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Egyptian students clash with security forces – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egyptian students clash with security forces – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Egyptian students opposed to the July 3 coup have clashed with police at a university campus in Cairo and set two buildings on fire, state television reported.

A student activist was killed after being hit in the face with a birdshot, and four others were injured, during the violence on Saturday at the Al-Azhar University campus, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Interior said that at least 60 students have been arrested.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said the clashes began when security forces fired tear gas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were preventing their colleagues from entering university buildings to take exams. Protesters threw rocks at the police and set tyres on fire to counter tear gas attacks.

State TV broadcast footage of black smoke billowing from the faculty of commerce building, and reported that protesters also set the agriculture faculty building on fire.

Al-Azhar, a centre of Sunni Islamic learning, has for months been the scene of protests against what the Brotherhood calls a “military coup” that deposed former President Mohamed Morsi after a year in office.

Youssof Salheen, a spokesman of the pro-Brotherhood “Students Against the Coup” movement, told Al Jazeera that Khaled El-Haddad, a student at Al-Azhar’s School of Commerce died at campus, but did not clarify the cause of death.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the student’s account, and a security source denied there had been any deaths.

The violence followed a day of clashes across the country that left five people dead.

Supporters of the Brotherhood took to the streets on Friday after the government designated the group a terrorist organisation – a move that increases the penalties for dissent against the military-led government installed after Morsi was overthrown.

Morsi was the country’s first elected president who took the power after the toppling of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011

 

Thai anti-government protest turns deadly – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Thai anti-government protest turns deadly – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

The proposed introduction of an amnesty law has sparked the latest round of protests [AFP]
A Thai police officer has been killed and dozens of people wounded in clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in the capital, Bangkok, on a day the election commission urged the government to postpone February polls.More than 60 people were injured during the running battle between anti-government protesters, calling for government to resign and postponment of polls, and the police, according to the emergency services.

“He was shot in his chest and brought to hospital by helicopter,” said Jongjet Aoajenpong, director of the Police General Hospital.

“A team of doctors tried to resuscitate him for more than half an hour.”

Violence broke out as demonstrators tried to force their way into a sports stadium in the Thai capital, where representatives of about 30 political parties were gathered to register for parliamentary elections.

Scores of demonstrators, some armed with sling shots, threw rocks and attempted to break through police lines prompting the police to use rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.

Inside the stadium the lot-drawing process was apparently unaffected by the unrest outside the gates.

However, some election officials later left the stadium by helicopter to avoid the unrest and because protesters were blocking the exits.

The election commission said in a statement that it was urging the government to consider “postponing the elections”, citing the security situation.

“We cannot organise free and fair elections under the constitution in the current circumstances,” Election Commission member Prawit Rattanapien said at a news conference.

Government officials did not immediately answer calls seeking a response.

Amnesty law

The clashes are the first violent incident in almost two weeks of daily demonstrations on the streets of Bangkok and the worst civil disturbance since 2010, when more than 90 civilians were killed in a crackdown on anti-government protests.

This latest unrest, which has drawn tens of thousands of protesters onto the streets, has left five people dead and more than 200 wounded.

“Protesters are not peaceful and unarmed as they claimed,” Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in a televised address on Thursday.

“They are intimidating officials and trespassing in government buildings.”

Protesters want Yingluck to step down and they oppose the elections, due to take place on February 2, because she is seen as sure to win them.

Her brother is the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid imprisonment on corruption charges.

He or his allies have won every election for the last 12 years.

In mid-October Yingluck tried to introduce an amnesty law that would have allowed Thaksin to return as a free man, a move that sparked the latest round of protests.

On Wednesday, protesters rejected a compromise from Yingluck, who announced a proposal for a national reform council. They are planning more civil disobedience and street protests to force her to resign as caretaker prime minister.

Police have not tried to arrest the ringleader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who is demanding the country be led by an unelected council until reforms can be implemented.

Protesters were on the way to the Yingluck’s residence to continue their demonstration, where about 500 police officers have been stationed.

 

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egypt declares Brotherhood ‘terrorist group’ – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Egypt’s interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a move that gives authorities greater freedom to crack down on the group.Hossam Eissa, a deputy prime minister, announced the decision on Wednesday night after a lengthy cabinet meeting.

“The cabinet has declared the Muslim Brotherhood and its organisation as a terrorist organisation,” he said.

The cabinet’s announcement came one day after a deadly car bombing outside a police headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. Fourteen people were killed in the blast, most of them officers, and more than 150 others were wounded.

A Sinai-based militant group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement published online on Wednesday.

But the government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack, though it provided no evidence connecting the group to the attack.

The Brotherhood’s London press office issued a statement on Tuesday that “strongly condemned” the bombing.

“Egypt suffered an ugly crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Eissa said. “It is a clear declaration from [the group], which has not known anything but violence since its beginning.”

The Brotherhood has staged near-daily protests since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the army in July following widespread popular protests. Thousands of its members have been killed and jailed since then, and the group has faced mounting legal problems.

In September, a court ordered the Brotherhood banned and its assets seized, a decision that was upheld on appeal in November.

Wednesday’s decision takes the ban a step further: Under the Egyptian penal code, members of the Brotherhood could now face up to five years in prison simply for belonging to the group.

Morsi himself is already in prison, facing charges that include espionage and terrorism. Most of the Brotherhood’s leadership has also been jailed since the coup.

Ahmed el-Borai, the minister of social solidarity, said that the cabinet also would notify other Arab states which are signatories to international conventions against terrorism.

The Brotherhood has sister organisations, and extensive fundraising operations, in many countries around the region.

 

Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Kim tells N Korean army to ready for combat – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Tuesday to mark the day his father became supreme commander [EPA]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has warned war could break out “without any prior notice” and urged his military to bolster its combat readiness, state media reported.The call on Wednesday comes one day after a US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery suggested that the North might have begun producing fuel rods for its recently restarted nuclear reactor.

There has been heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula following the execution of Kim’s uncle and former mentor in an unusually public purge.

Seoul and Washington have warned of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed North following the execution of Jang Song-Thaek, a senior leader who was also the uncle and former political mentor of the younger leader.

Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 on Christmas Eve, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

“He instructed the unit to put utmost spurs on rounding off its combat readiness… always bearing in mind that a war breaks out without any prior notice,” it said.

The unit is based in the North’s western port city of Nampo, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

‘Ominous’ situation

The Johns Hopkins University report said that satellite imagery had identified facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Centre that might produce fuel for North Korea’s recently restarted  plutonium production reactor and the Experimental Light Water Reactor still under construction.

“The identification of these facilities indicates a more wide-ranging, extensive effort by North Korea to modernise and restart the Yongbyon complex dating back to 2009 than previously understood,” the report said.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called for “watertight security readiness” during her trip on Tuesday to a frontline guard post, as she described the situation over the border as “ominous”.

“We should react sternly and mercilessly to any provocations by North Korea,” she said.

The reclusive state’s propaganda mill has gone into overdrive in recent days, describing Jang as a traitor while extolling Kim’s leadership.

Tens of thousands of troops pledged loyalty to him in a mass rally on the death anniversary of his father last Tuesday.

The Kim dynasty has ruled the impoverished but nuclear-armed state since 1948 with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult.

 

European countries reel from deadly storms – Europe – Al Jazeera English

European countries reel from deadly storms – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Deadly hurricane-force winds and torrential rain have brought havoc to transport networks Britain and France.The death toll rose to at least six people on Tuesday, as winds of up to 145kph hit both sides of the Channel with heavy downpours causing flooding, traffic jams, and cancellations of rail, flight and ferry services.

Aidan McGivern, a meteorologist, told Al Jazeera people were preparing themselves for more bad weather.

Analysts expect the storms to hurt retailers eager to cash in on the traditional Christmas rush [EPA]

In Britain, the number of people killed in two days of storms rose to at least five after a man died trying to rescue his dog from fast-flowing waters in Devon, southwest England.

A teenager died in France on Monday after a wall collapsed on him.

Airports in southern England were disrupted, with some flights from Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, cancelled or delayed.

Britain’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, said one terminal had been hit by a major power outage on Tuesday and storm damage had temporarily cut all trains to the airport.

Several hundred passengers were stranded at the airport and airport police had to be called in to help deal with angry passengers.

British train operators cancelled hundreds of services on Tuesday morning, by which time the storm had abated, leaving hundreds of thousands of people scrambling to get on to later services in and out of London.

Thousands without power

Brittany and Normandy were among the regions worst hit in France, where 240,000 homes lost electricity, while in southern England, 150,000 homes were cut off from the power grid, the Energy Networks Association said.

Energy company Southern Electric said that some customers would be without power on Christmas Day.

McGivern told Al Jazeera another storm was expected to strike on Friday.

“That is expected to bring another spell of wet and windy weather,” he said.

IHS analyst Howard Archer said the weather was expected to hurt British retailers, eager to cash in on the traditional pre Christmas rush.

“Given retailers’ hopes that the last couple of days before Christmas would see a final strong surge in sales, the awful weather could not have come at a worse time,” Archer said.

 

Israel launches fresh air strikes on Gaza – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Israel launches fresh air strikes on Gaza – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

The girl was killed and her family were wounded in an air strike on a refugee camp in Gaza [Reuters]
A three-year-old Palestinian girl was killed and at least six other people wounded in a series of Israeli air and tank strikes on the Gaza Strip, medical sources said.Medics named the girl as Hala Abu Sabikha from the central Gaza Strip, noting “three other members of her family were wounded” on Tuesday.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said six people had been wounded in a series of strikes, which came in response to the shooting to death earlier of an Israeli repairing the security fence separating Gaza from Israel.

The Hamas interior ministry said Abu Sabikha and her family were injured in an air strike on a refugee camp in central Gaza.

It also said a person was moderately wounded in a tank shelling near the Karni crossing in northern Gaza and that there were two other air strikes on militant positions in northern Gaza, where no casualties were reported.

The Israeli army said aircraft, tanks and infantry “targeted terror sites in the Gaza Strip” in retaliation for the shooting of the Israeli.

“The sites targeted were a weapon-manufacturing facility and a terror infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip, a terror site and another terror infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip and a concealed rocket launcher in the northern Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.

 

N Korea ‘restarting nuclear programme’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

N Korea ‘restarting nuclear programme’ – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

A cooling tower at Yongbyon was destroyed in June 2008, but the plant now seems to be reactivating [Reuters]
Satellite imagery suggests North Korea is making “wide-ranging, extensive” efforts to fully reactivate its main nuclear complex, a US think-tank has said, in line with Pyongyang’s vows to strengthen its weapons programme.Recent images show work at the Yongbyon nuclear compound, apparently aimed at producing fuel rods to be used in a plutonium reactor, Johns Hopkins University’s US-Korea Institute said.

Analysis of the imagery identified one “probable fuel fabrication plant” for the 5-megawatt plutonium reactor that reopened earlier this year, researcher Nick Hansen wrote on the institute’s blog, 38 North.

The isolated communist state staged its third nuclear test in February, its most powerful to date, after two previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

Two months later, it said it would reopen the Yongbyon nuclear compound in the northwest that had been shut since 2007, in order to bolster its atomic arsenal.

“The soot on the new roof shows that a heating process had occurred, such as the use of metal casting furnaces necessary to complete the heat treatment during the fuel rod assembly,” Hansen wrote.

Nuclear stockpile

A nearby venue that appears to be a dumping site showed a large amount of “grey materials” suspected to be ash from the fuel rod production process, he added.

“The identification of these facilities indicates a more wide-ranging, extensive effort by North Korea to modernise and restart the Yongbyon complex… than previously understood,” he wrote.

Pyongyang’s current stockpile of nuclear materials, mostly plutonium, is variously estimated as being enough for six to 10 bombs.

Nam Jae-Joon, chief of the South’s intelligence agency, told politicians on Monday that the North was capable of staging another atomic test anytime but had so far showed no signs of doing so.

 

Egypt court jails activists over protests – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egypt court jails activists over protests – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Mohamed Adel (right) and Ahmed Maher (left) were sentenced with protesting without permission [Reuters]
A Cairo court has sentenced three leading activists to three years in prison for organising an illegal protest, the latest move in a widening crackdown on critics of the interim government.Two of the three activists, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, are leading members of the April 6 movement. The third is Ahmed Douma, a longtime activist who has been arrested under each of Egypt’s three post-revolutionary governments.

The court on Sunday also handed down fines of 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,200).

The defendants were charged with organising a protest last month outside Abdeen Court in downtown Cairo. Maher was at the court to turn himself in on charges connected with another illegal protest, also in November, outside the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament.

A restrictive law approved last month requires demonstrators to seek advance approval from the interior ministry.

The defendants were also charged with obstructing traffic, “thuggery,” and damaging private property: Security forces and protesters briefly scuffled with batons and plastic furniture from a nearby cafe. Officers said the defendants attacked them first. April 6 has denied this, and called the charges “political.”

Douma was arrested at his home several days after Maher turned himself in. Adel remained free until early Thursday morning, when he was detained during a raid on a local human rights organisation.

Thousands of people have been arrested since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July, most of them supporters of the president and his Muslim Brotherhood. But the crackdown has recently widened to include liberal and secular activists.

 

China lashes out at Japan defence plans – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

China lashes out at Japan defence plans – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to raise Japan’s military profile to meet what he says is a threat from China. [AFP]
China’s military has condemned Japan’s plans to boost defence spending, accusing Tokyo of raising regional tensions under the pretext of safeguarding national security.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Geng Yansheng, defence ministry spokesman, said China “resolutely opposes” Japan’s five-year defence plan, accusing its Asian neighbour of maintaining a “Cold War mentality”.

Geng accused Japan of manufacturing fears of Chinese aggression and denying responsibility for having invaded China and other countries in the last century.

Japan “continues to deny its history of World War II aggression, challenge the post-war order, and harm the feelings of the people of those victimised nations,” Geng said.

“We urge Japan to reflect deeply on its history, strictly adhere to its commitment to peaceful development, and take concrete measures to improve relations with its neighbours to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and development,” Geng said.

Geng was referring to  Japan’s imperial occupation of China, starting with the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, to Japan’s surrender after the end of World War II in 1945. Japan has refused to apologise for the atrocities committed by its soldiers during that period.

The statement marks the latest salvo in the ongoing string of accusations over who is responsible for a sharp rise in tensions in the East China Sea.

Last Tuesday, Japan said it would lift military spending by 2.6 percent over five years, buying early-warning planes, beach-assault vehicles and troop-carrying aircraft.

It was seen as the clearest sign since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office a year ago that he wants to raise Japan’s military profile to meet what he says is a threat from China’s rapid military build-up.

Hawkish stance

China’s military has taken an increasingly hawkish stance amid a bitter dispute with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

Japan’s nationalisation of the islands in September 2012 sparked violent demonstrations in several Chinese cities.

In the months since, Chinese patrol vessels have routinely confronted Japanese ships in the area.

Under the new Japanese defence plan, the country will purchase its first surveillance drones, more jet fighters and naval destroyers, and set up an amphibious unit similar to the US Marines in the next five years.

Broader defence programme guidelines, also adopted on Tuesday, say Japan is “gravely concerned” about China’s growing maritime and military presence in the East China Sea, and its lack of transparency and “high-handed” approach.

Late last month, China said all aircraft entering a vast zone over the East China sea must identify themselves and follow China’s instructions.

 

HRW says Egypt broadens opposition crackdown – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

HRW says Egypt broadens opposition crackdown – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Several prominent secular activists have been arrested in the past three weeks [Al Jazeera]
Human Rights Watch has denounced the arrest of a prominent Egyptian activist during a raid by security forces on a domestic human rights organisation, which it described as a continuation of a crackdown on dissent.Police broke into the offices of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights late Thursday and arrested six of its members who were blindfolded and detained in an undisclosed place for nine hours. Five of them were later released.

Mohamed Adel, a founding member of the April 6 movement that contributed to the 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak, remains in custody.

Police have in the past three weeks also gone after three other prominent activists of the Egyptian protest movement; Alaa Abdelfattah, Ahmed Maher and Ahmad Douma.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said the pursuit of the activists is a deliberate effort to target “voices who demand justice and security agency reform”.

“It should come as no surprise that with the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood well underway, the Ministry of Interior is now targeting leaders of the secular protest movement,” Whitson said in a statement released on Saturday.

“The Egyptian government has sent a strong signal with its attack on a human rights group, and these arrests and prosecutions, that it is not in the mood for dissent of any kind,” Whitson said.

Anti-protest law

With Adel’s arrest, the number of prominent political activists arrested by Egypt’s security forces in the past three years has risen to a total of five.

Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 youth movement and a 2011 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, is among those put in jail since the government passed a law outlawing the calling for protests without first attaining approvals from the Ministry of Interior.

Along with Adel, Maher and activist Ahmed Douma are on trial on charges relating to a protest on November 30, with a verdict scheduled for December 22.

Prosecutors also recently referred Alaa Abdelfattah, one of the most vocal critics of the police and the military, to trial on charges of organising a demonstration without notification.

Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “the deeply repressive” law to arrest scores of political activists on grounds that they failed to seek advance permission for their demonstrations.

“The government claims that, instead of criminal penalties, the new law sets fines – of 10,000 – 30,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$ $1,500 – 4,300) under article 21 – for failing to get advance permission,” the HRW statement said, adding: “Yet the new law incorporates the existing restrictive assembly laws, including Law 14 of 1923, which carries with it a prison sentence for participation in an unauthorised demonstration.”

 

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