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Breaking: Canadian national among 5 ordered held as suspects in Nairobi hotel attack

Breaking: Canadian national among 5 ordered held as suspects in Nairobi hotel attack

Friday January 18, 2019
Osman Ibrahim, Guleid Abdihakim, Gladys Kaari Justus, Oliver Kanyango Muthee and Joel Nganga Wainaina, left to right, appear at a court hearing in Nairobi on Friday. The court ordered that the five suspects be held as a hotel a…

St. Paul city council picks interim member for Dan Bostrom seat

St. Paul city council picks interim member for Dan Bostrom seat

Friday January 18, 2019The St. Paul City Council will vote on a resolution next week to name
Kassim Busuri as the interim council member representing Ward 6.
If the resolution passes — as it is expected to — Busuri will serve
out the rest…

BDS-backer Ilhan Omar given seat on powerful House Foreign Affairs panel

BDS-backer Ilhan Omar given seat on powerful House Foreign Affairs panel


Friday January 18, 2019
By ERIC CORTELLESSA


Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Day after appearing to defend comment that Israel ‘hypnotized the world,’ Minnesota Democrat says she will use position to probe influence of foreign lobbies on Washington

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar — who supports the boycott Israel movement and who once said that Israel “hypnotized the world” — was appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

The assignment, chosen by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will give a vehement critic of the Jewish a state a voice — and a vote — on the powerful panel that oversees US foreign policy and foreign aid.

The freshman Democratic legislator announced the posting on Twitter, saying the assignment would put her on a panel that “oversees all foreign assistance, national security affecting the country’s foreign policy, treaties, peacekeeping and war powers.”

While Omar did not mention Israel, she did gesture her eagerness to work toward fundamentally changing America’s relationship with another Middle Eastern ally.

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“We need to investigate how foreign governments and their lobbyists have violated our laws,” she said. “And we need to reign in arms sales to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.

I finally have committee assignments and I am excited 🤗

1st choice- House Foreign Affairs Committee:

The Foreign Affairs Committee oversees all foreign assistance, national security affecting the country’s foreign policy, treaties, peacekeeping and war powers.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 17, 2019

One of only two members of Congress who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, Omar has accused the country of committing “evil.” “In 2012, amid an Israel-Hamas Gaza conflict, she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.”

On Wednesday, Omar appeared to defend the tweet and other anti-Israel views. “What is really important to me is that people recognize that there is a difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacking to particular people of faith,” she told CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., smiles during an interview following a photo opportunity on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, with the freshman class. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Omar, a Somali-born refugee from Ethiopia, is part of a new wave of freshmen Democrats ascending the US Capitol after the 2018 midterm elections in which Democrats gained 40 seats in the House. Along with Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib, she is one of two members of Congress to back the BDS movement.

Omar’s appointment to the House foreign affairs panel was immediately panned by critics who say her criticisms of Israel amount to anti-Semitism.

“Rep. Ilhan Omar just doubled down on her claim that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” calling its behavior “evil,” tweeted Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee. “But instead of denouncing it, Democrat leadership rewarded her with a spot on the House Foreign Relations Committee.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar just doubled down on her claim that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” calling its behavior “evil.”

But instead of denouncing it, Democrat leadership rewarded her with a spot on the House Foreign Relations Committee. pic.twitter.com/gyGvb0Pnqt

— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 17, 2019

The liberal Middle East advocacy group J Street, however, which opposes the BDS movement, defended Omar’s newfound position of influence.

“At a time when there are more displaced people in the world than ever before and the Trump administration has turned its back on them, I personally believe it’s a positive development to see @IlhanMN, who came to the US as a refugee, getting a seat on HFAC,” tweeted Jeremy Ben Ami, the organization’s president.

“Frankly, some of the commentary I’ve seen about @ilhanMN’s assignment has been disgusting,” he added. “I disagree w/ her stance on BDS. But the smears of her as an anti-Semite — or suggestions that she is somehow not fit to serve on the committee — are just plain wrong.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is the primary body within the House of Representatives responsible for oversight of the executive branch’s foreign policy, and for legislation relating to foreign policy. That means Washington’s relationship with Israel will be under her purview.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The panel may also soon tackle legislation regarding the $3.8 billion in military aid given to Israel annually, as part of a 2016 agreement reached between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.

There is currently an effort by House lawmakers to pass a bill that would codify that memorandum of understanding into federal law.

It did not pass the last Congress, but its advocates have started to push for its passage in the new Congress that just convened several weeks ago, and have already introduced the legislation on the House floor.


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Baidoa residents applaud Norway’s commitment to infrastructural development in the region.

Baidoa residents applaud Norway’s commitment to infrastructural development in the region.

by Mohamed Sheikh NorFriday, January 18, 2019
The recent construction and renovations of roads in Baidoa have greatly transformed the town and its environs.
The cobblestone project that was funded by the Norwegian government thr…

Kenya received warnings of imminent al-Shabaab terror attack

Kenya received warnings of imminent al-Shabaab terror attack

Friday January 18, 2019Intelligence services in Kenya were warned that al-Shabaab was planning terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in the east African country around Christmas and the new year, western and regional security officials have said….

Sudanese police fire on protesters demanding president step down

Sudanese police fire on protesters demanding president step down


Friday January 18, 2019
Reuters in Khartoum

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans as they participate in anti-government protests in Khartoum. Photograph: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

Activists say a child and doctor killed in demonstrations against Omar al-Bashir

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Sudan, including the capital, where activists said a child and a doctor were killed in clashes between police and protesters calling for the end of Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year-old rule.

Thursday’s protests marked some of the most widespread disturbances since unrest began on 19 December.

The protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages, but have quickly developed into demonstrations against Bashir.

In the day’s most violent clashes police in Khartoum’s Burri neighbourhood fired rubber bullets and teargas, and chased demonstrators with batons, witnesses said. Several people were overcome with teargas, while some were bruised by rubber bullets and others beaten.

Hundreds of young men and women blocked streets and alleyways with burning tyres, and some hurled stones at security forces, witnesses said. Many chanted “down, that’s it” to send the message that their only demand is Bashir’s fall.

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Demonstrators also taunted security forces by ululating each time a stone-throwing demonstrator hit police, witnesses said.

A live video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters in Burri. The sound of gunfire could be heard.

In the video, a demonstrator yelled “why are you shooting?” as protesters, some wearing masks as protection from teargas, ducked to avoid the firing. It was not clear if rubber or live bullets were used. One man who appeared to be injured and had spots of blood on his shirt was carried away.

“There were people shooting at us,” one protester told Reuters. “They fired rubber bullets.”

He said he saw five people fall to the ground, adding he was not sure if they were hit by rubber or live bullets. He said he saw a few other injured people being carried away, but security forces blocked the area and the wounded were unable to reach a hospital.

Instead they were being treated in a makeshift emergency room inside a home. At some point, security forces approached the makeshift clinic and fired teargas into it as the wounded were being treated, three witnesses said.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hundreds also protested in al-Qadarif, Atbara, Port Sudan, al-Dueim and al-Ubayyid, drawing teargas volleys from police, witnesses said.

Security forces have at times used live ammunition to disperse demonstrations. The official death toll stands at 24, including two security forces personnel. Amnesty International has said that more than 40 people have been killed.

“We will continue to protest until the government falls because we want to provide a better life for our children,” said a 47-year-old teacher who demonstrated in downtown Khartoum.

Bashir has blamed the protests on foreign “agents” and said the unrest will not lead to a change in government, challenging his opponents to seek power through the ballot box.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that she was deeply worried about reports of excessive use of force by Sudanese security forces.

Sudan has struggled economically since losing three quarters of its oil output – its main source of foreign currency – when South Sudan seceded in 2011, keeping most of the oilfields.

The US lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in 2017. But many investors continue to shun a country still listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Bashir is wanted by the international criminal court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region.


 

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Somali dance and weaving featured at Minnesota History Center

Somali dance and weaving featured at Minnesota History Center

Friday January 18, 2019Following the civil war that broke out in Somalia in 1991, large numbers of immigrants began arriving in Minnesota and today the state is home to the largest population of Somalis in the United States.Through the migration proc…

11 Arrests Reported in Deadly Nairobi Assault

11 Arrests Reported in Deadly Nairobi Assault


Friday January 18, 2019
By Reuben Kyama and Rick Gladstone

The burial of one the victims of the attack on Wedesday. At least 21 people were killed by the assault on a Nairobi hotel-shopping complex.Luis Tato/Agence France- Press – Getty Images

NAIROBI, Kenya — The police intensified their search on Thursday for the plotters of the deadly assault on a Nairobi hotel-shopping complex, as Kenyan news services said at least 11 people had been arrested, including a suspected financier.

The assault, which began Tuesday afternoon and lasted more than 18 hours, killed at least 21 people, including a police officer. Fifteen of the victims were Kenyan, one was American, one was British and the others were of undetermined African nationality, the authorities said.

Five assailants also were killed and 700 people were evacuated from the complex in one of the Kenyan capital’s most secure areas.

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The Shabab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda based in Somalia that has been attacking targets in Kenya for years, claimed responsibility while the assault was still underway.


Aid workers and relatives of victims near a mortuary in Nairobi.CreditDaniel Irungu/EPA, via Shutterstock

In a follow-up statement on Wednesday, the group said the attack was carried out at the behest of Al Qaeda’s leadership in response to the Trump administration’s decision to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem last year.

The statement, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, denounced what it called “the witless remarks of U.S. president, Donald Trump, and his declaration of Al-Quds as the capital of Israel.” Al Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.

The initial arrests were reported late Wednesday by Joseph Boinnet, the chief of the national police, who told reporters in Nairobi that “two key suspects believed to have facilitated the attack” were in custody.

KTN News and other services said at least nine more people were seized on Thursday, including a woman who had lived with one of the suspects. The police did not officially confirm those arrests.

Many Kenyans have lauded the police for how quickly they responded to the assault on the complex, known as 14 Riverside, which houses the Thai-owned DusitD2 Hotel, offices, restaurants and shops.

Police officers and forensic experts examined a car suspected to have been used by the assailants.CreditDaniel Irungu/EPA, via Shutterstock

Police officers and forensic experts examined a car suspected to have been used by the assailants.CreditDaniel Irungu/EPA, via Shutterstock

The police action was regarded as far more coordinated and professional than the bungled response to the Shabab assault six years ago on the nearby Westgate Shopping Mall, which left at least 67 people dead.

“There were fewer implausible narratives from senior security officials than happened in 2013,” The Standard newspaper said in an editorial. It also commended President Uhuru Kenyatta for having reassured the nation that “all was well” after the siege had ended.

Still, the editorial was not completely complimentary: “How did the assailants manage to move their weaponry through the numerous roadblocks to their hide-out and to the scene of crime undetected?”

A swirl of unfounded rumors after the attack also included suggestions that the United States Embassy in Nairobi had been warned about it. The rumors led the American ambassador, Robert F. Godec, to issue a statement on Thursday to refute them.

“Contrary to some false reports on social media, the United States had no advance notice of the attack, nor did we ever advise American citizens or our staff to avoid the DusitD2 prior to the incident,” Mr. Godec said in the statement posted on the embassy’s website. “We deplore the spread of false information in the wake of this tragedy.”

Reuben Kyama reported from Nairobi and Rick Gladstone from New York. Emily Oduor contributed reporting from Nairobi and Eric Schmitt from Washington.


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Want to be Danish? You'd better shake hands

Want to be Danish? You'd better shake hands


Friday January 18, 2019

The law requiring a handshake has been criticised for breaching freedom of religion.:SLOBODAN VASICFOTOSTORM

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Afghan-born Sakandar Khan, 30, was among the first nine new Danish citizens who shook hands with Denmark’s immigration minister under a new law that makes a handshake the final step in the naturalization process.

“This is a huge thing for me. I am thrilled,” the former practicing Muslim dressed in shirt and tie said with a smile.

For Khan, who fled Afghanistan with his family in 2001, shaking the hand of the minister, who happens to be female, was not a problem. But the law has been criticized for breaching freedom of religion, as some observant Muslims and Jews avoid touching unrelated members of the opposite sex.

The government says the handshake is an important part of Danish culture and values, and no one who refuses can be Danish.

“If you don’t shake hands, you don’t understand what it means to be Danish, because in Denmark we have equality and that is something generations before us fought to achieve,” said Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, who led the first ceremony.

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The handshake ceremony will be performed by mayors and deputy mayors of the municipalities where immigrants live. Not all of them are pleased.

“When you can be rejected because of a handshake we may have gone too far,” Thomas Andresen, mayor of the town of Aabenraa, told Danish broadcaster DR.

Danes pride themselves on their ‘hygge’ – a word roughly meaning “to be cosy” – on being among the happiest people in the world and on their progressive laws, such as the legalization of pornography in 1969, long before most of Europe.

But increasingly they are also becoming known for taking an ever harder line against immigration in the historically tolerant Nordic region.

HARDER LINE

Stojberg’s Liberal Party is part of a three-party minority government that depends on the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party to pass laws. Since the crisis that brought more than 1 million asylum seekers to Europe in 2015, Denmark accepted fewer migrants than its neighbors and moved faster to change its laws in ways designed to limit the welcome to foreigners.

Denmark’s parliament last year banned wearing the Islamic burqa and niqab in public and approved a plan to hold foreign criminals on a tiny island, despite criticism from the United Nations and Human rights group Amnesty International.

In 2016, Denmark came under international criticism when it passed a “jewelery bill”, allowing police to confiscate refugees’ valuables to help pay their costs.

Immigration is expected to be high on the agenda when Denmark hold general election in the first half of the year.

With the rise of the Danish People’s Party, which became the second biggest in parliament in an election held at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, being tough on immigration has become mainstream in Danish society and politics.

“People don’t want to end up like Sweden or Germany. You don’t have a chance of becoming prime minister if you don’t stand on a platform that is fewer refugees,” said political commentator Jarl Cordua.

Denmark, with a population of 5.7 million, accepted just 45,000 asylum seekers between 2014 and 2017. Its southern neighbor Germany accepted more than 1.6 million, while Sweden, with about twice Denmark’s population, took in nearly 300,000.

After the ceremony, Khan and the other eight new Danish citizens joined immigration minister Stojberg in a separate room for drinks and snacks.

“Now we’ll go ‘hygge’ together,” Stojberg said.

Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Peter Graff


 

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    Why is Kenya an al-Shabab target?

    Why is Kenya an al-Shabab target?

    Thursday January 17, 2019

    At least 300 people have been killed in more than 20 attacks that the al-Shabab group has carried out in Kenya in the past five years.
    Based in the Horn of Africa, the al-Qaeda-linked group initially concentrated its attacks…