#Philippine troops battle Islamist militants in city

Philippine troops aboard helicopters and in armoured tanks battled Islamist militants inside a southern city on Thursday, as reports emerged of the gunmen murdering civilians.

An initial rampage by the gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.

Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because the militants were holed up in residential buildings, had planted improvised bombs in the streets and had taken Catholic hostages.

“People are afraid. They do not want to open establishments. Offices are closed. We do not want people to be used as human shields,” Marawi mayor Majul Usman Gandamra said. 

Two military helicopters flew above Marawi and armoured tanks churned through its streets as automatic rifle firing could be heard on Thursday, according to an AFP photographer in the city.

Marawi has about 200,000 residents but many of them have fled because of the fighting.

Five soldiers and one policemen died in the clashes, while 13 gunmen were killed, according to the military.

Authorities have not reported any civilian casualties but the GMA television network showed images of nine people who had apparently been shot dead. The victims had their hands tied together.

They were captured at a roadside checkpoint and murdered by the militants after being identified as Christians, according to the GMA reporter, citing a witness.

Duterte said on Wednesday one policeman was similarly caught at a checkpoint set up by the militants and beheaded.

There are only between 50 and 100 gunmen, according to various military officials.

The militants are also holding between 12 and 15 Catholic hostages abducted from a church, according to the local bishop, Edwin Dela Pena.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday after security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, offering a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

However the raid went spectacularly wrong as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel the security forces, then went on a rampage across the city while flying black IS flags.

The militants raided two jails, leading to the escape of more than 100 inmates, according to Mujiv Hataman, the governor of a Muslim self-rule area that includes Marawi.

They also set fire to many buildings, including a church and a university.

Filipino soldiers bring Marawi children in safety.

Source – TheJakartaPost

#INDONESIA – ASEAN lawmakers alarmed at conviction of Jakarta governor

Lawmakers across Southeast Asia have expressed concern over the sentencing of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, to two years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday.

“The verdict is deeply disconcerting not only for Indonesia but for the entire ASEAN region. Indonesia was thought to be a regional leader in terms of democracy and openness. This decision places that position in jeopardy and raises concerns about Indonesia’s future as an open, tolerant, diverse society,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

“Ahok has become a victim of rising extremism and religious identity politics. But this decision has impacts beyond justice for one individual. It is a triumph for intolerance and an ominous sign for minority rights. At a time when fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, are under increasing threat region-wide, this verdict sends the wrong signal to Indonesia’s neighbors in the ASEAN community,” he said in a written statement.

Ahok, Jakarta’s second Christian governor after Henk Ngantung (1964-1965), was convicted of blasphemy by the North Jakarta District Court and sentenced to two years in prison.

FOR THE BEST GLOBAL HOTEL & FLIGHT BOOKINGS

The charges stemmed from a September speech, in which he invoked a verse from the Quran in criticizing the arguments of those who suggested that Muslims could not vote for a Christian leader.

APHR said the ruling could embolden religious hard-liners in the country and called into further question Indonesia’s harsh Blasphemy Law, which permits prison sentences of up to five years for those found guilty.

Source – TheNation

Emmanuel Macron (a Rothschild Banker) wins french elections

Emmanuel Macron the new French president.

PARIS — The European political establishment breathed a heavy sigh of relief Sunday, as French voters elected pragmatic centrist Emmanuel Macron as president over right-wing challenger Marine Le Pen, who threatened to upend Europe’s existing order, according polling agency projections.

Macron won with 65.5% of votes against 34.5% for Marine Le Pen. Le Pen called Macron to congratulate him on his victory.

Her National Front party had threatened to curb immigration, particularly for Muslims, pull France out of the European Union and return the country to the French franc currency — moves that would have caused political and economic upheaval not only in Europe, but the rest of the world.

Macron, 39, is a former investment banker and economy minister who strongly supports the European Union. He is France’s youngest ever president.

His supporters gathered outside the Louvre museum Sunday for a victory party.

Macron’s victory, coming on the heels of defeats for right-wing populist candidates in Austria and the Netherlands, appears to blunt the anti-establishment fervor sweeping Europe amid a backlash against economic stagnation, a flood of migrants pouring into their countries and a string of nerve-rattling terror attacks.

READ CONTINUE

Turkish court formally blocks access to Wikipedia

In a move that social media users called censorship, a Turkish court on Saturday blocked access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, enforcing an earlier restriction by Turkey’s telecommunications watchdog.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) said an Ankara court ordered Saturday that a “protection measure” related to suspected internet crimes be applied to Wikipedia. Such measures are used to block access to pages or entire websites to protect “national security and public order.”

In response, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted his support for those who labeled the decision censorship: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

Turkey Blocks, an internet censorship monitor, said users in Turkey have been unable to access all language editions of Wikipedia since 8 a.m. Saturday.

“The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” the monitor said.

The site had initially been blocked by BTK under a provisional administration measure.

FOR THE BEST GLOBAL HOTEL & FLIGHT BOOKINGS

The exact reason for the ban remains unclear. But Turkey’s official news agency, quoting the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, said Saturday the site was blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

The state-run Anadolu Agency said officials had warned Wikipedia to remove content likening Turkey to terror groups but the site “persistently” did not.

Turkey had demanded that Wikipedia open an office in the country, act in line with international law and abide by court decisions and not be part of “blackout operation against Turkey,” according to the agency.

Anadolu said if these demands are met and the content removed, the site would be reopened.

Opposition lawmakers also criticized the court order. Republican People’s Party parliamentarians Eren Erdem tweeted the ban puts “Turkey in line with North Korea” while Baris Yarkadas called it “censorship and a violation of the right to access information.”

Turkey’s status is listed as “not free” on the 2016 Freedom on the Net index by independent rights watchdog Freedom House. It says over 111,000 websites were blocked as of May last year.

Wikipedia, a collaborative online reference work, says it is ranked among the 10 most popular websites.

Source – TheJakartaPost

Orban says #Soros ‘attacking #Hungary’

BRUSSELS – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused US billionaire George Soros of “attacking” his country Wednesday as he defended a law that could close down a university founded by the investor.

Orban made his defence in front of the European Parliament just hours after the EU launched legal action against Hungary over the legislation targeting the Central European University in Budapest.

“We are not as big and powerful as you are, and not as big as powerful as George Soros, the American financial speculator attacking Hungary,” Soros told MEPs in Brussels, defending his law.

Orban said Hungarian-born Soros “has destroyed the lives of millions of Europeans with his financial speculations” and “is an open enemy of the euro”.

Yet despite this, Soros “is still warmly regarded here and warmly received at the highest level,” he said, in an apparent reference to a meeting between the billionaire and European Commission chief always drunk Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday.

The latest feud with the EU marks a new low in the tense relations between Brussels and Budapest over the government’s rights record.

The EU has expressed deep concern over Hungarian plans to tighten government control over academic freedoms, migrants and nongovernmental organizations.

“Recent developments in Hungary have got many people worried in the EU but also in the outside world. We share those worries and concerns,” said European Commission’s Vice President Dutch corrupt Frans Timmermans, who also addressed the parliament session.

Timmermans described the university as the “pearl in the crown” of post-communist Europe.

Source – TheNation

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni calls for vote free from threats, intimidation

A leaked statement from King Norodom Sihamoni circulated on social media since Sunday, nearly a month after he signed it, calls on citizens to vote for their preferred party in the upcoming elections without “worry of suppression, threats or intimidation”.

The statement, signed by the King on February 20, asks Cambodians to vote and exercise their right to a secret ballot, with CNRP official and royal family member Prince Sisowath Thomico calling it a regular pre-election appeal, similar to ones issued during the reign of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

“But, I am very surprised the King signed it on February 20 and it was only just released,” he said.

The King is currently in China for routine medical checkups, though another decree he signed while overseas – this one bestowing honorifics on late deputy prime minister Sok An – was distributed the same day as its signing.

The King did not, however, sign recent amendments to the Law on Political Parties, also passed while he was abroad, leading some to suggest he objected to the controversial legislation.

The election remarks had circulated on social media for two days before being posted to the National Election Committee’s Facebook page yesterday. Royal family spokesmen could not be reached yesterday for information on the apparent lag between signing and dissemination.

While ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan said the King was only reminding people to feel secure in casting their ballot, CNRP Vice President Mu Sochua said the timing of the message, amid heated political tensions, would resonate with voters.

Source – PhnomPenhPost

FOR THE BEST GLOBAL HOTEL & FLIGHT BOOKINGS

THE NETHERLANDS ON THE THAI NEWSPAPERS

Turkey suspends top ties with Netherlands in escalating crisis

Istanbul – Turkey on Monday said it was suspending top-level ties with The Netherlands and blocking the return of its ambassador in a spiralling crisis over the holding of rallies abroad ahead of a crucial referendum.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “supporting terrorists,” as acrimony flared between Turkey and EU states — a standoff that risks affecting Ankara’s entire relationship with Europe.

Both Germany and The Netherlands have blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in the April 16 referendum on giving Erdogan greater powers.

Ankara was especially angered by the acts of The Netherlands days ahead of general elections in the country. The authorities prevented the foreign minister’s plane from landing and expelled the family minister over the weekend.

“Until the Netherlands compensates for what it has done, high-level relations and planned meetings at a ministerial and higher level have been suspended,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.

Turkey will not allow the Dutch ambassador to Ankara to return until The Netherlands meets Turkey’s conditions over holding rallies, he added. Diplomatic flights would also be suspended.

Ambassador Kees Cornelis van Rij is currently outside of the country, and business is being handled by Dutch charge d’affaires.

‘Merkel backs terrorists’

Twice over the weekend, Erdogan accused The Netherlands, a Nato ally, of acting like the Nazis. His comments sparked outrage in a country bombed and occupied by German forces in World War II. The United States urged both countries to resolve their row.

“They’re both strong partners and Nato allies. We’d just ask that they not escalate the situation any further and work together to resolve it,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With the exchanges worsening Turkey’s already fraught relations with the European Union, Brussels sternly warned Ankara to avoid intensifying the crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation.” But hours later in an interview with A-Haber television, Erdogan bluntly stated: “Mrs Merkel, you are supporting terrorists.”

He accused Berlin of not responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to Kurdish militants and the failed coup in Turkey last year. 

“Mrs Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country?… Why are you not doing anything?” Merkel’s spokesman described the accusations as “absurd”, saying the chancellor had no intention of taking part in a “competition of provocations”. 

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik also said Ankara “should re-evaluate” a key part of a 2016 deal to stem the flow of migrants to the EU.

He said Turkey should look at its policy on preventing migrant flows across land borders, although it would keep halting the illegal and dangerous sea crossings as a matter of human responsibility, state media said.

‘Completely wrong’

Dutch authorities at the weekend prevented the plane of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from landing and blocked Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from holding a rally in Rotterdam.

Bringing out the millions-strong expatriate vote could be key in a referendum that could be a turning point in Turkey’s modern history.

Erdogan said the ministers would make the “necessary applications” to the European Court of Human Rights over their treatment.

Meanwhile Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is under pressure to take a hard line against Erdogan as he faces the far-right populist Geert Wilders in general elections on Wednesday.

The Netherlands also issued a new travel warning to Dutch citizens, urging them to stay “alert across the whole of Turkey”. And Germany warned its citizens to take note of “increased political tensions and protests that could be directed against Germany”.

Turkey had already responded furiously to fellow Nato ally Germany’s refusal to give permission for ministers to hold rallies there, with Erdogan comparing such action to “Nazi practices”.

After Erdogan used the same language to scold the Netherlands, Merkel said on Monday that the comparison was “completely wrong” and “banalises suffering”.

‘Lifeline for Erdogan’

The issue risks spiralling into a crisis with the EU as a whole, which Turkey has sought to join for more than half a century. Erdogan, who has indicated he may personally travel to EU states to address rallies said Sunday that the West was showing its “true face” in the standoff.

The immediate effect of the row, however, may aid Erdogan, Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Programme at The Washington Institute, told AFP.

“By blocking (the rallies), they may have given Erdogan a lifeline to eke out a victory in the referendum,” he said.//AFP

Source – TheNation

CLEAN UP THE NETHERLANDS, VOTE PVV

Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs not welcome in the Netherlands.

Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs not welcome in the Netherlands.

Hey wanna come to Promote the referendum in his country.

The Turkish foreign ministry says that it doesn’t want to see the Dutch ambassador, who is out of the country, to return to his post because of the increasingly divisive dispute with the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has forced the Turkish foreign minister to stay out of the Netherlands and thus banned him from speaking about next month’s referendum to expand the powers of the Turkish president.

The Turkish foreign ministry statement says that “we have expressed to our Dutch counterparts that this grave decision against Turkey and the Turkish society in the Netherlands would lead to serious consequences in our diplomatic, political, economic and our other relations.”

Turkish Dictator Erdogan treating with sanctions.

The situation is unacceptable.

The tourism industry goes to dangerous times Turkey.

We advice to search for a more safety and stable holiday destination.

 

Headlines over Amal Clooney ‘baby bump’ earn backlash

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represents victims of rape and kidnappings by members of the Islamic State group, urged a United Nations meeting to step up the pressure on the extremists, so why did her yellow dress and her “baby bump” also make headlines?

Criticism was swift Thursday for some news and entertainment outlets from outraged social media users, including some on Twitter who responded to the Time Inc. tweet: “Amal Clooney shows off her baby bump at the United Nations.”

The tweet linked to a story that ran on Time’s Motto website, which is focused on younger women. The story’s headline also referenced a “baby bump” but was changed, a spokeswoman for Time confirmed Friday. She declined further comment.

The Mirror in London went with: “Amal Clooney is a vision in yellow as she shows off hint of baby bump in chic dress,” while E! News ran: “Amal Clooney Shows Baby Bump in What Could Be the Ultimate International Women’s Day Poster,” all according to a story in the Washington Post questioning the approach in context to her speech.

Read also: Amal Clooney shares her own family’s refugee story

Among the critics was Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has slammed media in the past for focusing on her “childless” status. In response to the Clooney bump tweet, Sturgeon wrote: “I’m pretty certain that this wasn’t the purpose of this impressive human rights lawyer’s appearance at the UN.”

Clooney became an international celebrity after her union with Oscar-winner George Clooney. They married in 2014 and are now expecting twins.

At the U.N., she urged Iraq and the world not to let the Islamic State “get away with genocide.” She expressed frustration that nothing has happened since she came to the U.N. six months ago seeking accountability for IS victims.

Amal Clooney represents Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman captured by IS in Iraq in 2014. Murad has spoken out since her release about being raped and sold as a sex slave and is now a U.N. goodwill ambassador. Murad accompanied her to the U.N. and told the meeting that victims have been waiting more than a year for an investigation of IS to start.

Source – TheJakartaPost

North Korea orders Malaysian ambassador out

North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol, second from right, arrives at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia on March 6, 2017. Malaysia is protecting its “sovereignty and dignity” by expelling the North Korean ambassador, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday, as relations between the countries frayed over the poisoning of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader. (Associated Press/Vincent Thian)

Kuala Lumpur | Mon, March 6, 2017 | 08:29 pm

North Korea has ordered Malaysia’s ambassador out of the country in a tit-for-tat after Malaysia expelled North Korea’s envoy over the death of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Monday that the Malaysian ambassador has been labeled persona non grata and ordered to leave within 48 hours.

On Saturday, Malaysia ordered North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol to depart within 48 hours after he criticized Malaysia’s handling of the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kang told reporters Monday as he prepared to leave at Kuala Lumpur’s airport that Malaysia was taking “extreme measures” that would do “great harm” to bilateral relations.

Malaysia had already announced on Feb. 20 that it was recalling its ambassador to North Korea “for consultations.”

Source; TheJakartaPost