Friday, December 15, 2017
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A group of migrants recently rescued by Myanmar will be deported to Bangladesh, officials confirmed Saturday, as the United Nations chief called on regional nations to prioritize saving the lives of those still stranded at sea.
Southeast Asia is currently battling an exodus of boat people fleeing persecution and poverty, with up to 2,000 vulnerable migrants thought to be stranded in the Bay of Bengal, many at the mercy of ruthless people smugglers.
Most are Muslim Rohingyas from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar, where they are not recognised as citizens and instead referred to as “Bengalis” or illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Bangladeshis, meanwhile, are also trying to escape grinding poverty.
More than 3,500 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh since a Thai crackdown in early May on human-trafficking threw the illicit trade into chaos.
Myanmar has faced increasing international pressure to stem the deluge from its shores and deliver urgent humanitarian relief to thousands still trapped at sea.
On Friday the country’s navy said it had carried out its first rescue of a migrant boat when scores of bare-chested men were found crammed into the hull of a wooden fishing vessel and taken to shore.
Myanmar officials say all 208 men are from Bangladesh and will soon be returned there. AFP wasn’t able to independently verify where the migrants were from.
“We are giving humanitarian assistance to them. After that we will deport them back to the relative country,” Zaw Htay, director of the presidential office, told AFP on Saturday.
“We have made contact with Bangladeshi border officials on the ground regarding the arrived persons,” he added.
‘Save lives’
The rescue by the Myanmar navy comes as fears grow for migrants still stuck at sea at a time when the dry winter months are about to give way to the regional monsoon.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said finding and saving the lives of those migrants should be a “top priority”.
Speaking during a visit to Hanoi, he called on regional nations to tackle the “root causes” of the current exodus at an upcoming conference in Thailand later this month.
“But when people are drifting on the sea, how we can search and rescue them and provide life saving humanitarian assistance, that is a top priority at this time,” he said.
At home Myanmar’s Rohingya face daily discrimination and a raft of restrictions. Many live in displacement camps after scores of Rohingya were killed in 2012 during communal bloodshed with local Buddhists — an event that caused a spike in people to flee on boats.
Most migrants aim for Malaysia and Indonesia using dangerous and lucrative smuggling networks that criss-cross the region.
Over recent years, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis have left their homes in what has become the largest regional sea migration since the end of the Vietnam War.
The smugglers largely went about their business unhindered until the crack down by Thailand on smuggling networks in the country’s south, which caused many gang masters to abandon their victims.
Other smugglers off the coast of Myanmar have held off making the crossing because of the crackdown.
A trickle of would-be migrants have managed to return to Myanmar after relatives raised funds to buy them back from smugglers.
But many more are thought to be still stuck on boats.
Aid workers have urged countries to rescue them before the region is lashed by heavy monsoon rains.

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A group calling itself “The Revolutionary Punishment” has claimed responsibility for shooting dead two police sergeants in Fayoum last Thursday in retaliation for the recent executions of militants.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the group said motorbike-riding members shot dead two policemen from the Sennouras police department in retaliation for “the martyrs of Arab Sharkas and the free students”.
The statement was referring to the death sentence applied to seven suspects who faced charges for killing two army officers during a raid on suspected terrorist cells in Arab Sharkas, Qalyubia
The convicts were accused of being affiliated with the Sinai Province, the Sinai-based group which had carried out several fatal attacks against security forces since 2013 before paying allegiance to the Islamic State.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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Government security forces killed 42 suspected drug cartel henchmen and suffered one fatality in a firefight in western Mexico on Friday, an official said, one of the bloodiest shootouts in a decade of gang violence wracking the country.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said one federal policeman died and another was injured in the three hour battle on a ranch just inside the Michoacan state border with Jalisco, home of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-biggest city.
The death toll was one of the heaviest to hit Mexico since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012 pledging to put an end to years of gangland violence that have claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2007 alone.
Government officials said the 42 killed by security forces near the town of Tanhuato were suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation (JNG) cartel, a gang based in the neighboring state that has seriously undermined Pena Nieto’s pledge.
The gunfight began after security forces alerted to an “invasion” of the ranch approached the 112 hectare property and were fired upon by a group of armed men, Rubido said.
After calling in air and ground support, government forces ground down their opponents with the aid of a helicopter, in the end capturing three suspected gang members and seizing a grenade launcher and 39 guns of varying calibres, he added.
Earlier, a government official told Reuters that two federal police had died in the exchanges near Tanhuato, where a week ago, federal forces replaced local police after the assassination of a candidate for mayor in a nearby town.
Rubido said officials from the national human rights commission (CNDH) had been sent to the ranch, where the number of dead was the highest in any clash between the government and suspected gangsters since a controversial incident last June.
Then, the government first reported that 22 gang members were killed in a shootout with soldiers in central Mexico. However, subsequent investigations showed that more than half of the dead had been executed, embarrassing the government.
Election looms
Jalisco is one of the engines of the Mexican economy, but the state’s southern border turned into a battleground between the JNG and the Michoacan-based Knights Templars, a gang whose leadership has been shattered over the past 18 months.
Capitalizing on the Templars’ losses, the JNG has become the biggest threat to the government, killing at least 20 police since March. On May 1, its gunmen shot down an army helicopter in southwestern Jalisco, claiming the lives of six military personnel.
The gang also set vehicles, banks and gas stations ablaze around Guadalajara in a series of concerted attacks that day, shaking confidence in the federal government’s ability to contain the violence ahead of mid-term elections on June 7.
Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party hopes to defend the slim majority it and its allies have in the lower house of Congress, with polls suggesting it could.

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Unknown gunmen kidnapped three civilians on Saturday in Rafah, North Sinai.
Two of the three who were kidnapped were working at the Rafah border crossing.
In a separate incident, a 37-lady was shot dead by unknown assailants in Sheikh Zuweid city. It is currently unknown why she was shot.
The restive Sinai Peninsula has witnessed the increasing presence of extremist groups which have carried out fatal attacks against police and army forces since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Security forces have been leading ongoing campaigns against suspected extremist havens in the region.
Military sources said the army managed to kill 17 members of the Sinai Province, a group loyal to the Islamic State, in land and air raids in North Sinai on Saturday.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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Eight political parties representing the Democratic Current have demanded the Supreme Constitutional Court to hasten with deciding on the constitutionality of the law regulating the right to protest.
In a statement on Friday, the parties said they had embarked on a signature-collecting campaign among political groups and public figures in rejection of the law which they labelled “unconstitutional”.
The parties said the 2013 legislation, issued at the peak of protests denouncing the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, had induced “political and social tensions”, and was behind “tens of lawsuits brought against hundreds of youths who tried to express their opinion peaceful under the pretext of breaking that legislation”.
The statement said the law infringes upon constitutional provisions which protect the right to protest without the prior security permission required by the controversial law.
Arrests and prison sentences issued for breaking the protest law did not stop with Morsi loyalists, but extended to Morsi’s liberal opponents who voiced criticisms of the current military-backed government.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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