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WORLD

TUESDAY 25 APRIL 2017,

SAUDI GAZETTE

7

2 top Afghan officials resign

after deadliest Taliban attack

KABUL —

Afghanistan’s defense

minister and army chief of staff

resigned on Monday after the

deadliest ever Taliban attack on

a military base, threatening to

overshadow a visit by US De-

fense Secretary Jim Mattis as

Washington looks to craft a new

strategy for the country.

Mattis was expected to meet

Afghan officials and US com-

manders who are pushing for

more troops. But his arrival in

Kabul came amid the fall-out

from Friday’s Taliban assault on

a base in the north of the country

in which more than 140 Afghan

soldiers were killed.

“Defense Minister Abdullah

Habibi and Army Chief of Staff

Qadam Shah Shahim stepped

down with immediate effect,” the

office of Afghan President Ashraf

Ghani announced in a post on its

Twitter account.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi,

acting spokesman for Ghani,

said that the resignations were

because of Friday’s attack on a

major army base in the city of

Mazar-i-Sharif.

Ghani’s office also announced

that he had replaced the com-

manders of four army corps in re-

sponse to the attack, and defense

officials said as many as eight

army personnel had been arrest-

ed — heightening suspicions the

attackers had inside help.

The attack underlines the

scale of the challenge facing the

Western-backed government and

its international partners more

than 15 years after the United

States invaded the country.

Habibi had come under in-

tense pressure from Afghan

lawmakers following an Islamic

State attack on a Kabul military

hospital in March.

At a news conference on

US Defense Secretary James Mattis looks out over Kabul as he arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support head-

quarters in Kabul on Monday.

— Reuters

US defense secretary visits Kabul as Trump looks to craft policy

Monday, Habibi and Shahim in-

sisted their resignations were

voluntary. “We should always

look for solutions to problems

and therefore I have decided that

there should be another guardian

standing guard,” Habibi said.

In a serious security failure,

as many as 10 Taliban fighters,

dressed in Afghan army uniforms

and driving military vehicles,

made their way onto the base and

opened fire on soldiers and new

recruits eating a meal and leaving

a mosque after Friday prayers,

according to officials.

Multiple Afghan officials said

the final death toll was likely to

be even higher.

A senior US official said,

based on intelligence and the

types of tactics used, the Taliban-

linked Haqqani network likely

played a role.

“This is very typical Haqqani

network tactics, techniques and

procedures,” said the official,

adding that the United States be-

lieved it took four to six months

to plan the attack.

The attack came just over

a week after the United States

dropped a 22,000 pound bomb,

known as the “mother of all

bombs,” against a series of Islam-

ic State caves and tunnels near

the border with Pakistan.

US officials say they were

surprised by the level of atten-

tion that particular bomb got,

since it did little to change the

overall situation ground where

the larger threat remained the

Taliban, not Daesh (the so-called

IS).

US officials acknowledge that

Afghanistan has rarely in recent

years been considered a priority

by decision-makers, who have

instead been consumed by Syria,

Iraq and, increasingly, North Ko-

rea.

But there are signs the ad-

ministration of new President

Donald Trump is making prog-

ress in crafting a policy for Af-

ghanistan.

— Reuters

Bangladeshi workers mark four years since factory collapse

SAVAR, Bangladesh —

Thou-

sands of Bangladeshi garment

workers staged a tearful demon-

stration on Monday to mark the

anniversary of a factory disaster

that killed 1,138 people, demand-

ing justice for the victims and

better pay.

Four years later, no one has

yet been convicted over the col-

lapse of the Rana Plaza factory

complex in one of the world’s

worst industrial tragedies.

Another 2,000 people were

wounded in the disaster, which

sent shockwaves across the

world and highlighted the fail-

ure of many top Western fashion

brands to protect workers in the

poor developing countries where

their goods are manufactured.

“If four years are not enough

to punish the culprits, bring them

to us: we will find justice for

ourselves,” said Marium Akter,

whose daughter Shieuly died in

the disaster, as she laid a wreath

at the site.

“I don’t need any compensa-

tion any more. I want Sohel Rana

to be hanged,” she said, referring

to the owner of the factory com-

plex who has been charged with

murder.

A court last year ordered

that Rana and 40 others, includ-

ing factory officials and govern-

ment inspectors, should face trial

for murder. They are accused

of falsely certifying the factory

complex as safe.

Thousands of textile workers

were forced to enter the building

to start shifts even though some

expressed fears after noticing

cracks in the structure.

Bangladesh has 4,500 textile

factories, shipping some $30 bil-

lion worth of garments — the

second largest exporter after

China — but only a few hundred

of these have been certified as

safe.

Authorities have provided

compensation for the 3,000 vic-

tims, including the injured and

families of the dead, but many

survivors say it is not enough.

“I would rather die than live

like this,” said Nilufa Begum, who

was rescued 10 hours after the

factory collapsed and still needs

crutches.

“I want to live like a normal

human being,” said the 37-year-

old, adding she had spent 450,000

taka ($5,700) on treatment.

Many survivors were in tears

as they protested at Savar on the

outskirts of Dhaka, and at a state-

run graveyard where many of the

workers were buried.

Security was tight, with hun-

dreds of police and a water can-

non deployed.

“Why do they have a water

cannon? We came here to honor

our departed brothers and sis-

ters,” said one angry garment

worker.

Some shouted slogans de-

Relatives of victims killed in Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, mourn at the site during the fourth anniver-

sary of the collapse in Savar, on the outskirt of Dhaka, on Monday.

— Reuters

manding an increase in the ba-

sic monthly wage of $68 for the

country’s four million garment

workers.

“Bangladeshi workers are the

worst paid in the world. We want

minimum monthly wages of $200

to have a decent living,” Saiful Is-

lam, a union leader, said.

— AFP

Kashmir students, Indian forces

clash again as protests continue

SRINAGAR, India —

Anti-In-

dia protests on Monday triggered

clashes between students and

government forces in the disput-

ed Himalayan region of Kashmir,

as authorities reopened schools

after a weeklong suspension of

classes.

Government forces used tear

gas and water cannons to stop

students from marching in the

main commercial area in Sri-

nagar, the key city in Indian-con-

trolled Kashmir.

The students retaliated by

hurling rocks and breaching

the barricades set up by police

and paramilitary soldiers. They

chanted “Go India, go back” and

“We want freedom.” Some stu-

dents were reportedly injured in

the clashes.

With residents joining the

students, the clashes with gov-

ernment forces spilled to main

streets in the city’s main com-

mercial center of Lal Chowk.

Shopkeepers downed their shut-

ters and many bystanders took

refuge inside.

Troops later fired live ammu-

nition in the air to quell the spi-

raling protests.

Tensions between Kashmiri

students and Indian law enforce-

ment have escalated since April

15, when government forces raid-

An Indian police man throws stones at Kashmiri student protesters as

they clash in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Monday.

— AP

Torture widespread in

Afghanistan, says UN

KABUL —

Torture and mis-

treatment of detainees by

Afghan security forces is as

widespread as ever, accord-

ing to a UN report released

on Monday, despite promises

by Afghan President Ashraf

Ghani and new laws enacted

by the government.

At least 39 percent of the

conflict-related

detainees

interviewed by UN investi-

gators “gave credible and re-

liable accounts” of being tor-

tured or experiencing other

mistreatment at the hands of

Afghan police, intelligence,

or military personnel while

in custody. That compares

with 35 percent of interview-

ees who reported such ill

treatment in the last UN re-

port, released in 2015.

In response to allegations

in the past, the Afghan gov-

ernment has acknowledged

that some problems could be

caused by individuals but not

as any national policy.

“The government of Af-

ghanistan is committed to

eliminating torture and ill-

treatment,” the government

said in a statement.

The UN report comes as

senior Afghan officials pre-

pare to appear before the UN

Committee Against Torture

in Geneva this week to face

a review of Afghanistan’s re-

cord of implementing anti-

torture laws.

The International Crimi-

nal Court in The Hague is

conducting a separate review

of torture in Afghanistan.

“Notwithstanding

the

government’s efforts to im-

plement its national plan

... the present report docu-

ments continued and consis-

tent reports of torture and ill-

treatment of conflict-related

detainees, mainly during

interrogation, and highlights

a lack of accountability for

such acts,” UN officials con-

cluded.

Over the past two years,

investigators

interviewed

469 detainees in 62 detention

centers across Afghanistan.

The report’s authors noted an

alarming 14-percent spike in

reports of torture by Afghan

National Police, at 45 percent

of those interviewed.

— Re-

uters

US, Philippines scale back scheduled

military drills, no more ‘war games’

MANILA —

About 5,000 Ameri-

can and Philippine troops will

hold humanitarian exercises

next month instead of annual

war games, scaling back military

drills in response to President

Rodrigo Duterte’s disdain for

their longstanding defense alli-

ance.

Troops taking part in “Balika-

tan” will simulate a response to a

devastating super typhoon in the

central Philippines, modeled on

typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which

killed at least 6,300 people and

left more than 200,000 families

homeless.

“Balikatan is designed to

meet current challenges facing

the Philippines,” US embassy

press officer Molly Koscina said

in a statement on Monday.

Duterte has made no secret

of his grudge against the United

States and believes a US military

presence of any kind in the Phil-

ippines puts his country at risk of

being dragged into conflict. He

has threatened to abrogate trea-

ties with Washington, but has yet

to follow up.

The volatile leader has

reached out to Russia and China

and invited their warships to

come to the Philippines for exer-

cises too.

He has taken issue with the

United States on its approach

to the South China Sea and said

Manila will never take part in

joint patrols, to avoid provoking

China.

— Reuters

Duterte faces ‘mass murder’

charge at international court

THE HAGUE —

A Philippine

lawyer on Monday filed a com-

plaint at the world’s only per-

manent war crimes court against

President Rodrigo Duterte, alleg-

ing his war on drugs has caused

some 8,000 deaths.

Lawyer Jude Sabio urged the

prosecutor at the International

Criminal Court in The Hague to

investigate Duterte and senior

administration officials and bring

charges of crimes against human-

ity against them for “the terrify-

ing and gruesome situation of

continuing mass murder in the

Philippines.”

Sabio, who is the lawyer for

Duterte’s confessed hit-man Ed-

gar Matobato, said the president

“began his strategy or system of

eliminating or killing persons

suspected of crimes, including

drug addicts and pushers” when

he became mayor of Davao City

in 1988.

“The ‘repeated, unchanging

and continuous’ mass murder be-

ing conducted by the President

Duterte has already resulted into

the deaths of not less than 1,400

individuals in Davao City under

his Davao Death Squad and not

less than 7,000 individuals in his

Philippine President Rodrigo

Duterte

Dozens of

Indian soldiers

killed in Maoist

encounter

PATNA, India —

Maoist

rebels killed at least 26 Indi-

an paramilitary soldiers and

injured six others in their

stronghold in central India

on Monday in one of the

worst attacks on the coun-

try’s security forces in recent

years, police said.

The rebels fired from

hilltops at a group of para-

military soldiers who were

guarding workers building

roads in a forested area of

Sukma district of Chhat-

tisgarh state, police officer

Vishwaranjan said.

The government has

been trying to improve

roads in the dense jungles

of Chhattisgarh to make it

easier for security forces to

pursue the rebels.

The injured were taken

by helicopter to a hospital.

Other details were not im-

mediately available.

CNNNews18 television

said seven other soldiers

from the Central Reserve

Police Force were missing.

It quoted a paramilitary sol-

dier as saying that hundreds

of rebels attacked the para-

military soldiers and there

was an exchange of gunfire

between the two sides.

—AP

ed a college in Pulwama, about

30 km south of Srinagar, to scare

anti-India activists.

Hundreds of students pro-

tested and clashes left at least

50 students injured. Authorities

didn’t say what they were look-

ing for in that raid.

On April 17, another round

of student protests across the

region left more than 100 stu-

dents and an unknown number

of police officers injured. Au-

thorities responded by closing

colleges, universities and some

high schools for a week, but the

protests continued unabated.

Also Monday, suspected reb-

els shot and killed a pro-India

politician, Abdul Gani, near the

town of Pulwama, police said.

Gani belonged to the People’s

Democratic Party, which is ruling

the region in coalition with In-

dia’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya

Janta Party.

— AP

war on drugs at the national lev-

el,” the filing said.

Sabio travelled to The Hague

to hand over his complaint in

person to the office of ICC pros-

ecutor Fatou Bensouda.

There was no immediate

reply from her office to an AFP

request for comment, but Ben-

souda in October issued a strong

statement about the alleged kill-

ings, warning those responsible

could face prosecution. “I am

deeply concerned about these

alleged killings and the fact that

public statements from high offi-

cials of the... Philippines seem to

condone such killings,” she said.

— AFP