YANGON: The UN children's agency UNICEF has called on Myanmar's government to release Rohingya children detained as part of a sweeping military campaign in Rakhine state. More than 600 people were arrested in an army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the north of the restive state. The operation was launched after deadly attacks by militants on police posts in October. Rohingya escapees in neighbouring Bangladesh, where more than 70,000 have fled, gave UN investigators accounts of beatings, torture and food deprivation inside the jails. Minors are among those detained. UNICEF's deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said he had given the country's de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi details of around a dozen youngsters being held in Buthidaung prison. "There are some children that are detained in prison, so those are the cases that we're raising," he said late on Saturday at the end of a brief trip to Myanmar. "Any child that's detained is an issue for us."
Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi and Myanmar's army chief both recognised "that there's an issue here" but made no firm committment for their release, he added. Government spokesman Zaw Htay declined to comment when contacted on Sunday. The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to send a mission to Myanmar to probe allegations that troops and police raped, killed and tortured Rohingya in their months-long campaign. Myanmar has rejected the accounts collected by UN investigators in the Bangladesh refugee camps, who said the crimes could amount to ethnic cleansing. "I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening," Suu Kyi said in an interview with the BBC last week.
Myanmar's police and the military have both launched separate probes to investigate the deaths of at least eight people in custody in northern Rakhine. UN rights envoy for Myanmar Yanghee Lee said some 450 people were being held in Buthidaung prison when she visited in January, most without access to lawyers or their families.
Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of more than one million Rohingya, who are vilified as illegal "Bengali" immigrants and forced to live in apartheid-like conditions even though many have lived in the country for generations. A group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has claimed the October attacks, which it said were intended to defend the rights of the persecuted minority after years of worsening conditions. Forsyth said there was a growing recognition among both Myanmar's civilian government and army that depriving Rohingya children of opportunities had bred militancy. "The reality is if you don't address these issues particularly for these communities then it will come back to haunt them, which is partly what has happened," he said.
Pyongyang: North Korea has vowed to bolster its defences to protect itself against air strikes like the ones President Donald Trump ordered against an air base in Syria.The North called the air strikes "absolutely unpardonable" and said they prove its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington's "evermore reckless moves for a war."The comments were made by a Foreign Ministry official and carried Sunday by North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency. The report did not name the official, which is common in KCNA reports.The air strikes, announced shortly after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up dinner at a two-day summit in Florida last week, were retaliation against Syrian President Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack against civilians caught up in his country's long civil war.
"Some forces are loud-mouthed that the recent US military attack on Syria is an action of warning us but we are not frightened by it," the report said, adding that the North's "tremendous military muscle with a nuclear force as its pivot" will foil any aggression by the US."We will bolster up in every way our capability for self-defence to cope with the US ever more reckless moves for a war and defend ourselves with our own force," it said.
North Korea has long claimed that the United States is preparing to conduct similar precision strikes against its territory or even launch an all-out invasion. It claims its nuclear weapons are a necessary deterrent to the US military threat. Washington denies it has any intention of invading the North.Tensions have been even higher than usual over the past few weeks because annual war games between the US and South Korean militaries are underway. The exercises this year are the biggest ever and have included stealth fighter training and other manoeuvres that are particularly sensitive to North Korea.
For its part, the North test-launched a ballistic missile just ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting and has been rumoured to be preparing for a possible nuclear test.The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with an armistice, not a formal peace treaty.North Korea considers Syria an ally. But unlike Syria, experts warn that North Korea has a means of striking back if provoked.
Along with its rapidly advancing nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, the North has its artillery and short-range missiles trained on Seoul, the capital of US ally South Korea and a city of more than 10 million people.
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All through Tuesday the deadline for the much-awaited decision on the chief whip's removal -Oommen Chandy, K M Mani and P C George receded into the background as a different actor held centre stage: Saritha Nair, the main accused in the solar scam, threatened to clear the air once and for all as to which spotless (and not so spotless) politician had or had not got sexual favours from her.
In a news conference held midday in Pathanamthitta, Saritha said that Jose K Mani, Kottayam MP and son of the finance minister, was not in the `lucky list' as George had claimed on Monday. Instead, she alleged that George was trying to exploit her name to hit out at Mani.
In the evening, at her second news conference of the day at the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club, Saritha stuck to her midday script though she went back on her promise to release the original tell-all 30-page letter she had written in jail, and parts of which various politicians seemed to be quoting for their own ends.
If her unwillingness to spill the beans poured cold water on a prime time television audience hanging on her every word and charged expression, there was belated compensation. As our own Rakesh Nair's photos show in irrefutable detail, the copy of her original letter which she kept brandishing had the very name she was making such a show of denying to the assembled media. The exposed page has the name of Jose K Mani and written against it: “met him @ delhi, forced me to do sex“.
So was she lying to the media and the people of Kerala -lying through her teeth even as she went on and on about ruthless politicians and of one young woman at their mercy?
Or is there another twist to the tale? Would somebody as media savvy, as Saritha has shown herself to be over the year or so that the Solar Scam has roiled Kerala, have been so absent minded about flashing cameras and zooming lenses as she waved those explosive pages around? So was she trying to please two political camps simultaneously?
Who's lying and who's telling the truth, even partially Saritha, George or Jose K Mani? Who stands to benefit from all these lies and sleaze?
Kerala demands to know. Member of Parliament Jose K Mani said here on Tuesday that he had been a victim of blackmail politics and it was his serious wish that he should be the last one. Those behind the allegations that he had links with solar scam accused Saritha S Nair were carrying out goonda-blackmail politics.
“P C George had been acting with a hidden agenda ever since he came to the Kerala Congress (M). It was the KC(M) that gave shelter to George but he had worked only against the interests of the party,“ Jose told reporters.
George had alleged that a letter written by Saritha had mentioned Jose and they had close links. He also said he had informed K M Mani about this earlier.
“The timing of the leak age of the letter to the media itself proves that it has been purposefully done to defame me. It has been done with vested interests and it is nothing but cheap politics anyone can resort to,“ Jose said.
He said he would be submitting a complaint to the director general of police to find the truth behind the leakage of the letter. “Every person involved in this conspiracy should be brought out,“ he said.
Admitting that he had met Saritha once when came to invite him for a function, Jose termed all the other allegations baseless.He said he expected more such allegations against him and he was not afraid of them. “No one should dream that they could destroy KC (M) by raising such allegations.“
He also alleged that George had acted against UDF candidates Anto Antony in Pathanamthitta and against him in Kottayam during the last Lok Sabha election. “He had also tried to defeat Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan in the last assembly election.“
Berlin: Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal doesn't get much sleep these days, but says it's well worth it. The community rabbi and head of the Jewish outreach group Chabad in Berlin has been campaigning relentlessly to turn his dream of creating a Jewish campus in Germany into a reality.For years, he's lobbied the German authorities, raised millions of euros (dollars) in funds and bought a 3,000 square meter (32,000 square feet) plot of land next to Chabad's synagogue in the German capital's Wilmersdorf district.
More than just a new facility, Teichtal sees the centre as a step toward Chabad's goal of re-establishing a vibrant Jewish community in the former Nazi capital, in part by welcoming and integrating Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and encouraging interactions with non-Jews."Everyone in Europe talks about fears and uncertainties, we're talking about going forward," said the 44-year-old orthodox rabbi, looking across the large empty plot where a few containers have been set up as a temporary extension of Chabad's kindergarten.The planned seven-story building will be dedicated to Jewish education, culture and sports, the first of its kind in Germany. If all goes to plan, the groundbreaking is scheduled for September and the entire campus is slated to be finished in late 2019.German authorities approved some of the still-outstanding permissions earlier this month."With all the challenges we're facing today, building this campus is a signal: We're here to stay - otherwise we wouldn't build," says Teichtal, who wears a traditional beard, a velvet kippah and a black caftan.
Germany has experienced a strong influx of Jews in recent decades and Berlin has the biggest Jewish community in Germany, with about 40,000 members. Those numbers are still a far cry, however, from Germany's flourishing Jewish community of more than 500,000 before the Nazi period, with some 120,000 Jews in Berlin alone.
Overall, some six million European Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.Because of its history, Germany took in some 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union since the fall of communism in 1989 - most of them secular and with only a little knowledge about their own religion.When Rabbi Teichtal and his wife Leah set out from Brooklyn to Berlin 20 years ago, they came with the goal of reaching out to this group, but also to the established German Jewry. Though New York-based, Chabad members are sent out as "Jewish messengers" around the globe with the aim of getting mostly unaffiliated Jews in touch with their religion.
In the last two decades, the Chabad community in Berlin has kept growing and there are now around 600 to 700 families who regularly take part in the community's offerings, Teichtal said.Chabad has a synagogue, an educational centre, a kindergarten, an elementary and high school - but the facilities are spread over the city and so popular that the Jewish group can't offer places to all the applicants.
With the establishment of the new 7,000 square-meter (75,300 square-feet) campus, all Chabad schools will all be united under one roof and also offer more facilities, including a library, cafeteria, movie theatre, concert hall and a ballroom for weddings and other festivities.The sports centre will include an indoor basketball court and opportunities for soccer and other ball games. Outside, there'll be a playground and a garden.The cost of the entire campus is projected at around 18 million euros ($20.3 million). It's being funded by the federal government, Berlin's state government, several German foundations and private donations.
Unlike most Jewish institutions in Germany, which are behind fences and tightly guarded against anti-Semitic attacks, Teichtal says he wants the Jewish campus to be open to everyone."It should become a place where Jews and non-Jews can come together and meet," he said.
Moscow: Twelve people were hospitalised after a commuter train collided with a long-distance train in western Moscow, Russian authorities said on Sunday.Russia's minister of emergency situations, Vladimir Puchkov, told Russian news agencies that "12 people were hospitalised, including six in serious condition" as a result of the collision.
The collision occurred at 22:16 (1916 GMT) on Saturday when the driver of a commuter train braked suddenly to avoid hitting a person on the tracks, the Russian Railways state corporation said in a statement.Its brakes damaged, the train went into reverse and collided with a long-distance train, travelling to the Belarusian city of Brest that had stopped on the same track, the statement said.Twenty-eight people sought medical attention after the collision, Russian Railways said. No casualties were reported. Video footage broadcast on state television showed emergency workers examining the damaged trains while medics assisted passengers.
The collision caused two of the commuter train's wagons and a portion of the long-distance train to derail, Russian Railways said.Puchkov said in televised comments that more than 200 people were working at the site of the collision to clear the tracks.Train service in the area resumed at 5:46 am (0246 GMT), Russian Railways said.