CAIRO: Egyptian police killed six suspected Islamist militants in a shootout early Saturday in the country’s south, the interior ministry said.
The clashes broke out during a police raid on a militant hideout in a mountainous area on the edge of the southern province of Sohag, some 460 kilometers (285 miles) south of Cairo, the ministry said in a
Police seized weapons and ammunition, it added. The operation is part of “the interior ministry’s efforts to confront terrorist organizations aiming to undermine security and stability” in Egypt, it said.
Egypt has been battling an Islamist insurgency following the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was forced out by the military in the face of mass protests against his rule.
Attacks have largely been concentrated in the turbulent northern Sinai region, but have also taken place elsewhere across the country.
Egypt launched in February a wide-scale operation centered on North Sinai to wipe out jihadists, including members of the Islamic State group, spearheading the insurgency there.
Victims tell of brutal Zimbabwe crackdown
HARARE: The men wearing police and military uniforms came in the middle of the night, forcing their way into the home where Brighton, 35, lives with his young family outside Harare.
First, his wife was beaten, then they turned on him, kicking him and hitting him with sticks after dragging the couple who have a one-month-old child, out of their bed.
The attack was just one of the dozens of testimonies depicting a brutal crackdown after protests erupted this week over the government’s decision to more than double petrol prices.
“I was sleeping around 02:00 am and they were banging at the door,” Brighton said, as he waited in a Harare hospital for treatment for bruising on his face.
“They first beat up my wife. When they realized that she was carrying a baby, they stopped and ordered her to come out to watch while they beat me.
“I was the only man there. All the other tenants were out. They said ‘we will beat you on behalf of the other men absent’.
“They told me to stop and then they started beating me, kicking me,” he said, recalling the assault in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“I don’t know why they beat me,” said Brighton, who is employed by an engineering company, adding he had been busy at work on Monday, the main day of the protests.
Doctors’ groups say they have treated hundreds of casualties this week. Information has been scarce after authorities cut the internet in an apparent attempt to suppress details and halt accounts spreading on social media of police and soldiers indiscriminately raiding homes. For some critics, the repression echoes the grim brutality of Robert Mugabe’s era.
The UN’s human rights office on Friday urged Harare to “stop the crackdown”. It voiced alarm over the security forces’ “excessive use of force,” which included reported use of live ammunition.
“They broke a window to the spare bedroom where my children were sleeping, the kids started screaming and ran to our bedroom,” truck driver Rogers, 40, told the Media.
“They said if we refused to open up, they would fire teargas.
“I was beaten by three soldiers and one policeman – they beat me with thick sticks and batons, while one of them poured water all over my body.”
Another victim, Somandla, 19, who is unemployed, spoke softly and was visibly in pain, with a cotton bud in his ear. “My ear got it worse as they used a gun to beat me there. It was hard for me to hear in the morning. “They were saying ‘you are guys that were starting a fire in the streets’. I believe they were soldiers because they were wearing camouflage uniforms.”
Human Rights Watch accused the police of shooting people in broad daylight, while Amnesty criticized Zimbabwe to end its “repressive measures”.
The crackdown has spread from Harare’s residential districts to provincial towns.
In the northern city of Chinhoyi, one pregnant woman was attacked and suffered a miscarriage, according to a neighbor.
Some victims said they avoided seeking treatment at public hospitals in case they were asked to sign affidavits. Activists have put the death toll at between five and 16.
“They beat up my brother’s son and they beat me on my buttocks after they saw (opposition leader) Nelson Chamisa’s poster in my dining room,” said one 44-year-old mother. “They said I must tear it up.”
One doctor told AFP that the scale of injuries was far worse than when security forces shot dead six protesters in Harare on August 1, two days after the election.
He compared it to the 2008 election when then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential run-off against Mugabe as hundreds of people were killed.
The government has denied any wrongdoing. Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema has praised security forces for the “joint efforts to ensure that peace is restored.”
Relevant: Zimbabwe on Friday blocked most social media as international criticism mounted of a ruthless security crackdown after anti-government protests. Police and soldiers have been accused of indiscriminately dragging people from their homes and beating them.
Several hundred people have been arrested and doctors say they have treated scores of victims for serious gunshot injuries.
The United Nations human rights office on Friday urged Harare to “stop the crackdown”, voicing alarm over the security forces’ “excessive use of force” which included reports of them using live ammunition.
And it urged Zimbabwe’s government “to find ways of engaging with the population about their legitimate grievances”.
Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Monday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa said fuel prices would double in a country which suffers regular shortages of banknotes, fuel, food and medicine.
The internet was entirely blocked until Friday afternoon, when some service was resumed.
Econet, the biggest internet provider, told customers it had been ordered by the government to re-open the internet “except for specified social media applications.”
MDC, the main opposition party, accused the government of trying to suppress information about the security operation, in which between five and 16 people have been killed, activists say.
Accusing the government of “wanton violence”, the party warned that the authorities were “planning on further gross human rights violations under the cover of the communications blackout”.
Mnangagwa, who succeeded ousted authoritarian president Robert Mugabe in 2017, had promised a fresh start for Zimbabwe after decades of repression and economic decline.
But his election victory in July was tainted by accusations of fraud, and hopes for a new chapter were dashed when troops opened fire on protesters in Harare, killing several, even before the results were announced.
The EU on Thursday joined the US and Britain in criticizing the authorities’ response to the latest protests.
“The escalation of violence in Zimbabwe over recent days has been aggravated by the disproportionate use of force by security personnel,” European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said in a statement. “The shutdown of access to the internet should also be reversed.”
The US embassy in Harare said it was “alarmed by credible reports that security forces are targeting and beating political activists and labor leaders”.
Leading Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire was on Friday remanded in custody until January 31 on charges of subverting the government and inciting violence, apparently after backing this week’s national strike on social media.
Wearing his trademark Zimbabwe flag around his neck, he appeared pensive in the dock of Harare magistrates court as his supporters murmured their disapproval at the judge’s ruling.
Mnangagwa — Mugabe’s former deputy — has vowed to revive the country’s shattered economy by attracting foreign investment, but shortages have recently worsened.
He is on an overseas investment tour that started in Russia and will end with him mixing with world leaders at the Davos summit in Switzerland next week.
The president, 76, told state broadcaster ZBC, that no leader could “have their security (forces) go to sleep when shops are being looted”.
Inflation in Zimbabwe has risen to 40 percent – its highest rate since hyperinflation wrecked the economy 10 years ago and the country adopted the US dollar as its currency.
For months, long queues lasting hours or even days have formed outside petrol stations and banks, where both fuel and cash are rationed.
With US dollar notes scarce, Zimbabweans are forced to withdraw “bond notes” – supposedly equal to US dollars but worth far less in reality.
Mugabe, now 94, ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years from independence from Britain until he was ousted in November 2017.
The military, fearing that Mugabe’s wife Grace was being lined up to succeed him, seized control and forced him to resign before ushering Mnangagwa to power.
Nairobi Hotel Attack: 6 suspects in court
NAIROBI: Six suspects, including a Canadian citizen, appeared in a Kenyan court in connection with an Islamist attack on a Nairobi hotel complex that left 21 dead.
A magistrate granted a request from the prosecution to detain four men and one woman for 30 days while investigations continue. A sixth suspect will be held until next week. The suspects are accused of “possible involvement” in the almost 20-hour siege of the DusitD2 hotel and office complex by a suicide bomber and four gunmen who were killed by security forces, a court document said. “The investigations into this matter are complex and transnational and would, therefore, require sufficient time and resources to uncover the entire criminal syndicate,” a statement from Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said. A total of 11 suspects were arrested after Tuesday’s attack, however, investigations into the others were still ongoing. Those who appeared in court include Joel Ng’ang’a Wainaina, a taxi driver who ferried the attackers around on several occasions, and Oliver Kanyango Muthee, a taxi driver who drove one of the assailants to the scene of the attack. Gladys Kaari Justus is being investigated over transferring money, while Guleid Abdihakim – who holds Canadian citizenship – is being probed over suspicious communication. Osman Ibrahim is alleged to have met with one of the attackers on 8th January. Hussein Muhamed, whose phone showed communication with known Islamists, will be held until next Wednesday, the magistrate ruled later in the day. Two suspects yet to appear in court, Ali Salim Gichunge and Violet Kemunto Omwoyo possessed SIM cards that were in “constant communication” with numbers in Somalia, court documents revealed. The attack was claimed by Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda which has repeatedly targeted Kenya over the presence of its troops in Somalia. In 2013 an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi left 67 dead, while in 2015 Shabaab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.
S. Arabia to participate in 50th Cairo Int’l Book Fair
CAIRO: Saudi Arabia will participate in the golden jubilee of the Cairo International Book Fair to be held from January 22 to February 5, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said today.
In a statement, the Saudi Cultural Attaché affirmed that the Saudi pavilion would highlight the historic depth of fraternal bonds between the two countries as well as a number of cultural activities, SPA added.