Friday, 07 February 2020

The White House announced on Thursday, that US counterterrorism operation in Yemen had killed Qassim al-Rimi, the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the first official confirmation since a drone attack on 25 January.

“At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi,” the White House said in a statement.

“His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qa’ida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”

The Trump administration gave no further details about the killing or the military operation.

The counter-terrorism strike reportedly occurred on 25 January. Yemeni tribal leaders said the drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaeda militants.

The tribal leaders said the drone strike took place in the Wadi Ubaidah area in the eastern province of Marib. The area is known as a stronghold for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the Yemeni affiliate is known.

They said at least three explosions rocked the area, and that the building was set ablaze.

Trump last week retweeted several tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation the January 25 strike killed top al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi.

Thursday’s statement was the first official confirmation by the White House.

Rimi was previously targeted by Trump in February 2017 when the first raid ordered by the new president was against the AQAP chief. That raid failed and left 23 civilians, including an 8-year-old US citizen, dead.

Rimi had led AQAP since his predecessor Nasser al-Wohaishi was killed by a drone strike in 2015.

In the ongoing conflict between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabia-backed government, AQAP has supported the Yemeni government, whose president and prime minister live in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Still, the Yemeni government has denied that its forces fight alongside AQAP.

“The Yemeni government does not want to admit that AQAP militants fight with pro-government forces, so as to avoid the international sanctions of supporting al-Qaeda,” Ibrahim al-Yasri, an independent political analyst for the Yemen Media Guide Centre for Development, previously told Middle East Eye.

Published in World

The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has expressed outrage over the killing of eight “peaceful protesters” in Iraq on Wednesday.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Pompeo urged the Iraqi government to take immediate steps to hold the perpetrators accountable and address the protesters’ legitimate grievances.

The incident occurred when supporters of radical cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, stormed an anti-government protest camp in the southern city of Najaf.

Media reports quoted medical sources as saying no fewer than 20 others were wounded in the violence, which followed attempts by the al-Sadr’s supporters to clear the camp.

Anti-government protesters have been on the streets of Baghdad and Najaf since Oct. 1, 2019 over alleged rampant government corruption, unemployment and poor services.

Al-Sadr, who was said to have initially backed the uprising, later aligned with the government and urged his supporters to assist security forces in dismantling the movement.

According to the News, Pompeo stated that no fewer than 600 protesters had been killed and thousands injured since the uprising started.

“We are outraged by the violence perpetrated in the city of Najaf on Feb. 5 that led to the killing and wounding of peaceful demonstrators.

“Since October of last year, peaceful demonstrators have taken to the streets to urge government reform.

“They have been met with threats, brutal violence, and live fire attacks. It is unconscionable that the perpetrators continue to act with impunity.

“Political figures, who incite this violence and government leaders, who fail to take steps to protect rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be held to account”, Pompeo is quoted.

He said the “militias, thugs and vigilante groups”” in Najaf and other cities must be brought to justice for attacks against Iraqis “exercising their right to peaceful protest”.

“The Government of Iraq should immediately address the protesters legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption.

“To the courageous Iraqi people seeking reform and a government free of corruption and Iranian meddling, we offer Americas continued friendship and support.

“We reaffirm the United States enduring commitment to the Iraqi people and a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq,” the Secretary of State added.

Published in World

President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja today to attend the 33rd Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

President Buhari will join leaders from the 55-member countries of the African Union to participate in the Summit with the theme, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”

The President will attend the 29th Forum of Heads of State and Government of Participating States of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the 27th Session of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (AUDA-NEPAD). The meetings will precede the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly.

In Nigeria’s capacity as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council, President Buhari will participate in the High Level meeting of the Peace and Security Council on the situation in the Sahel and Libya, and High Level Ad-Hoc Committee on South Sudan.

On the margins of the Summit, the President will deliver a keynote address at a High Level Side Event on “Stop the War on Children: Dividend of Silencing the Guns.” The event is co-sponsored by the Governments of Nigeria, Uganda and Norway, and Save the Children International.

President Buhari and the Nigerian delegation will also participate in other High Level Side Events in furtherance of Nigeria’s national, regional and international goals, priorities and aspirations namely, peace and security, countering terrorism and violent extremism, economic development, asset recovery and fight against corruption.

The President will also hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders on the margins of the Summit.

At the end of the AU Summit on February 10, the Nigerian President will commence a State Visit to Ethiopia on February 11, at the invitation of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed.

The visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between Nigeria and Ethiopia and reinforcing cooperation in key areas of mutual interest between the two countries.

Before returning to Abuja, President Buhari will also interact with the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia.

The President will be accompanied by Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Senator Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Yusuf Baba, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Others are: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Defence, Major-Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd); Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Princess Gloria Akobundu, National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Nigeria.

Also on the President’s entourage are, the National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd), and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

President Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.

Published in Travel & Tourism
Friday, 07 February 2020 09:16

China cuts tariffs on $75b US goods

China on Thursday said it would halve additional tariffs levied against 1,717 U.S. goods last year, following the signing of a Phase 1 deal that defused a bruising trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

While the announcement reciprocates the U.S. commitment under the deal, it is also seen by analysts as a move by Beijing to boost confidence amid a virus outbreak that has disrupted businesses and hit investor sentiment.

Casting doubts over the immediate outlook, however, was the prospect raised in a local media report that Beijing could invoke a disaster-related clause in the trade agreement, which might allow it to avoid repercussions even if it cannot fully meet the targeted purchases of U.S. goods and services for 2020.

Washington welcomed the tariff cuts as a “big step in the right direction,” but said it expected China to live up to its obligations under the Phase 1 trade deal despite the outbreak.

“We’re monitoring the virus carefully,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network. “But based on current information, I don’t expect there will be any issues in them fulfilling their commitments.”

China’s finance ministry said in a statement that starting Feb. 14, additional tariffs levied on some goods will be cut to 5% from 10% and others lowered to 2.5% from 5%.

The ministry did not state the value of the goods affected by the decision, but the products affected by the new rule are among $75 billion of goods hit by Chinese tariffs of 5% to 10% tariffs that came into effect on Sept. 1.

In a separate statement, the finance ministry said the tariff reduction corresponds with those announced by the United States on Chinese goods that are also scheduled for Feb. 14.

Further adjustments would depend on the development of the bilateral economic and trade situation, the ministry said.

The reductions will cut tariffs on soybeans from 30% to 27.5%, although some traders say the impact could be limited as the 25% tariffs remains in place. Duties on crude oil will fall to 2.5% from 5% that was imposed in September.

The remaining tariffs were scheduled to kick in Dec. 15 but were suspended due to the interim trade deal.

“Any move to de-escalate is always good,” said Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank in Singapore. “The announcement shows China’s commitment to implement the phase one trade deal despite the disruptions from the recent virus outbreak.”

The news buoyed financial markets, shoring up investor and business confidence at a time when the virus outbreak has cast deep uncertainty over the economic outlook.

The yuan hit its highest in two weeks, while Asian and U.S. stocks rallied following the announcement.

China’s finance ministry said it hopes both sides can abide by the trade deal and implement it to boost market confidence, push bilateral trade development and aid global economic growth.

Published in Business
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