border and lobbed rocks at Israeli forces on the other side.

Around 40 demonstrators were wounded by Israeli fire, at least one critically, medics said.

This month's welter of violence, the worst since the 2014 Gaza war, arose in part from religious and political tensions over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's walled Old City that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

A growing number of visits by religious Jews to the al-Aqsa plaza - Islam's holiest site outside Saudi Arabia and revered in Judaism as the location of two destroyed biblical temples - have stirred Palestinian allegations that Israel is violating a "status quo" under which non-Muslim prayer there is banned.

Israel says such allegations are false and that their voicing by Palestinian officials and circulation in Arab social media has been inciting the violence.

Since the latest unrest began on Oct. 1, at least 64 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis. Of those, 37 were assailants armed mainly with knives, Israel said, while others were shot during violent anti-Israel protests. Many were teens.

Eleven Israelis have been killed in stabbings and shootings.

On Friday, two Palestinians used a motorcycle to reach an Israeli paramilitary police checkpoint at a junction near a Jewish settlement outside Nablus, dismounted and rushed at the troopers with knives drawn, a police spokeswoman said.

They lightly wounded one policeman before being shot by a policewoman, the spokeswoman said. One of the Palestinians was killed and the other critically wounded.

In the second incident, police shot dead a Palestinian after he carried out a knife attack at a tram station near Jerusalem's Old City, medical officials and police said.

They said two people, believed to be Israelis, were wounded in the incident. One was stabbed and another was hit by gunfire directed at the assailant.

Palestinians are also frustrated by the failure of numerous rounds of peace talks to secure them an independent state in territories, including the West Bank, that Israel captured in a 1967 war. The last phase of negotiations collapsed in 2014. The deadlock has bolstered the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza and advocates Israel's destruction.

Jerusalem had in recent days been spared violence as it shifted to West Bank areas like the city of Hebron, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs, another shrine holy to Muslims and Jews.

Palestinians said Israel had announced it would declare the area around the cave compound off-limits to them after Friday's weekly Muslim prayers.

In a statement, the Israeli military said only that "several precautionary measures were taken in order to contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well being of Israelis" in Hebron, where there is a small Jewish settlement.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)
Eight-month-old Palestinian Baby Dies of Tear Gas Inhalation in West Bank Clashes
Israel attacks demonstration in Ramallah.
Palestinians report over 30 wounded in West Bank, Gaza border clashes; Border Police jeep runs over man after he tries to attack an officer near Ramallah.

Jack Khoury and Gili Cohen
Oct 30, 2015 8:18 PM

Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces across the West Bank and the Gaza border on Friday. According to Palestinian sources, an eight-month-old baby died from inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces in clashes in the Beit Fajjar village, south of Bethlehem.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the baby, Mohammed Faisal Thouabta, was rushed to a Bethlehem hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian was run over by a security forces vehicle after he tried to attack an officer. According to a Border Police statement, the man was wielding a knife, but a video of the incident shows the man raising a rock over the Israeli officer.

Shortly after Friday prayers, dozens of Palestinian teens arrived at roadblocks in the areas of Hebron, Qalqiliya, Bethlehem and Beit Omar, and threw stones and firebombs at army forces, who retaliated with tear gas and crowd dispersal means. The Palestinian factions declared a day of support of Hebron, termed the "capital of Palestinians' rage."

During clashes near the Judea and Samaria Division headquarters outside Ramallah, two Palestinians were wounded while attempting to attack Border Police officers. One youth who tried to throw a firebomb was shot by the officers and treated by the unit's medics on the scene. Shortly after, another youth tried to stab one of the officers and then fled. The unit commander ordered the jeep driver to pursue the Palestinian, and he ran him over. Israeli forces initially prevented Palestinian medics from treating the wounded youth.

A Palestinian youth holds a stone as he chases a Border Police officer before being run over.AFP
Over 30 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, 12 of which by live bullets, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

In the Tapuach Junction east of Ariel, two Palestinians stabbed and lightly wounded a Border Police officer before another officer shot them, killing one and seriously wounding another.
In the Gaza Strip, at least ten Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army fire in clashes near the border. According to the Israel Defense Forces, troops were targeting the protesters' legs.

Meanwhile, a 13-day-long stretch without terrorist attacks in Jerusalem was broken when a Palestinian man stabbed and wounded a U.S. citizen. The 23-year-old attacker, a resident of East Jerusalem, stabbed the man, 22, in his upper body near the Light Rail station at Ammunition Hill. He then tried to stab another bystander but was shot down by light rail security guards, a border policeman, and a civilian at the scene. A bystander was caught in the crossfire and suffered moderate wounds.

Jack Khoury
Haaretz Correspondent
read more:
Clinton Talks Racial Equality in Atlanta, at Times Shouting Over Small Group of Protesters
Oct. 30, 2015 | 4:43 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA (AP) — Shouting over protesters, Hillary Rodham Clinton promised black Americans she would address systemic racism, and if elected, follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, the country's first black president.

The Democratic presidential front-runner outlined her plans for criminal justice reform — a key component of her push to court African-American voters — facing what was supposed to be a friendly audience at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black institution. Yet just a few minutes into her remarks she was interrupted by protesters from the Black Lives Matters movement.

They sang and chanted for nearly 12 minutes several feet from the podium as Clinton tried to shout over them. Rep. John Lewis, a hero in the civil rights movement, urged them to stop, as did the musician Usher.

The group of fewer than 10 protesters eventually left the college gymnasium only after the crowd of more than 2,000, most of them young African Americans, forcefully chanted, "Let her talk!"

"I'm sorry they didn't listen, because some of what they demanded I am offering and intend to fight for as president," Clinton said and added, "We have to come together as a nation."

The incident occurred during a swing through Georgia and South Carolina as Clinton works to solidify her advantage in the African-American community, which could give her a crucial edge over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the early voting state of South Carolina. Both candidates have called for ending mass incarceration and reforming the criminal justice system in the United States, an issue that has become a rallying cry for younger black activists who will play a key role in choosing a nominee.

Clinton called for eliminating sentencing disparities between crack cocaine crimes and those that involve powder cocaine. The changes would build on a 2010 act of Congress that narrowed the disparity between crack crimes — which are concentrated among minorities — and powder crimes, which are more likely to involve whites. Clinton's plan would make the change retroactive, according to her campaign.

Clinton has made frank discussion about the country's lingering racism a central theme of her primary campaign, in an effort to woo the coalition of minority, young, and female voters who twice catapulted Barack Obama into the White House.

Introduced at one stop by Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, she highlighted her history of civil rights activism, starting with her first job after law school for a child advocacy organization. And she stressed her determination to build upon Obama's legacy.

"It will be up to me assuming we get this done to be a president who builds on what we have achieved and goes even further," she said.

Lingering questions about her use of a private server while secretary of state and her role in the deadly 2012 attacks in Libya clouded some of that message in the early months of her candidacy, said Jackson, who introduced Clinton by saying: "It's healing time. It's hope time. It's Hillary Clinton."

"Hillary was always raising the right issues, but you couldn't hear it for the noise around the servers and the Benghazi issue," Jackson told The Associated Press before her Friday remarks.

"Those barriers proved to be smoke and no fire," he continued. "She's back into another zone now."

Jackson's comments are meaningful given his longstanding ties to Clinton and Sanders, her chief rival. Sanders endorsed both of Jackson's presidential bids in 1984 and 1988. And despite Jackson's long relationship with the Clinton family, he backed Obama in the 2008 primary, though his wife endorsed Clinton.

Sanders, too, has faced aggressive protests from the Black Lives Matter movement, which interrupted one of his rallies over the summer.

Clinton on Friday also proposed a legal ban on racial profiling by police.
Black Lives Matter Protesters Attempt to Interrupt Clinton Speech in Atlanta
By Vanessa Williams and Wesley Lowery
October 30 at 5:38 PM  

ATLANTA -- Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was briefly interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters Friday afternoon as she attempted to deliver a speech on criminal justice at Clark Atlanta, a historically black university.

"Black lives matter! Black lives matter!" a small but loud group chanted.

"Yes they do!" Clinton said, attempting to continue speaking over the chants.

The crowd then counter-chanted "Hillary! Hillary!"

Finally the crowd took over: "Let her speak! Let her speak!' and the candidate's address continued as the protesters were escorted from the room and the audience erupted in cheers.

The brief protest was just the latest attempt by activists associated with the Black Lives Matter protest movement to interrupt a candidate on the campaign trail. Both of her Democratic primary rivals, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley were interrupted while speaking earlier this year at Netroots Nation, a liberal activists conference.

Clinton spoke for about 45 minutes after being introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, who praised Clinton for being tough and enduring 11-hour questioning at last week's House hearing on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans at two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

She later said that it was unfortunate that the protesters didn't hear her out because she was addressing their concerns about police reform and "ending the era of mass incarceration." She noted that she has had meetings with some activists from the movement and she also tried to appeal to them by noting that in Atlanta, "we are surrounded by so much history it does inspire you to keep chanting."

"To all the young people here today, those who are listening and those who are singing," Clinton said. "We need you. We need a rising generation of activists and organizers."

Vanessa Williams is a staff writer at The Post. Contact her at

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.
U.S. Says Ready to Cooperate With Iran to Resolve Syria Crisis
Tehran Times

A top American diplomat says the U.S. is ready to cooperate with Iran to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“To resolve the Syrian crisis, Washington is ready to cooperate with every nation, including Tehran and Damascus,” U.S. State Department Persian language spokesperson Alan Eyre, who serves also as member of the U.S. nuclear negotiator team with Iran, told Trend on Friday.

The foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Russia participated in a summit in Vienna on Friday to seek ways to resolve the Syria crisis.

A day before this summit, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that there has not been any change in Iran’s policy on the Syria issue.

On whether the U.S. is willing to expand relations with Iran to resolve crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, and even problems between Washington and Tehran, Eyre said, “As it was announced recently, Iran has been officially invited to attend a meeting in Vienna on Oct. 30, aimed to discuss the Syrian crisis. Prior to that, Secretary of State John Kerry had said: “It’s important for us that key partners are in these discussions... They [Iran] could be a key partner, but they are not now”.

Tehran has always expressed support for the government of the Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Islamic Republic views the Syrian government as its main strategic ally in the region and as part of an “axis of resistance” against Israel.

Western countries accuse Iran of running military operations in Syria, but Tehran denies the accusations. Iranian officials have repeatedly stressed that they only render military consultations to the Syrian forces.

While Washington has opposed Iran’s support of Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah in Syria, it has said Iran needs to be included in the talks on Syria’s future.

The U.S. and its partners say Assad can participate in a political transition, but would have to leave power at the end of the process if Syria is to ever move on from a war that has killed at least 250,000 people and forced more than 11 million from their homes.

Eyre said, “As the White House announced the U.S. believes that multilateral negotiations will be fruitful and effective only if all the parties participate. To resolve the Syrian crisis, Washington is ready to cooperate with every nation, including Tehran and Damascus. As they say, step by step. God willing, with the participation of all the related countries, the exacerbated situation in Syria would be mended”. 
US Imperialism to Escalate Troops Presence in Syria and Iraq

The United States will deploy dozens of special operations forces to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in their fight against Islamic State, a major policy shift for President Barack Obama and a step he has long resisted to avoid getting dragged into another war in the Middle East.

The planned deployment, along with the U.S. decision this week to include Iran in diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, represents the biggest shift in the United States' Syria policy since it began a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets there in September 2014.

Announcing the measure on Friday, the White House said the troops would be on a mission to "train, advise and assist" and would number fewer than 50. Spokesman Josh Earnest declined to give details about their exact role.

The decision by Obama, deeply averse to committing troops to unpopular wars in the Middle East, would mark the first sustained U.S. troop presence in Syria and raise the risk of American casualties, although U.S. officials stressed the forces were not meant to engage in front-line combat.

"This is a dangerous place on the globe and they are at risk, and there's no denying that," said Earnest, who repeatedly rejected the idea that the deployment would constitute a ground combat mission, which Obama has long rejected as a solution in Syria.

"I think if we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground."

Earnest said the special operations mission in Syria was open ended and did not rule out the possibility of sending additional special forces troops into Iraq. Obama spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday about the fight against Islamic State, Earnest said.

The Obama administration is under pressure to ramp up America's effort against Islamic State, particularly after the militant group captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi in May and following the failure of a U.S. military program to train and arm thousands of Syrian rebels.

The planned deployment adds to an increasingly volatile conflict in Syria, where Russia and Iran have increased up their military support for President Bashar al-Assad's fight against rebels in the four-and-a-half year civil war.

Russia said when it began air strikes last month that it would also target the Islamic State militant group, but its planes have hit other rebel groups opposed to Assad, including groups backed by Washington.

The new U.S. strategy against Islamic State in Syria will be accompanied by a new special operations force in Erbil in northern Iraq, "intensified" cooperation with Iraqis in retaking Ramadi and expanded security assistance to Jordan and Lebanon, a senior congressional source said.

The forces in Syria would be stationed in rebel-held territory, coordinate air drops to rebels and resupplying those forces as they move toward Raqqa, which is in the north of the country and is the declared capital of Islamic State, U.S. officials told Reuters. They could also help coordinate air strikes from the ground, the officials said.

The introduction of U.S. forces on the ground marks a shift after more than a year of limiting the mission in Syria to a campaign of air strikes against Islamic State fighters.


Some in Congress applauded the planned deployment, although longtime Republican critics of Obama's foreign policy described it as overdue and likely not enough to change the course of the war.

"Absent a larger coherent strategy, however, these steps may prove to be too little too late. I do not see a strategy for success, rather it seems the administration is trying to avoid a disaster while the president runs out the clock," said Mac Thornberry, chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives.

Paul Ryan, the new House speaker, said the new U.S. commitment should come with a "coherent strategy" to defeat Islamic State.

The move reflects a wider strategy of strengthening rebels Washington sees as moderate even as it intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the Syrian civil war in which at least 200,000 people have died.

To further counter Islamic State, Obama has also authorized deploying A-10s and F-15 aircraft to Incirlik air base in Turkey, a senior administration official said.

The news came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting at Syrian peace talks in Vienna.

The talks include the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, which support Assad, and nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are adamantly opposed to his remaining in power after a civil war that has driven millions abroad as refugees and displaced millions more inside the country.


The United States is helping thousands of Syrian rebel fighters as they try to encircle Raqqa and cut that city off from Iraq's Mosul, which the group also controls, U.S. officials say.

The most effective U.S. allies in northern Syria are Kurdish forces, who captured a swathe of territory from Islamic State along the border with Turkey over the past year with the aid of U.S. air strikes. But Washington has been cautious about publicly committing to helping the Syrian Kurds, who are mistrusted by U.S. ally Turkey.

Although the United States has dispatched special operations forces into Syria in the past, including an operation in May that killed an Islamic State leader, Obama’s decision paves the way for longer-term deployments of ground forces.

Joshua Landis, director of Center for Middle East studies at University of Oklahoma, said the U.S. moves were unlikely to fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground or to significantly accelerate diplomacy.

"This is tinkering around the edges and it does up America's role and it will allow America to go to the Iraqis and go to the Russians and everybody and say we are doing more, but it doesn't fundamentally change anything," Landis said.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Julia Edwards, Roberta Rampton and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Frances Kerry)