Weekly Global Newscast |23 December – 29 December, 2019
FATF Asks 150 Questions to Pak, Seeks Answers Linked to Banned Outfits
A global watchdog for terror financing has sought clarifications and data from Pakistan on actions taken by it against madrassas belonging to the banned outfits, weeks after the country submitted a report detailing steps taken to curb terrorism and money laundering. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which kept Pakistan on the Grey List for an extended period till February 2020, had warned in October that Islamabad would be put on the Black List if it did not comply with the remaining 22 points in a list of 27 questions.
“Pakistan submitted a report comprising answers to 22 questions to the FATF on December 6, 2019. In response to the report, the FATF Joint Group has sent 150 questions to Pakistan, seeking some clarifications, updates and most importantly actions taken against the madrassas belonging to the proscribed outfits” said Asian Age.
“In March 2019, Punjab police said that government seized control of 160 madrassas, 32 schools, two colleges, four hospitals, 178 ambulances and 153 dispensaries associated with the JuD and its so-called charity wing Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) in province. Atleast 56 madrassas and facilities being run by the JuDand FIF in southern Sindh province were also taken over by authorities in the same month” said Times of India.
Ukraine, Russia-Backed Separatists Complete Prisoner Swap
A fourth large-scale exchange of prisoners has taken place since 2014 when the armed Donbas conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine, killing almost 14,000 people. Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have completed what was billed as an “all-for-all” prisoner swap near the city of Horlivka on December 29, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said.
“Relatives and supporters of the former captives handed over to the Ukrainian side were converging on Kyiv’s Boryspil Airport to meet them upon their arrival in the capital. The swap, reportedly of around 200 prisoners in all, included Russians, fighters from the separatist ranks, convicted terrorists, and civilians and servicemen long held in the breakaway regions” said Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty.
“Some in Ukraine are unhappy that riot police accused of opening fire on protesters against the country’s Russia-friendly then-President Viktor Yanukovich in 2014 are among those who were handed over” Al-Jazeera.
Middle East & North Africa
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Comfortably Wins Party Leadership Challenge
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed a “huge win” in a vote that challenged his leadership of the Likud party. Mr Netanyahu secured 72.5% as opposed to his rival Gideon Saar, who polled 27.5%. Mr Saar admitted defeat, saying he would now back Mr Netanyahu in a general election due in March. The internal party vote was seen as a test of Mr Netanyahu’s hold on power at a time of mounting difficulties.
“Mr Netanyahu, 70, faces trial on bribery and corruption charges, as well as a third national election within a year. Previous elections saw Likud deadlocked with the centrist Blue and White party – with neither able to form a government” said BBC.
“‘Big victory!’ Mr Netanyahu tweeted. ‘Thanks Likud members for the vote of confidence help and love. God keen and together with your assist, I’ll lead the Likud to an amazing victory within the upcoming elections and can proceed to steer the state of Israel to unprecedented achievements.’ Mr Saar, a 53-year-old former minister in Mr Netanyahu’s cupboards, conceded defeat” said The Union Journal.
Sub Saharan Africa
Rush-Hour Vehicle Bomb Kills Dozens in Somali Capital
At least 76 people have been killed by a vehicle bomb detonated during morning rush hour in Somalia’s capital. The blast took place at a checkpoint at a busy intersection in Mogadishu. More than 90 people were also injured. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb but al-Shabab militants have often carried out attacks there.
“President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmaajo said its aim was to demoralise the Somali people, but that jihadists would never stop the country rebuilding. Al-Shabab – a group of Islamist militants, allied to Al-Qaeda – has waged an insurgency for more than 10 years. It was forced out of the capital in 2011 but still controls areas of the country” said BBC.
“A national-level response committee was established Saturday to help the injured and offer support to those who lost family members in the attack, Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said in an address to the nation hours after the attack” said CNN.
Putin Thanks Trump for Foiling New Year Attacks
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has thanked US counterpart Donald Trump for intelligence that helped foil “acts of terrorism” on Russian soil, according to a Kremlin statement. Mr Putin and Mr Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday, it said. The Kremlin said the information came via intelligence services, but it provided no further details.
“Russian media is reporting the discovery of a plot to attack St Petersburg over the New Year period. Tass news agency says two Russian nationals have been arrested and plans to attack a mass gathering were seized, according to a spokesperson from the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency. Mr Putin and Mr Trump have spoken on the phone and in person various times since the latter took office” said BBC.
“Opposition Democrats previously investigated the New Yorker’s election campaign over alleged links to Moscow – and came up empty handed. On December 18, 2019 they successfully voted to impeach Trump after he was accused of asking Ukraine to probe Joe Biden – his likely rival in the 2020 election” said The Sun.
Morrison Rejects Thunberg’s Comments Linking Australian Bushfires with Climate Change
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday dismissed calls from Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg to take more action on climate change amid a devastating bushfire crisis in his country.When asked about a social media post of Thunberg related to the bushfires, Morrison said that he would remain focused on Australia’s interests, Xinhua reported.
“Greta Thunberg was named TIME Magazine person of the year and has also recently returned from a global tour where she addressed world leaders about the importance of solving climate change for the benefit of future generations” said Asian Age.
“The post garnered over 160,000 likes and more than 50,000 shares and sparked heated discussion online. Without directly referring to Thunberg, Morrison remained staunchly committed to his defense of balancing climate concerns with that of the national economy” said Business Standard.
Mexico Releases Texas Woman Who Tried to Deliver Christmas Gifts to Migrants
A Texas woman has been allowed to leave Mexico after being detained while trying to deliver Christmas gifts to a sprawling refugee camp housing people waiting in limbo at the border for US court dates to deal with their asylum claims. Anamichelle Castellano said she and another volunteer for her not-for-profit group were stopped on Monday at a bridge crossing from Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Mexico.
“Donald Trump’s administration has prevented many asylum seekers from entering the country or removed them from the US while their cases are still pending under a policy known as ‘Remain in Mexico’” said The Guardian.
“Castellano said she and a group of volunteers had worked late into the night to wrap presents for children at the Matamoros camp, which consists of hundreds of tents pitched on the land next to the Rio Grande, the river separating the US and Mexico in Texas. She said she had car trouble early on Monday and ended up driving her husband’s car. Her husband eventually took hers. They split about 300 gifts between the two. While her husband drove into Matamoros without incident, an official told Castellano her vehicle would require extra screening” said Sky Statement.