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Islamists block roads in Pakistan over Asia Bibi blasphemy case

Many schools were closed in Pakistan as Islamist groups blocked roads and rallied against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a flashpoint blasphemy case. An Islamist leader called for Supreme Court judges to be killed. Pakistani authorities deployed troops to guard state buildings in major cities as Islamist protests over Asia Bibi entered their second day on Thursday. Supporters of the extremists Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party blocked 10 roads around Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, several others outside Lahore and one major entry to the capital Islamabad. Private schools in all three cities were closed. Islamists launched protests after the country's Supreme Court ruled to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in a widely publicized case. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told his supporters in Lahore that members of the three-judge panel that dismissed the charges should be killed. "All three deserve to be killed," Qadri said at a protest in Lahore. "Either their security, their driver or their cook should kill them." Qadri also said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan should be forced to step down and urged military officers to rebel against powerful military head Javed Bajwa. We will not allow traffic to be blocked' TLP spokesman Pir Ejaz Shah had earlier told DW that the group "will embrace death but will not compromise on our stance" in the blasphemy case. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Khan urged the protesters not to "test the patience of the state." "We will not allow any damages. We will not allow traffic to be blocked," Khan said. "I appeal to you, do not push the state to the extent that it is forced to take action." Another Islamist group, the Milli Yakjehti Council, is meeting to discuss its response and possible protests over the Bibi case on Thursday. Meanwhile, Asia Bibi's brother told the AP news agency that the mother of four is set to leave Pakistan. Her paperwork is being processed and she is preparing to leave an undisclosed location where she is being held for security reasons. The brother did not say which country Bibi is traveling to. Both France and Spain have already offered her asylum.

Many schools were closed in Pakistan as Islamist groups blocked roads and rallied against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a flashpoint blasphemy case. An Islamist leader called for Supreme Court judges to be killed. Pakistani authorities deployed troops to guard state buildings in major cities as Islamist protests over Asia Bibi entered their second day on Thursday. Supporters of ... Read More »

German military recruits record number of minors

The German military has been recruiting more and more minors, the Defense Ministry has admitted. Critics have accused the government of hypocrisy over opposition to the use of child soldiers. The German government has admitted that the Bundeswehr is recruiting more minors than ever before as it continues its complex transition from a conscription-based to a volunteer military. In an answer to an official information request from the German Left party, the Defense Ministry said that some 2,128 under-18s had been recruited as volunteers into the military in 2017, including 448 young women. Ninety of the 2,128 recruits were still underage at the end of their six-month trial period. That represented a continuing increase, with the number of underage recruits more than tripling since 2011, when the Bundeswehr recruited 689 underage people, and when Germany ended conscription. Left party Bundestag member Evrim Sommer, who submitted the information request, used the opportunity to condemn the trend. "Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen clearly has no scruples about bringing recruitment forward more and more," she said in a statement. "Young people should not be used as cannon fodder in the Bundeswehr as soon as they come of age. As long as Germany recruits minors for military purposes, it cannot credibly criticize other countries. The German government is endangering its own efforts towards an international ban on the use of child soldiers." Recruiting minors Wolf-Christian Ramm, spokesman for the children's rights group Terre des Hommes International Federation, called the new figures "not surprising but disquieting." "Of course the Bundeswehr is looking for trainees and personnel—and we've got nothing against that," he told DW. "But we're strictly against 17-year-olds being recruited and trained. They are underage and don't belong in an army." The United Nations has previously voiced concern about the Bundeswehr's use of people under 18 even though minors are not allowed weapons training, and cannot be deployed to foreign missions. This is strictly in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2002. However, in a 2014 report on Germany, the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) noted that, "Some advertising campaigns for the armed forces specifically target children, and representatives of the armed forces are sometimes present within the school context, speaking with pupils and organizing activities." The UN also called on Germany to change that. The Bundeswehr is not allowed to advertise recruitment drives directly to minors, though that does not stop military officers giving talks in high schools, something else that is criticized by peace campaigners. "The Bundeswehr does all it can to make itself attractive to young people," said Ramm. "They have videos on YouTube and ads that talk about all the fun of joining the military, and compare it to playing an adventure game. That's a part of the problem too. That hides the fact that military service is dangerous and can be deadly." In its answer to the Left party, the Defense Ministry was also keen to underline that "all underage soldiers have the possibility of revoking their period of service at any time within the first six months without giving a reason." Struggling to find recruits The socialist Left party, which opposes all Bundeswehr missions abroad, also supports the "Straight 18" principle adopted by NGOs that campaign against the recruitment of child soldiers. This forbids the recruitment of anyone under 18 for any military purposes whatsoever, including training and education. "Countries like North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran also do not adhere to the Straight 18 principle, and it doesn't look good for Germany if it's in the same group as them," said Ramm. The German military has struggled to find new volunteers to join the army ever since the Defense Ministry ended its conscription-based system in 2011. Figures released in November last year showed that 10,105 people had been recruited between January and August 2017 for the 23-month voluntary service—a 15-percent drop on the same period the year before. More than a quarter of all new recruits drop out before the end of the six-month trial period. However, the Bundeswehr has had more success recruiting people for roles in the military with a minimum two-year contract: some 33,400 signed up in the first eight months of 2017. Such contracts are said to have more employment prospects in the future. The German military has also faced a number of sexual abuse and bullying scandals in recent months, as well as uncovering a "false-flag" terrorist plot by neo-Nazis in its ranks.

The German military has been recruiting more and more minors, the Defense Ministry has admitted. Critics have accused the government of hypocrisy over opposition to the use of child soldiers. The German government has admitted that the Bundeswehr is recruiting more minors than ever before as it continues its complex transition from a conscription-based to a volunteer military. In an ... Read More »

German military: 200 soldiers classified as far-right extremists since 2008

A German lawmaker has criticized discrepancies in the reporting of right-wing sympathizers among the military's ranks. The identified extremists could use their military training to advance their cause, she warned. Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) has classified about 200 Bundeswehr soldiers as right-wing extremists since 2008, according to a report published Monday in regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. The German defense ministry released the figure following a parliamentary inquiry by Green Party lawmaker and domestic policy spokesperson Irene Mihalic, the report said. Mihalic told the newspaper that the recruitment of more than 20 right-wing extremists per year poses a serious challenge to domestic security. They could use their military training to advance their agenda, she said. Read more: What draws right-wing extremists to the military? The German lawmaker noted that MAD President Christof Gramm told parliament earlier this month that only eight Bundeswehr soldiers had been identified annually, marking a stark difference to the latest data received by the military branch. The discrepancy represents a "high analytical uncertainty on the subject," Mihalic said. She said the MAD must regularly inform Germany's parliament about extremist efforts in the military, especially when it concerns networks and strategies. A growing issue? The Bundeswehr has come under increased pressure from the government to deal with members of far-right movements after an army lieutenant identified as Franco A. was discovered in April leading a double life as a Syrian refugee and planning a terrorist attack. In September, the MAD said that it had recorded 286 new cases of right-wing extremism in Germany's military. But MAD President Gramm told lawmakers earlier this month that after the suspension of mandatory military service in 2011, the number of right-wing cases decreased significantly. Read more: The German military and its troubled traditions However, it is unclear how the latest data from MAD compares to Gramm's earlier statements on decreased right-wing activity among the Bundeswehr's ranks. With the latest revelations, authorities have pushed for more information about far-right activity in the German military. In the German city of Tübingen, prosecutors last month said they launched a probe into allegations of right-wing extremist behavior among the Special Forces Command, the country's elite military troops.

A German lawmaker has criticized discrepancies in the reporting of right-wing sympathizers among the military’s ranks. The identified extremists could use their military training to advance their cause, she warned. Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) has classified about 200 Bundeswehr soldiers as right-wing extremists since 2008, according to a report published Monday in regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. The German defense ... Read More »

Fallen soldier’s mother says President Donald Trump disrespected her son

The US president is alleged to have told the wife of a soldier killed in action in Niger that her husband "knew what he signed up for." The soldier's mother said she was present when Trump made the "insensitive" remarks. The mother of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush by Islamist militants in Niger this month, told The Washington Post newspaper on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump "disrespected" her son in a condolence phone call. Cowanda Jones-Johnson backed the account of Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a Democrat, who claimed Trump told Johnson's widow, Myeshia Johnson, that her husband "must have known what he signed up for." "President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband," Jones-Johnson told The Washington Post. Trump's statement was first reported by Wilson, who said she was with Johnson's widow on the way to receive the fallen soldier's remains at Miami International Airport when the president called to express his condolences. According to Wilson, Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband "knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens it hurts anyway." The representative described the president's statement during the five-minute call as "so insensitive" in an interview with Miami Local 10 news. After the phone call, Myeshia "was crying, she broke down." Referring to President Trump, Wilson said 'he didn't even know his name.'" President Trump lashed back, terming Wilson's claim as "totally fabricated." Trump later told reporters: "I did not say what she said," and "I had a very nice conversation." When asked about what "proof" he could offer, Trump said: "Let her make her statement again then you will find out." Before Trump's tweet, the incident had already gone viral on American media, making it the latest event in a growing controversy following Trump's accusation that past presidents often did not honor fallen military servicemen and women. Read more: How Donald Trump turned a simmering NFL controversy into a movement that splits the country Politicizing the fallen At a Monday press conference, when pressed on whether or not he had reached out to the relatives of troops killed in an October 4 ambush in Niger, President Trump claimed that previous presidents had not contacted family members of soldiers who had died in combat. "The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls," Trump said on Monday, later adding that he didn't know whether President Obama in particular called fallen soldiers' families. "President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told," he said. "All I can do is ask my generals. Other presidents did not call, they'd write letters. And some presidents didn't do anything." In response to Trump's claim, retired army General Martin Dempsey tweeted that both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama honored military service and implicitly criticized Trump for politicizing military deaths. Trump also drew his own chief of staff, John Kelly, into the controversy during a Tuesday interview on Fox News Radio. "You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?" Trump said, referencing Kelly's son who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. According to US media reports citing an anonymous White House official, Obama did not call Kelly upon his son's death, though it was not known whether the former president wrote a letter. Obama did receive Kelly at a White House breakfast for family members of soldiers killed in combat. There is no official protocol outlining presidential actions to be taken upon death of military servicemen and women. However, it is typical for presidents to express their condolences in a phone call or letter. Some also visit air bases or airports to receive the remains of the fallen as they are flown back to the US.

The US president is alleged to have told the wife of a soldier killed in action in Niger that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” The soldier’s mother said she was present when Trump made the “insensitive” remarks. The mother of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush by Islamist militants in Niger this ... Read More »

Bundeswehr ammunition goes missing on Berlin-Mali flight

A crate containing hundreds of rounds of ammunition has gone missing during an Air France flight taken by German soldiers to Mali, the German military has confirmed. The airline has reportedly claimed responsibility. Confirming the reports on Saturday, a spokesman for the army's logistics department told German newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" that the Bundeswehr was "still looking" for the missing ammunition. The crate reportedly disappeared after German troops left Berlin for Bamako, Mali's capital, on May 28 aboard a commercial Air France flight that stopped in Paris. The service weapons and ammunition were registered and placed in the hold, but by the time the flight reached Mali a plastic crate containing 880 pieces of ammunition was missing. The German military has filed a case with the Berlin police. Responsibility 'lies with the airline' According to a spokesman from the German Defense Ministry, the responsibility of the missing crate "lies with the airline." Germany is currently taking part in the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and also has 200 soldiers in the country as part of a European mission to train Malian troops. Amid the worsening security situation, however, the UN has called for some 2,049 additional troops and 480 extra police to join the 12,000-strong mission.

A crate containing hundreds of rounds of ammunition has gone missing during an Air France flight taken by German soldiers to Mali, the German military has confirmed. The airline has reportedly claimed responsibility. Confirming the reports on Saturday, a spokesman for the army’s logistics department told German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” that the Bundeswehr was “still looking” for the missing ... Read More »

Amnesty report details ‘horrendous conditions’ of Nigerian detainees

In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International puts the spotlight on conditions in Nigeria's notorious Giwa barracks. Adults and children are detained without contact to the outside world. Amnesty International's latest report on conditions in Giwa barracks, where children and even babies are among the more than 1,000 inmates, makes grim reading. There have been some 150 deaths this year alone. DW spoke to Daniel Eyre, Amnesty International's Nigeria researcher. DW: Giwa barracks are located in Maiduguri, in the Nigerian region hardest hit by the Boko Haram insurgency. What kinds of detainees are kept there? Daniel Eyre: Maiduguri is really the epicenter of the conflict. We estimate that at least 1,200 detainees are kept in the barracks. These are people who are kept on suspicion of being supporters or members of Boko Haram. But when we spoke to people who were arrested or who witnessed these arrests, it becomes clear that many people have been arrested completely arbitrarily, often because they are young men who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. In your report, you say you have gathered evidence from former detainees and eyewitnesses. Apart from what they say, have there been any medical tests that can confirm that the victims died as a result of the conditions under which they were detained? One of the problems is that when people die in detention, no autopsy is conducted. They are simply taken away and buried. There is no official account of what happened to them. We obtained photographs of some of those who died and had them subjected to analysis by a forensic anthropologist. The analysis was that the images are consistent with a lack of access to food and water and death as a result of disease. That is exactly what people who were detained in the barracks are telling us, that they are not getting enough water or food, people are losing weight as a result and disease is rife inside the barracks. So those are the causes of death as far we can establish. What has been the government's response or reason given for not acting? Deaths in military detention are an issue that we have covered since 2013. Under previous administrations in Nigeria, we found that more than 7,000 people died in military custody between 2011 and 2015. That's a truly horrific number. Although steps have been taken in the last couple of years to try and improve conditions in military custody, we believe that recent mass arrests of suspects have erased those gains. We wrote several letters to both the military leadership and also to the government of Nigeria, asking them for more information and to comment on our findings. We have yet to receive a response. What steps has Amnesty International taken to ensure that the relatives or the victims get justice or some kind of compensation? For a long time, we have been campaigning for investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have been committed by both sides to the conflict, both atrocities by Boko Haram and also crimes by the military. And, in fact, President Muhammadu Buhari last June promised that his government would investigate evidence of these crimes. We have yet to see serious action taken to start those investigations, and these latest deaths show why it is all the more urgent that those investigations begin and hold people to account for what happened. Is the Giwa barracks case an isolated case or is this something we can find in other prisons as well? In the past we have documented a pattern across military detention facilities in the northeast. In our report from June 2015, we spoke about a number of facilities in several different states where conditions were terrible, where we documented torture and ill treatment of detainees and even suspects simply being shot by soldiers. Since the new administration, we have only looked at what happened in Giwa barracks, and this is the place that really concerns us now. These latest deaths show why Giwa barracks needs to be closed and investigations need to be carried out into conditions in all military detention facilities. Daniel Eyre is a Nigeria researcher with Amnesty International. Interview: Jane Ayeko-Kümmeth

In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International puts the spotlight on conditions in Nigeria’s notorious Giwa barracks. Adults and children are detained without contact to the outside world. Amnesty International’s latest report on conditions in Giwa barracks, where children and even babies are among the more than 1,000 inmates, makes grim reading. There have been some 150 deaths this ... Read More »

Venezuelan army vows support for Maduro as political crisis deepens

The Venezuelan military has declared its allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro, as the country faces a mounting political and constitutional crisis. Opposition lawmakers are seeking Maduro's removal. The National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FANB) pledged its loyalty to President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday, amid a standoff between his government and a newly elected legislature dominated by the opposition. Center right opponents of Maduro's socialist government have vowed to remove the president from power within six months. It is the first time since 1999 - the year that former President Hugo Chavez came to power - that the assembly has been in the hands of the opposition. However, defense minister and armed forces chief, General Vladimir Padrino (pictured right, with Maduro), entered the fray on Thursday, saying the military was unwavering in its support for Maduro. The president has himself vowed to resist "with an iron hand," and has already launched legal action to stop the opposition in its tracks. "The president is the highest authority of the state and we reiterate our absolute loyalty and unconditional support for him," Padrino announced, reading a FANB communiqué. 'Father of nation' The military also condemned the removal of portraits of both former President Chavez and Venezuela's 19th-century independence hero and "father of the nation" Simon Bolivar from the National Assembly. The military, said Padrino, had found that act an outrage to military honor and an affront to the doctrine of Bolivarianism. "In unbreakable unity and conscious of the historic moment that our country is facing, the FANB expressed to all the Bolivarian people, its deep indignation at the disrespectful way, laden with arrogance and contempt, that the removal of the images has been ordered," he said. Bolivarianism, as enshrined in the Venezuelan constitution since 1999, lists South American economic and political sovereignty, as well as democracy and transparency as being fundemental to the nation's values. Widening divisions The support of the army will be a boon for Maduro as political battle lines appear increasingly difficult to resolve. The opposition MUD coalition - which claims the president is responsible for soaring inflation and major shortages of basic goods - clinched a majority in the assembly for the first time in nearly 17 years at elections on December 6. The opposition would rely on a two-thirds super majority in the National Assembly to be able to force out Maduro. Maduro's supporters claim the opposition does not have two-thirds of the delegates because three of its lawmakers were suspended pending allegations of electoral fraud. Maduro's side has applied to the Supreme Court for any of the new assembly's legislation to be declared null-and-void.

The Venezuelan military has declared its allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro, as the country faces a mounting political and constitutional crisis. Opposition lawmakers are seeking Maduro’s removal. The National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FANB) pledged its loyalty to President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday, amid a standoff between his government and a newly elected legislature dominated by the opposition. Center ... Read More »

Iraq forces advance on ‘Islamic State’-controlled Ramadi

An elite counter-terrorism force has entered the center of Ramadi controlled by 'Islamic State' fighters. There was no 'strong resistance' aside from snipers and suicide bombers, according to a security spokesman. Iraqi armed forces crossed the Euphrates river on Tuesday, entering parts of Ramadi under the control of fighters with the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) in a bid to dislodge the militant group from the capital city of Iraq's western province of Anbar. "We went into the center of Ramadi from several fronts, and we began purging residential areas," said Iraq's counter-terrorism agency spokesman Sabah al-Numani. "Our forces reached the Bakr neighborhood. We did not face strong resistance, only snipers and suicide bombers, and this is a tactic we expected," al-Numani told the AFP news agency. The spokesman added that Iraqi military units in the city had "support from the air force" as well as US-led airstrikes. He added that the offensive against the militant group in Ramadi developed slowly for fears that they may use civilians as human shields. Iraqi intelligence estimates that between 250 and 300 IS militants remain in the city. The militant group also controls Iraq's second largest city Mosul, along with Fallujah. However, they have lost several keys towns since government forces and fighters from the autonomous Kurdish region began anti-"Islamic State" operations. Retaking Ramadi would offer a much-needed boost to Iraqi forces' morale, which has suffered since the militant group took over territories across Iraq and Syria in an astonishing military offensive. In April, Tikrit was recaptured by government forces with the help of Shi'ite militias.

An elite counter-terrorism force has entered the center of Ramadi controlled by ‘Islamic State’ fighters. There was no ‘strong resistance’ aside from snipers and suicide bombers, according to a security spokesman. Iraqi armed forces crossed the Euphrates river on Tuesday, entering parts of Ramadi under the control of fighters with the self-declared “Islamic State” (IS) in a bid to dislodge ... Read More »

UK deploys military to Afghanistan Helmand province in ‘advisory role’

Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed that troops have been deployed to Helmand in southern Afghanistan. The move follows calls for support after Taliban insurgents overran most of the province's districts. UK newspaper "The Times," reported on Tuesday that among the troops were around 30 members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) who had been sent to "engage" against the Taliban alongside up to 60 US troops. The MoD said, however, that the unit would not participate in fighting and had been deployed in an "advisory role." "These personnel are part of a larger NATO team, which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army," an MoD spokeswoman said, adding that they are "not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp." Fears over fall of Helmand The arrival of British troops in Helmand province followed calls for help from local officials, who said only two of the province's 16 districts remained free of Taliban activity, with the Helmand capital, Sangin, on the brink of falling to insurgents. British and US forces previously struggled for years to control Helmand province, where more than 450 British servicemen and women killed in fighting. Razia Baluch, a member of the Helmand provincial council warned that Helmand risked falling to the Taliban if the Afghan government failed to act. "We plead with the government to not let this be another Kunduz, because if Helmand falls, it will not be nearly as easy to recapture as Kunduz was," Baluch warned. Taliban militants held Kunduz for several days in late September, before government troops wrested back control. NATO presence Despite ending its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, Britain still has around 450 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Their aim is to mentor and support the Afghan army and security forces. The Afghan government - backed by billions of dollars in international aid and training assistance from thousands of NATO troops still stationed in Afghanistan - is also pushing to re-open talks with the Taliban

Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed that troops have been deployed to Helmand in southern Afghanistan. The move follows calls for support after Taliban insurgents overran most of the province’s districts. UK newspaper “The Times,” reported on Tuesday that among the troops were around 30 members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) who had been sent to “engage” ... Read More »

India paramilitary plane crash leaves 10 dead

A chartered aircraft carrying Indian military personnel has crashed near the capital's main airport. An aviation official said that an inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the fatal crash. Shortly after the pilot lost contact with ground control, a small Beechcraft Super King carrying eight military engineers and two pilots hit the boundary wall of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi international airport, said Delhi Fire Services' Director A.K. Sharma. The aircraft then landed in a small body of water, leaving parts of it submerged, added Sharma. Carrying technicians of India's Border Security Force, the plane was destined for Ranchi in the eastern state of Jharkhand. The military engineers were meant to repair a helicopter upon arrival in Ranchi, reported AFP news agency. "It's a matter of grave concern that the plane crashed soon after take-off. I am extremely sad to say that all 10 people, including the pilots, have died," said Junior Civil Aviation Minister Mahesh Sharma. "It is not clear yet what caused the accident. We have ordered an inquiry," Sharma added. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to comment on the crash, saying he was pained by the loss of lives in the crash. The crash site is less than a kilometer (0.62 miles) away from an airstrip used by India's security forces, also located at New Delhi's main airport.

A chartered aircraft carrying Indian military personnel has crashed near the capital’s main airport. An aviation official said that an inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the fatal crash. Shortly after the pilot lost contact with ground control, a small Beechcraft Super King carrying eight military engineers and two pilots hit the boundary wall of New Delhi’s Indira ... Read More »

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