US Begins Tougher Scrutiny As Ban IS Lifted From 11 ‘High-Risk’ Countries

The United States has lifted its ban on refugees from 11 “high-risk” countries.

This ban was released on Monday, with the country stating that citizens seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past.

“It’s critically important that we know who is entering the United States,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

“These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”

The 11 countries, hit with a ban in October in the Trump administration’s revised refugee policy, were not identified officially.

But those affected originally comprise Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Liabya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had last year justified the ban.

“The President is carrying out his duty to protect the American people”, he said in a statement.

“The State Department will coordinate with other federal agencies to implement these measures in an orderly manner.

“We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners who share our commitment to national and global security.”


Iran Suspends Execution Of Drug Criminals

Iran on Monday suspended the execution of all criminals sentenced to death for drug offences.

This was announced by the country’s Speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani. He said all the cases are to be reviewed.

“A block has also been placed on planned executions,’’ the Isna news agency reported.

According to official statistics, 4,000 people are currently on death row in Iran for drug offences.

The Iranian government officially abolished the death penalty for some drug-related crimes in November.

Larijani had previously defended capital punishment for drug dealers, claiming they were responsible for the deaths of thousands of young people and a lifetime of suffering for their families.

“Without the death penalty and executions, drugs would be available in every supermarket,’’ he said.

In 2016, an inquiry found that, in spite of a high number of executions, the quantity and variety of drugs being smuggled into Iran was rising, rather than falling.

Iran has previously come under criticism from the international community for its stance on drug offences.

“The country’s legal authorities are currently considering which specific punishments would be appropriate as an effective alternative to the death penalty,’’ the local media report said.

Those convicted, for example, of small-scale dealing could be sentenced to several years in prison or community service.

Drug lords, however, are still expected to receive the death penalty.


UN Issues Forty-Eight Hours Ultimatum To Armed Groups

The UN Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has given armed groups in the north of the country 48 hours to clear out, saying it intends to clear a 50-kilometre perimeter around the town allowing displaced persons to return.

Recall that over the last three weeks, some 60,000 people, mostly women, left everything behind to escape clashes between the armed groups; Justice Riot and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic.

“Again, civilians in Central African Republic are paying a heavy price in clashes between armed groups since the end of December 2017, fighting between armed movements.

“The displaced persons have ended up in Paoua, where some 40,000 residents took them in. Now the food and water is running out, the CAR Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi, said.

According to him, the humanitarian community is responding to the needs of tens of thousands of newly displaced people who have fled ongoing clashes between armed groups in the northern region of Paoua.

The UN and partners have provided food to displaced families and host families would also receive assistance while free healthcare services were being offered to the displaced and host families.

Humanitarian agencies are also distributing hygiene kits to contain the spread of contagious diseases, while the Government has provided soap and clothes, Rochdi said.

“Yesterday, aid workers also began the construction of community hangars to temporarily shelter those displaced who are not staying with host families.

“More displacement is expected as fighting continues. Paoua town, which previously had 40,000 inhabitants, has seen its population triple in a few weeks. Villages 50 kilometres north of Paoua are almost empty,” he said.


Myanmar Police Opens Fire On Protesters Killing Seven

Myanmar police opened fire at hundreds of protesters angry about a ban on a local festival. The action by the police has left at seven people dead.

The protesters in Rakhine state marched through the ancient city of Mrauk-U and ransacked a government building on Tuesday after authorities banned the anniversary celebration of the founding of the old kingdom, saying they were not informed about it beforehand.

Deputy director of the regional government Tin Maung Swe said police warned the mob to stop but they were being physically attacked and officers had to respond after initially using rubber bullets.

The protest involved Rakhine Buddhists. Rakhine is also home to minority Rohingya Muslims, who have long faced persecution that has seen about 650,000 people driven away from their homes into Bangladesh since August.


Tunisian Prime Minister Rejects Collective Resignation Of Senior Officials

Tunisian Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed, announced he had rejected a collective resignation of two of his ministers and two secretaries of state.

The ministers are: Minister of Local Affairs and Environment, Minister of Vocational Training and Employment.

The secretaries of state are: Secretary to the Minister of Trade and State Secretary to the Minister of Youth and Sports.

“Proposed on an initiative of the President of the Republic, the Government of National Unity was not formed on the basis of political quota.

“I decided to keep them at their posts under the supreme interest of Tunisia especially as the State is above all partisan calculations,’’ Youssef Chahed said in a brief statement.

On Saturday, the National Council of the party, “Afek Tounes”, in a special session held in the northern suburbs of Tunis, called on its representatives in the government to withdraw from their missions.

The National Council said it was on the pretext that the current government deviated from the general spirit of the “Carthage Pact,” a summary document signed in 2016 by a dozen political parties including Afek Tounes.

“This reference document was emptied of its content and lost any motivation to exist, which could generate a false consensus that contradicts the supreme interest of the country,’’ its president, Yassine Brahim, stressed.


Nigerians In Hungary Kick Against 54 Million Euros Loan To Nigeria

Nigerians in Hungary have kicked against the proposed 54 million Euro deal it intends to give the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources, describing it as a fraud.

A letter addressed to the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, signed by the President of the Association of Nigerians in Hungary, Mr. Frederick Omoyoma and 12 others, noted that the loan for the study of the drainage work at the Rivers Niger and Benue and to also check sedimentation in Nigeria is a ¨duplication and misplaced priority since the Nigerian government had on several occasions said it had awarded contracts for the dredging of River Niger and Benue.’’

The petition urged the Hungarian government to channel such funds to projects such as power project which will directly affect the lives of Nigerians rather than granting loan for execution of projects, which the Nigerian government has awarded the jobs ¨in the past, but people syphoned the money¨

The petition read:¨You  may  be  surprised  to  know  that  contracts for  the  dredging  of  the  River  Niger  and  River Benue  have been  awarded  and  commenced in  Nigeria.

This ongoing project will overtake any other ‘study’ that our Minister of Water Resources is seeking loan for.‘’¨What is the point of seeking loan for a ‘study’ that will lead to bigger project expected to stop  flooding  when  a  dredging  project  that  will end  the  same  flooding  has  already commenced?

‘’Is  our  Minister  trying  to  duplicate  a  project  that  has  already  commenced through the financing of our government?
Sir,  as  our  country  continues  to  fight  corruption,  we  wish  to  inform  you  that  contract  for  the dredging  of  the  River  Niger  was  awarded by  the  former President  of  Nigeria  for  N47 billion (114,634,146 euro). Out of that amount, N34 billion (82,926,829 euro) was paid to contractors  and the job  was abandoned.

We know that 54 million euro can equip our army to end terrorism in Nigeria. That amount of money could conveniently settle internally displaced persons in Nigeria. It could also be used to build schools for some children who are learning under deplorable classroom conditions.

Kazaure local government of Jigawa State which is the birth place of our Minister for Water Resources is equally in serious need of
social and economic development. 54 million euro could provide steady electricity to some parts of Nigeria. It could even be
used in upgrading some of our hospitals to the standard of some hospitals in Hungary thereby discouraging our politicians from seeking medical treatments abroad,” it stated.

Sir, we ask that you cancel this loan and assist Nigeria in any other way you may deem necessary. For the sake of our generation and those coming after us, please do not support any intention by the Nigerian Ministry of Water Resources to further severe the thin thread that currently hold us together as a country.

Nigerians are already very provoked by the desire to receive this loan from Hungary. The circumstances and the amount quoted in this loan is very questionable, therefore we urge your government not to honour it since it will not be of benefit to Nigerians¨ it stated.


Robert Mugabe Granted Immunity

Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution and assured that his safety would be protected in his home country as part of a deal that led to his resignation.

Mugabe who led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 stepped down on Tuesday after the army seized power and the ruling party turned against him and Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president, is set to be sworn in as president on Friday.

A government source said Mugabe, who is 93, told negotiators he wanted to die in Zimbabwe and had no plans to live in exile.

“It was very emotional for him and he was forceful about it. For him it was very important that he be guaranteed security to stay in the country although that will not stop him from travelling abroad when he wants to or has to,” the source said.


Donald Trump’s Ironic Move After Hailing Asia Tour

US President Donald Trump hailed a “tremendously successful” five-nation tour of Asia in which he made a lot of friends. Ironically he ended it abruptly on Tuesday by skipping most of a Philippine summit.

The US president, who began his journey in Japan 12 days ago, said his trip had seen progress in his goal of narrowing America’s yawning trade deficits.

“I’ve made a lot of friends at the highest levels,” Trump told reporters shortly before boarding Air Force One in Manila, adding the trip was “tremendously successful”.

“I think the fruits… are going to be incredible,” he said.

“We’ve explained that the United States is open for trade, but reciprocal trade.”

Trump made the comments after briefly gathering with 18 other world leaders ahead of the start of the East Asia Summit, the final set piece of his trip in Asia.

Trump had initially planned to skip the summit, then backtracked after criticism he was turning his back on the region.

But he did not stay for the official start of the summit on Tuesday afternoon, also missing the preceding group photo with his fellow leaders.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat in for him at the summit, which was scheduled to run into the evening.

The summit groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia, as well as the United States.

In a trip that was dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis, Trump was treated to pomp and pageantry in Japan and South Korea, where he repeatedly blasted the regime of Kim Jong-Un.

In China, where President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for a “state visit plus” — a welcome Trump declared “people really have never seen anything like” — the White House trumpeted more than $250 billion of trade deals.

Analysts say the headline figure hides a paucity of deliverables, with lots of the agreements being non-binding memorandums of understanding.

Many will take years to yield results and some will never materialise.

At a regional summit in Vietnam, Trump returned to the topic of North Korea in what aides said was part of a strategy of forging a global front to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programme.

But the issue of alleged Russian interference in his 2016 election reared its head again when Trump appeared to endorse President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that there had been no plot by Moscow.

In the Philippines, Trump sparked headlines with his pally relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte, a man who has boasted of personally killing people and whose drug war has claimed thousands of lives.


Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Arrested In Corruption Crackdown

A prominent member of the country’s royal family, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, has been swept up in connection with a wide-ranging anti-corruption initiative, according to reports.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman removed a host of prominent officials in a sweeping crackdown, in which dozens of princes and former ministers were detained. It has been reported that Alwaleed Bin Talal was among those arrested. CNBC could not immediately confirm Bin Talal’s status.

In addition to Bin Talal, former Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf was also detained and under investigation, Reuters reported, citing a senior Saudi official.

If verified, the arrest of Bin Talal would represent a jarring turn of events as the prince has cultivated an image as the de-facto public face of Saudi finance. It would also be the most dramatic chapter in the evolving narrative of Bin Salman, who has steadily consolidated his authority since his elevation to Defense Minister in early 2015.

Considered one of the most prominent members of the Saudi royal family, Bin Talal has been the subject of numerous profiles in U.S. and international publications. He has made numerous appearances on CNBC dispensing investment advice — such as last month, when he predicted bitcoin was little more than a speculative bubble that would soon “implode”

The billionaire is an American-educated philanthropist and investor who is heavily invested in U.S. corporate giants like Citigroup, Apple, 21st Century Fox and Twitter, just to name a few. Between 1991 and 1995, bin Talal came to the rescue of President Donald Trump, whose real estate empire was under strain. Bin Talal purchased a yacht, and invested in Trump’s Plaza Hotel.

In 2015, Bin Talal announced he would donate his entire fortune to help build a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all.”

The anti-corruption sweep is taking place against a backdrop of reform in Saudi Arabia, and the impending launch of an initial public offering for state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco next year. The IPO is expected to be the largest in history, and Aramco is widely expected to dual-list shares on an international exchange.

Saudi Arabia’s Finance Ministry, for its part, said Sunday that the kingdom’s decision to set up an
anti-corruption committee and detain prominent figures enhanced confidence in the rule of law, Al Arabiya television reported.

The decisions preserve Saudi Arabia’s investment climate, the Saudi-owned television channel said.

Saudi Arabia announced the committee and the detentions late on Saturday.

Plane Diverted Over Threat Call

News reports say a passenger plane with 122 people on board destined to New Delhi was on Monday diverted midway following a threat call. The Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Delhi was diverted to Ahmedabad early on Monday after a security threat was reported on board.


An air hostess in the plane found a note stating the plane was hijacked and should not land in New Delhi, and she alerted the pilot. Media reports said the airline carrier confirmed that the incident had taken place.


“Boeing 737-900 from Mumbai to Delhi was diverted to Ahmedabad following the declaration of an emergency as per established security procedures, due to the detection of an onboard security threat.


“The aircraft landed without incident at Ahmedabad and was parked at a remote bay, where all 115 guests and seven crew members were safely deplaned,” the local media quoted a statement released by Jet Airways as reporting.


So far no untoward incident was reported. The authorities have initiated a probe into the hoax call and are searching the plane.


Somalia Blast Reveals Flaws In Intelligence Efforts

Security sources have alleged that intelligence gathering meant to counter such attacks as the Oct. 14 deadly truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia is so disjointed. No fewer than 300 people were killed in the bombing in the heart of the capital, the deadliest attack in the history of the Horn of Africa nation. The Islamist insurgency al-Shabaab was blamed for the blasts, which happened when a car bomb and a truck bomb headed for the airport detonated prematurely.


Hussein Ali, a former national security adviser to Somali President said that Somali security services and the donor nations working with them are both to blame for disorganisation in the divisions that are supposed to be working to detect and stop such attacks. He said:“the national security architecture is in tatters. “The Shabaab attacks are a symptom of the greater political dysfunction of the state.”


The increasing frequency and growing size of the attacks threaten the fragile security gains made in Somalia ahead of the withdrawal of African Union peacekeepers at the end of the year. They also are a concern for other countries in the region where al Shabaab is active, such as Kenya and Uganda. In 2016, 723 people died in 395 attacks in Somalia, up from 46 dead in 36 attacks in 2010, according to a confidential report produced earlier in January by Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research.


Initial swab tests at the site of the attack showed traces of potassium nitrate, a fertilizer component, indicating al Shabaab is now manufacturing explosives as well as buying them or harvesting them from munitions, experts say. A Western and Somali security source said that competing programmes funded by different donor nations and the lack of a centralised database are hurting efforts to analyse intelligence related to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).


A letter from Somalia’s minister of internal security addressed to the United States, Britain and the UN in May complained of competition and secrecy among agencies gathering intelligence. “Multiple actors involved means this process is highly disorganised … causing a severe problem for the governmental counter-terrorism efforts,” said the letter, seen by Reuters. The pressure is building on President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who must ensure Somalia’s fledgeling security forces are ready to step in when the 22,000-strong AU force leaves.


His government is already stalling on releasing a report into a joint U.S.-Somali raid on Bariire in August that residents say killed 10 civilians. Political disagreements threaten co-operation between Somalia’s federal and regional forces. The minister of defence and army chief resigned on Oct 12, without giving reasons. The interior ministry spokesman also resigned on Oct. 17. Somali police did not respond to requests for comment.


According to UN report which is due to be published in November, the U.S. Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Centre, which is funded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has confirmed the presence of potassium nitrate in six major vehicle-borne bomb incidents since 2016. “The potential use of Home-Made Explosive by al Shabaab would allow the group to rely less on the process of harvesting explosives from munitions, which is slow and laborious … allow(ing) the militant group to increase the frequency and explosive weight of its IEDs,” said the report.


Al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow Somalia’s UN-backed government and impose strict Islamic law, has not yet claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, in keeping with previous incidents in which large numbers of civilians have been killed. Mass civilian deaths have caused deep divisions among fighters, a security source with knowledge of discussions within the group said. A former top al Shabaab commander, Mukhtar Mansur, condemned the attack and was photographed by local media donating blood. Robow defected to the government in August after the U.S. government removed a five million dollars bounty for his capture.


Two Mogadishu-based security sources outlined the events leading up to the latest attack. They said a car bomb and a truck bomb were deployed to hit Mogadishu International Airport, a warren of buildings ringed by barbed wire and blast walls that house contractors, diplomats and a European Union military training mission.

“One bomb would have breached a checkpoint, opening the way for a larger bomb,” one of the Western security contractors told Reuters.

“They also had fighters nearby ready to come inside the base.” The driver of the car bomb had been driving through checkpoints for a week ahead of the attack, paying small bribes and getting security forces used to his presence, he said. A larger truck entered the city and passed through one checkpoint, but was stopped at one known as Km Five. Panicking, he tried to force his way through but got snarled in traffic next to a fuel truck.


“I could see the truck speeding. I also heard few gunshots behind it. Police must have been chasing it,” said Mohamed Ali, 21, who was injured in the blast.


“As it advanced it came to many cars in the street, then the truck driver swerved abruptly to the left lane, but its tyres got stuck in the highway divider.


“What followed was the blast and smoke.”


The fireball tore through the intersection, incinerating hundreds of civilians. Many were too badly burned to be identified and were buried in mass graves. The driver of the car bomb was detained at another checkpoint by soldiers who had taken him out for questioning before its bomb also detonated. Three security sources said he identified himself as al Shabaab.