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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slaves freed after CNN documentary

By Fred Pleitgen and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, CNN

(CNN) - Hundreds of African refugees have been released from captivity in the Sinai Peninsula and allowed to cross from Egypt into Israel, shortly after a CNN documentary aired detailing the horrendous conditions the migrants face.

The report, "Death in the Desert," which was first broadcast on CNN International on November 5, showed evidence that African refugees, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, were being held captive by Bedouin human traffickers in Sinai, who try to extort massive sums of money from the refugees’ families for their release.

While in captivity the refugees are enslaved, many of the women raped and some even killed. The CNN crew even found evidence that some victims had organs extracted, a practice known as organ harvesting, and were later found dead in the desert.

Shortly after the documentary aired, more than 600 African refugees were released in Sinai, says Hamdi al Azzazy, an activist for the New Generation Foundation for Human Rights who has worked for years in the region, fighting to improve the plight of the African refugees.

His account was backed up by a press release from the EveryOne Group, an Italian non-governmental organization, which has also been raising public awareness about the refugees.

It said that after the CNN documentary aired "many chief-traffickers were afraid of being pursued by the authorities and on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 decided to release most of the groups of refugees they were holding prisoner."

The Sinai Desert is a vast and lawless area where the Egyptian state has virtually no presence and it is nearly impossible to fully verify the accounts.

CNN has contacted a chief of the Sawarka Bedouin tribe. Some rogue members of this tribe have been implicated in the imprisonment of African refugees and in the organ harvesting scheme.

The chief, who has asked not to be named said: "I heard the Sawarka's members involved in this dirty business released more than 600 Africans without them having to pay the ransoms and sent them to the Israeli border due to pressure from the intelligence service, including hundreds who were freed from the house of the assassinated dealer in Nekhel. He has been selling their organs and they found lots of weapons."

EveryOne Group says the alleged trafficker in people and human organs - known as "The Sultan" - was killed in a shootout with some Bedouins of another tribe, who were attempting to free a group of Eritrean refugees.

An Egyptian general, who asked not to be named, told CNN that Egypt's national security agencies were "tracking the rings of organized criminals involved in human trafficking but remain perplexed regarding who exactly is harvesting the organs and where they have been sold."

He said the investigation included "both the Egyptian intelligence and the National Security apparatus because it involves several countries and is not just an internal issue."

The UNHCR, which attempts to keep track of refugees crossing from Egypt to Israel, has confirmed that about 650 refugees have recently crossed the border.

Peter Deck, the Senior Protection Officer for the UNHCR in Tel Aviv, said it was impossible to tell why so many refugees were suddenly crossing the border or what role CNN's Freedom Project program may have played in people getting released from Bedouin detention camps, but he added that November was on track to becoming a record for the most crossings by refugees from Egypt to Israel.

He said that aside from the sheer numbers, the conditions had also changed. Many of those who crossed into Israel had stayed in Sinai for about a week, whereas usually the African refugees are held in Bedouin camps for months, and that most had paid substantially less to be allowed to pass then is normally the case.

Another change he noted was: "We didn’t have any refugees complain of severe physical abuse or violence… something seems to be different in those Bedouin camps."

The American University in Cairo is hosting a conference this weekend at which a delegation from The International Criminal Court will address human trafficking through Africa, Sinai, and Israel.

Kashmir erupts over anti-Islam Facebook page

Srinagar, Nov 18 (IBNS) The anti Islamic page posted on social networking website Facebook has created uproar in Kashmir Valley and from last two days the anger is brewing among Kashmiri youths. Meanwhile, cyber crime sleuths of J&K Police are on the red alert and some arrests are likely to be made in the next 24 hours.

The Facebook page titled 'This Dog will get more fans than Syed Ali Shah Geelani', allegedly the brain child of few Christian youths, was spotted a few days ago on the social networking website with anti-Islamic content.

Authorities feel that attempts are being made to disturb the peace in Valley.

People in large numbers gathered in different parts of Valley especially in Karan Nagar, Chana Pora, Saraibal, Nowhatta, Kral Pora in Srinagar demanding stern action against the operator of the page.

“We want the operator of this page to be hanged and exposed. Why the Jammu and Kashmir Police are silent and why they are not able to track down the 'bloody operator' of this anti-Islamic page,” a protestor told IBNS in Srinagar.

Bilal Ahmed, another protestor, said that at first he thought the page was created to defame Hurriat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani but “as soon as I went through it, I was aghast. I was so disturbed that I logged off. How can one play with the religious sentiments of the people and I just want to know who these ‘rascals’ are.”

Senior hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani had called for post Friday prayer protests against the blasphemous posts on Facebook. However, according to sources, he was placed under house arrest.

Meanwhile, protests rocked Srinagar city soon after Friday prayers.

In Maisuma locality of Srinagar city, youths pelted stones on police and the clashes were going on when this report was being filed.

Police arrested two youths who were allegedly involved in stone pelting. They have been identified as Ishtiaq Ahmed and Mohammad Owais.

Despite the heavy deployment of police and security forces, the downtown area of Srinagar city witnessed heavy stone pelting incidents.

Protestors complained that one of such pages had crossed all limits as “extremely offending” sketches and slogans had been posted to hurt religious sentiments of the population in Kashmir.

They pointed out that entire Internet traffic in India is being regulated and monitored either by government’s own telecommunication companies like Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) or the registered private telecommunication companies.

Besides, there was regular surveillance on all Internet operations by Department of Telecommunication, Ministry of Home Affairs of Government of India, Central and state intelligence agencies and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

While talking to IBNS, separatist leader and the chairman of Nationl Front, Nayeem Khan, said that those youths who express their anger against India on Facebook are immediately being traced and arrested and why not the operators of this objectionable page are not being exposed.

“If police and other state authorities claim to track operators of anti-national and separatist websites and Facebook pages, why don’t they who who the hell is running these anti-Muslim pages on Facebook?” Khan told IBNS.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, told IBNS that police took cognizance late last night and today it got the “highly objectionable page” blocked with the help of union Ministry of Home Affairs and union Ministry of Communication in New Delhi.

“We have blocked this page and it is nowhere available now. We are investigating the matter and those responsible will be severely punished,” the SSP said.

He confirmed that cyber surveillance had been immediately increased to ensure that nobody got an opportunity to foment trouble and mistrust among the local population, particularly the youth.

Today’s expressions against the Facebook pages included slogans against some recent incidents of conversions.

Mirwaize Molve Mohammad Omar Farooq has called All Religious Party meet on 21st of this month in which according to sources the role of Christian missionaries in Kashmir Valley will be discussed.

Highly placed sources told IBNS that chief priest Khanna has admitted before the Islamic Court that they were able to convert many young men of Valley into Christianity and now they have decided to stop their activities.

(Reporting by Neyaz Elahi)

Susahnya Beribadat

Wang bantuan sekolah RM100 diberi di pejabat Umno

Sebuah sekolah rendah di Ampang membawa pelajarnya ke pejabat Umno bahagian untuk mendapatkan wang bantuan terbabit.

PETALING JAYA: Ahli Parlimen Ampang Zuraida Kamaruddin yang juga ketua Wanita PKR hari ini mendedahkan wang bantuan RM100 kepada murid sekolah diberikan di pejabat Umno.

Zuraida mendakwa sebuah sekolah rendah di Ampang membawa pelajarnya ke pejabat Umno bahagian untuk mendapatkan wang bantuan terbabit.

Malah bantuan tersebut diberikan oleh Ketua Umno bahagian Datuk Ismail Kijo di bangunan Umno Ampang di Jalan Bukit Belacan.

“Saya dapat panggilan dari guru besar dan ibu bapa yang memberitahu murid-murid terpaksa dibawa ke bangunan Umno Ampang untuk menerima wang itu,” kata Zuraida dalam sidang media di Ibu Pejabat PKR di sini hari ini.

Tindakan itu disifatkan Zuraida sebagai petanda jelas Umno begitu terdesak untuk menipu rakyat bagi mendapatkan undi kerana ia sepatutnya disalurkan terus kepada sekolah dan tidak membabitkan campur tangan parti politik.

Diumum Najib

“Sepatutnya bantuan itu diserahkan oleh kakitangan kerajaan atau pun daripada Kementerian Pelajaran,” katanya.

Wang bantuan persekolahan RM100 seperti yang diumumkan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak pada pembentangan Belanjawan 2012 sepatutnya disalurkan kepada akaun sekolah masing-masing dengan serta-merta.

Wang bantuan itu akan diagihkan kepada pelajar Tahun Satu hingga Tahun Lima dan dari Tingkatan Satu hingga Tingkatan Empat bagi sesi persekolahan 2011.

Manakala bayaran bantuan kepada pelajar Tahun Satu dan Tingkatan Satu sesi persekolahan 2012 akan dibayar pada Januari tahun depan.

Mahathir goes to war on warmongers

Wars cannot be made into a crime against humanity, says the former prime minister when he launched an attack on the purveyors of war.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad lambasted the purveyors of war in a speech laced with heavy sarcasm simply titled “War” delivered at an international conference here today.

“War is good for business. Killing people with weapons is good for business. So reject peace. Reject negotiations. Reject arbitration. Reject courts of law. Go to war. Kill, kill, kill. That’s the way to solve conflicts between nations,” he said sarcastically.

Besides killing people, war could also bankrupt countries, he noted.

“But wars cannot be abolished or made into a crime against humanity. It’s too profitable and it is what gives power to the powerful countries,” Mahathir said at the conference on Arab uprising organised by Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF).

Mahathir, who is PGPF president, said these mass killers now called their war machines their “defence forces” but it was obvious that they were not used solely for defence.

“They are equipped to attack, invade, shock and awe their victims,” Mahathir said, adding that their governments and industries spent huge sums in the invention of new weapons.

“Even children’s toys give ideas for better killing machines. Remote-controlled toy planes for children lead to UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. First used for aerial photography, they’re now fitted with guns, missiles and bombs,” he said.

He said gases, germs and rays of all kind were studied and invariably their potential for killing people was identified and developed.

“All these research, development, tests and production cost a lot of money, running into billions each year. But for these killing machines any amount of money is worth it,” he said.

Mahathir said the irony was that the same people who indulged in mass killings were the ones who were critical of Malaysia’s capital punishment reserved for those trafficking drugs as well as murderers.


Najib Has Shown Great Leadership, Says President Obama

NUSA DUA (BALI), Nov 19 (Bernama) -- United States President Barack Obama said Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has shown great leadership not only in continuing to boost Malaysia's economy but also in showing leadership on a wide range of multilateral fora.

The American leader said "we want to be a strong partner with Malaysia".

"I appreciate the extraordinary cooperation that we've received on a whole range of issues," he said.

"...So, thank you very much, Prime Minister," Obama said in his remarks at a bilateral meeting with Najib here, Friday ahead of the East Asia Summit scheduled for Saturday.

The US president said the bilateral meeting would allow both countries to discuss how they could best use the East Asia Summit to ensure shared prosperity and shared security across the region.

Obama said the meeting also allowed both sides to expand discussions on their bilateral relationship, describing it as "strong", as well the cooperation seen on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

He also alluded to his interaction with Najib at the recently-concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hawaii.

"I just want to say how much of a pleasure it is to be able to see, once again, Prime Minister Najib.

We just had excellent conversations and consultations at the APEC conference that we hosted in Honolulu," he said.

Meanwhile, Najib, in his statement, noted that the US was Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner and, on a comparative basis, still the largest investor in Malaysia.

"We certainly look forward to expanding trade and investment linkages. And with the TPP, hopefully, we can meet the deadline next year," he said.

Najib said Kuala Lumpur saw great prospects in terms of enhancing trade and investment between the two countries.

"And certainly we look forward to working in other areas concerned," he said.

In addition, Najib stressed that Malaysia was very committed to ensuring peace and stability, pointing out that the Southeast Asian nation was working with the US in the area of nuclear non-proliferation.

"We're doing our part to ensure that Malaysia is not a transit point for illicit goods that can be used for nuclear proliferation," he said.

He said Malaysia was looking at new areas of cooperation, including receiving 50 English teachers from the US in January.

Najib mentioned that Malaysia was also helping out in Afghanistan, in reference to its capacity-building efforts in the war-torn country.

The bilateral meeting was also attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy-Ann DeParle, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of State, Kurt Campbell.

The Malaysian delegation included Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Wisma Putra (Foreign Ministry) secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Radzi Abdul Rahman and Malaysian ambassador to the US Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis.