Extremist Attack Kills at Least 12 Soldiers in Niger as Jihadi Violence Increases Post-coup Published 16 minutes ago
An attack by Islamic extremists in western Niger killed at least a dozen soldiers and wounded seven others, the West African nation's military junta said.
The soldiers were on a mission in the Tillaberi region town of Kandadji when hundreds of jihadis on motorcycles attacked them Thursday, Gen. Salifou Mody, Niger's defense minister, said in a statement. The wounded were evacuated to military hospitals, the statement said.
The junta claimed that military personnel killed a hundred extremists and destroyed their motorcycles and weapons. The Associated Press was not able to independently verify the claim.
Niger has battled a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group for years. Attacks have increased since mutinous soldiers toppled the country's democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, in July.
During the month after the junta seized power, violence primarily linked to the extremists soared by more than 40%, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Jihadi attacks targeting civilians quadrupled in August compared with the month before, and attacks against security forces spiked in the Tillaberi region, killing at least 40 soldiers, the project reported.
Niger was seen as one of the last democratic countries in Africa's Sahel region that Western nations could partner with to beat back the jihadi insurgency in the vast expanse below the Sahara Desert. The United States, France and other European countries poured hundreds of millions of dollars into shoring up the Nigerien military.
Amid a swell of anti-France sentiment in its former colony., French President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal by the end of the year of his country's 1,500 troops stationed in Niger. France's ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, left the country this week after a months'-long standoff with the junta, which had ordered him out.
The loss of support from France and potentially from the United States will make it hard for the junta to stave off the jihadis, conflict analysts believe.
“It's quite predictable to witness more and more jihadi operations,” Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, said.
“There's no more support from the French either by air or special forces,” he said. “Once Niger's forces there lose the support of the allies, it's very difficult to sustain and hold onto the land.”
Thursday's attack occurred in an area where the Islamic State group is active and where French special operations forces were actively supporting Niger's military, Nasr said.
The security vacuum left by the French has also further pit rival jihadi groups against each other, he said.
New UP Assembly Rules Banning Phone
With a new set of rules prohibiting legislators from carrying phones, political posters or flags in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly coming into force on Tuesday, Samajwadi Party members on the first day of the winter session wore black clothes as a mark of protest with one MLA pasting anti-government slogans on his kurta.
While SP chief Akhilesh Yadav came wearing a white kurta-pajama paired with a black jacket, some of his party's leaders were seen in black clothes from top to bottom.
The session of the state assembly is being conducted under new rules. It prohibits carrying mobile phones in the house, or carrying any flags and banners.
The legislators attending Tuesday's proceedings in the assembly were not seen carrying mobile phones or any flags or banners.
The winter session of the state assembly began on Tuesday with the House paying tributes to sitting BJP MLA Ashutosh Tandon who died recently and other former members, before it was adjourned for the day.
When asked about his party legislators' clothes, Leader of Opposition Yadav said “this was a protest against the government.”
“This is our opposition to the new rules. This opposition should be registered as they (the government) want to weaken democracy,” Yadav told reporters outside the assembly. “Rules are for strengthening democracy.
After all, the public has elected us and sent us. It is our responsibility to raise questions on behalf of the public. In which democracy can the public's questions not be raised?” Yadav said.
The new rules have been brought to stop the opposition from speaking vocally. This will weaken democracy,” he added.
Another senior SP leader Manoj Paras said, “BJP is destroying the democratic system. This House will last only for three days and the views of the members will remain unheard. That's why we have come wearing black clothes in protest.”
However, SP's Sudhakar Singh, who won the recent by-election in Ghosi assembly seat defeating BJP's Dara Singh Chauhan, a former UP minister, came wearing a pink scarf.
When asked why he did not wear black clothes, he said, “He was not aware of the plan but the ‘gamchha' (scarf) is a symbol of victory and Rajput pride.”
In an official statement issued here on Saturday, it was stated that the assembly session will be conducted with new rules. Under the new rules, the members will no longer be allowed to carry mobile phones in the House, the statement said.
There will also be a ban on carrying flags and banners during the session, it said.
However, SP MLA from Bhadohi Zahid Jamal Baig pasted slogans on the caste census — written on a paper — on his kurta.
The paper also contained slogans on a recent incident in which a Dalit boy in Jaunpur was allegedly forced to drink urine. Baig, who came to the House on a bicycle, later told reporters, “The law and order situation in the state is bad but the government is still happy. This is our way of protesting.”
After the House was adjourned, Leader of Opposition Yadav was seen holding a discussion with his uncle Shivpal Yadav and party members in the assembly hall for about 10 minutes.
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Congress Doing Politics of Appeasement
The Congress in Rajasthan is doing politics of appeasement and the people are “very upset” with this, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday and exuded confidence that the BJP will win the November 25 assembly polls.
Shah told a press conference here that the “Congress is losing in every corner while the BJP is winning”.
“In the last five years, the Congress has worked with the policy of appeasement and corruption. The people of Rajasthan are very upset with this,” he said. 2
“In the last five years, if anyone's condition has been the worst in Rajasthan, it has been that of women and Dalits. Politics of appeasement is at its peak under the (Ashok) Gehlot government. The Rajasthan government has not taken any action against rioters due to vote-bank politics,” Shah said. On seven guarantees announced by Chief Minister Gehlot, the senior BJP leader said, “Ashok Gehlot does not have any guarantee of his own, what guarantee is he giving?”
The BJP has a track record of fulfilling the toughest resolutions, Shah said while citing the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the abrogation of Article 370 and the declaration instant triple talaq as illegal.
On who will be chief minister if the BJP forms government in the state, he said MLAs will decide and they will inform the BJP's Parliamentary Board about it. Then a decision for the chief minister's post will be taken, Shah said.
To a question on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi saying “PM means Panauti Modi”, the BJP leader said abusive words have been used against PM Modi and the public will respond to it in the elections. Shah also said the Modi government has provided direct benefits of central schemes to crores of people in Rajasthan in a transparent manner. On Gehlot terming the “red diary” issue a conspiracy of the BJP, he asked why Gehlot did not get this matter investigated. The “red diary” was brought out by his own MLA, Shah said. Sacked state minister Rajendra Gudha has been alleging that “illegal transactions” involving Gehlot and other leaders are recorded in the diary that he possesses.
Responding to Gehlot's allegation that Prime Minister Modi was trying to provoke the Gurjar community by making comments on late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot, he said Gehlot wears the “spectacle of caste”. He himself should first tell good things about Rajesh Pilot's son Sachin Pilot, Shah said. He said that Gehlot's only agenda is to launch his son Vaibhav Gehlot for the chief minister's post. Ashok Gehlot the magician vanished law and order, and now, voters will become the magician and vanish the Congress government in Rajasthan, he said. Asked about the old pension scheme, he said that “a committee has been formed and the committee is working on it.” Shah accused the Congress of being anti-dalit and said that it was former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who had opposed the Mandal commission report. The Modi government has given constitutional status to the OBC (other backward classes), he said.
He said Rahul Gandhi speaks on points given by NGOs and till some new slip comes, he keeps on speaking on the old points.
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Gaza Is Falling Into ‘Absolute Chaos
A shaky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has allowed a surge of aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza, but humanitarian groups and civilians in the enclave say the convoys aren’t nearly enough to address the needs of the strip’s two million people.
Despite the pause in fighting, Palestinians in Gaza are burning door frames and piles of garbage to cook, sleeping crammed into school classrooms and strangers' homes, and scrambling onto trucks bringing aid from Egypt in a desperate grab for supplies, residents say.
The cease-fire has also allowed Gazans a chance to bury the dead and to take stock of entire neighborhoods that have been reduced to rubble during seven weeks of Israeli bombing.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is adding to international pressure on Israel and Hamas to extend the initial four-day cease-fire to allow more aid to flow in and to stabilize the situation for civilians in Gaza. Egyptian and Qatari mediators said Monday that it had been extended another two days to Wednesday, with Hamas later confirming the extension that will allow more hostages to be released.
Meanwhile, 1.7 million people are internally displaced, most of them crammed into the southern half of the Gaza Strip, after Israel demanded that civilians leave the north days after its military offensive began last month. Some say they are losing hope.
“I don't want humanitarian aid, I want to go back home to Gaza City," said Balsam Hisham, 35, a mother of six who fled the north and is living in a tent in the south. “I wish I was killed in Gaza and didn't have to live this life here."
Israel and Hamas began a cease-fire on Nov. 24 as a part of an agreement under which the militant group is slowly releasing hostages it took during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. In return, Israel has agreed to release about 150 Palestinian prisoners and allow an increase in deliveries of aid into Gaza.
More than 1,200 people were killed in the attacks, most of them civilians in towns neighboring Gaza. More than 14,800 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed in the resulting Israeli offensive in Gaza, according to authorities in the Hamas-run enclave. The number doesn't distinguish between civilians and combatants.
Under the cease-fire agreement, humanitarian groups are allowed to dispatch 200 trucks a day to the Gaza Strip, more than at any point during the war. The convoys include deliveries of fuel to power generators at facilities, including hospitals. The Gaza Strip has had no regular supply of electricity since its sole power plant shut down on Oct. 11.
Israel, which declared what it called a “complete siege" of the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9, has said it is facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid into the Strip.
“We are currently focusing on humanitarian aid specifically for the wintertime, like tents, blankets and mattresses," Moshe Tetro, head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration for the Israeli military, said in a video tweeted on Sunday.
The number of trucks is still less than half the daily average that entered Gaza before the war. Among the problems compounding the crisis in Gaza is that the war has brought the economy grinding to a halt. Much of Gaza's food is brought in by truck from Israel and Egypt, with all shipments through crossings from Israel cut off by the Israeli government in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks.
The United Nations and other organizations say they are being forced to step in for the private sector, which has collapsed because of the war and blockade imposed by Israel. That has raised the challenge of sustaining the Gazan population during what is expected to be several more months of war.
“If there are no commercial goods in the stores, what we're doing effectively is actively turning an entire population into a population that exclusively relies on food aid, and that is so wrong in terms of managing Gaza," said Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which runs the largest aid operation in Gaza.
Israel has said it plans to resume its military offensive in Gaza whenever the cease-fire ends. Israeli officials say that the military has largely routed the group in the north and that the next phase of the war will focus on uprooting Hamas from southern Gaza. Even during the initial four days of the cease-fire, Gazans say that the increase in deliveries of aid hasn't made a difference in their lives.
In Gaza City, which has been encircled by the Israeli military for weeks, Palestinians leapt onto aid trucks, pushing and shoving one another as a convoy arrived on Sunday, with residents scuffling over sacks of flour and blankets, witnesses said.
The situation in the northern Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, is especially desperate. Israel urged more than one million people living in northern Gaza to leave the area to give the Israeli military a freer hand to operate. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are estimated to have stayed, aid groups say.
Many stayed behind with sick, wounded or elderly relatives who were unable to move. Others chose to stay out of fear that they wouldn't be allowed back into their homes. Israel has told Palestinians who fled to the south not to return to the north for now, with Israeli forces using gunfire to disperse people who tried to enter the north over the weekend. The Israeli military said it warned people not to approach the area for their own safety.
“We're dealing with a completely new reality in Gaza," said Bushra Khalidi, a policy lead at Oxfam, an antipoverty charity. “It's been a glimpse into the future of what Gaza will be like after the war, and it's absolute chaos. There's no rule of law. There's no police. People are fending for themselves."
In southern Gaza, food and other essentials are more readily available, but an increasing number of Palestinians there say they can't afford the soaring prices of essentials such as flour and vegetables. Palestinians in the area say they are waiting hours, sometimes staying in line overnight, to obtain essentials such as bread and water. A single line for cooking gas in the southern city of Khan Younis stretched for more than a mile, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Everything is expensive and we don't have money. We have not gotten any humanitarian aid," said Suha Mahmoud, 45, who is staying in a university in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis after having fled when Israeli tanks approached her home near the seaport in Gaza City.
Like many other Palestinians, Mahmoud left her home carrying only a few possessions. She went to a local shop to buy a set of warm clothes for her 7-year-old daughter only to find that it would cost 50 Israeli shekels, or $13 dollars.
“We don't know what's going to happen after this pause, if we will ever go back home, if we will get any aid. We are heading into the unknown," she said.
Source: Live Mint
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What China’s $4
Sri Lanka has paved the way for a $4.5 billion investment by China in Hambantota. The town, which also houses a port that was leased to a Chinese state-owned shipping company in 2017, is at the heart of India’s concerns about growing Chinese influence in New Delhi’s strategic backyard. Mint take a look at the announcement and its implication.
What exactly was announced?
Sri Lanka's energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera broke the news on Monday that China's Sinopec will be awarded a contract to establish a refinery at Hambantota Port. “Cabinet approval was granted today to award the contract to China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) of China, to enter into an agreement to establish a new Petroleum Refinery & Associated Product Processing center in Hambantota," Wijesekera posted on X.
This came after the country signed an agreement with Sinopec in May for the storage, distribution and sale of petroleum products. This was particularly important for Sri Lanka, given the energy shortages that have rocked the country in recent years.
Why is this announcement significant?
At the heart of this new development is China's growing influence in India's strategic backyard. China has become a major investor, trading partner and political player in the island nation in recent decades. Hambantota Port, which was financed with an estimated $1.3 billion of Chinese money, is seen as a key example of the lengths to which China will go to expand its influence.
Experts have suggested that the economic logic for building the port has always been weak. Some reports suggest it was built to shore up China's relationship with the Rajapaksa family, which has played a dominant role in the country's politics.
Whatever the case, the project ran up large debts and Sri Lanka's government eventually handed it over to a state-owned Chinese firm on a 99-year lease in lieu of those debts. This is seen as an instance of China's “debt-trap diplomacy".
What are India?s concerns?
New Delhi has a range of concerns about China's increased role in Sri Lanka. The first is that its economic presence gives it leverage over Sri Lanka's government. Experts also suggest that India has been concerned about the security implications of China's investments in Hambantota. Chinese vessels like the Yuan Wang V have docked at Hambantota Port, amid concerns that these ships are in the Indian Ocean to gather intelligence on India's military capabilities. Given that Sri Lanka is currently battling for its economic survival, China's role may continue to expand, as the latest investment from Sinopec suggests.
How has India reacted to China's growing ties with Sri Lanka?
India has stepped up its own efforts to become a ‘partner of first resort' for Sri Lanka. It approved a $4 billion economic rescue package for the country as its economic crisis worsened in 2022. It also played a key role in helping Sri Lanka secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund. India has also unveiled a slew of new initiatives, including an energy pipeline, to alleviate some of Sri Lanka's resource constraints. It has also conveyed its concerns to Sri Lanka about China's military presence in the region.
Source: Live Mint
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