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Calls mount on Malaysia to rescue 160 Rohingya refugees stranded at sea – Arab News

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KUALA LUMPUR: Calls are mounting on Malaysia’s government to allow the safe disembarkation of Rohingya stranded on a boat within its waters, amid concerns that a number of them have already died from starvation and dehydration.
The boat carrying 160 people, including 120 women and children, sailed from Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh on Nov. 25.
The coastal region has since 2017 become the world’s largest refugee settlement, as Bangladesh accepted nearly 1 million members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fleeing a widespread and systematic assault by security forces in neighboring Myanmar.
The conditions inside the squalid, overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar are desperate and the UN Refugee Agency has been reporting an increase in the number of Rohingya making risky journeys by the Andaman Sea to relocate to another host country.
The boat stranded in Malaysian waters has been adrift since its engines broke down on Dec. 1.
Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya activist in Cox’s Bazar whose sister and niece are onboard the boat, told Arab News on Sunday that they had nothing to eat or drink for the past few days.
“The rate of deaths in the boat is going to increase very quickly if there is no rescue by today or tomorrow,” he said. “It’s reached more than eight deaths already.” 
Arab News could not independently verify the numbers, but Doctors Without Borders issued a statement on Saturday saying that “some people onboard have reportedly died due to lack of food or water.” It called on the Malaysian government to “urgently allow the safe disembarkation of refugees suffering the effects of a regional humanitarian crisis and fleeing to seek safety.”
Similar calls on Malaysia and other governments in the region were made over the weekend by the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network and Amnesty International.
The Malaysian government has not yet responded to the appeals. The Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs and the Royal Malaysian Navy were unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts by Arab News.
The number of people attempting to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh and Myanmar has increased sixfold since 2020, according to a UNHCR alert from early December.
This year alone, at least 119 people have been reported dead or missing on those journeys. Most of those risking their lives were Rohingya refugees.
“Tragedy and suffering in the camp forced them to choose to risk their lives, even die under the water. It’s like suicide,” Khan said.
“The international community must come forward and find a solution for the Rohingya refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp. It’s getting too late.”
WASHINGTON: An alleged former Libyan intelligence agent accused of making the bomb that blew up a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people, appeared in a US court Monday to face charges for the deadliest-ever terror attack in Britain.
Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, who allegedly worked as an intelligence operative for the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi between 1973 and 2011, faces three counts related to the Lockerbie bombing.
Federal prosecutors said they did not intend to seek the death penalty but Masud could face life in prison if convicted of “destruction of an aircraft resulting in death” and two other related charges.
The judge presiding over the hearing in a US District Court in Washington read the 71-year-old Masud the charges and his rights before ordering him held without bond until a detention hearing on December 27.
The balding and white-bearded Masud was provided with an Arabic interpreter for the hearing, his first court appearance since being brought to the United States.
Scottish prosecutors announced Sunday that the Tunisian-born Masud was in American hands, but officials have not provided any details on how he had been transferred to US custody.
“Yesterday, the United States lawfully took custody of Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi and brought him to the United States,” Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement.
“This action underscores the Biden Administration’s unwavering commitment to enforcing the rule of law and holding accountable those who inflict harm on Americans in acts of terrorism,” she added.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Masud’s arrest was “an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.
“American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack,” Garland said.
Only one person has been convicted for the December 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
The New York-bound aircraft was blown up 38 minutes after it took off from London, sending the main fuselage plunging to the ground in the town of Lockerbie and spreading debris over a vast area.
The bombing killed all 259 people on the jumbo jet, including 190 Americans, and 11 people on the ground.
Two alleged Libyan intelligence operatives — Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah — were charged with the bombing and tried by a Scottish court in the Netherlands.
Megrahi spent seven years in a Scottish prison after his conviction in 2001 while Fhimah was acquitted.
Megrahi died in Libya in 2012, always maintaining his innocence.
His family lodged a bid for a posthumous appeal to clear his name in 2017, but Scotland’s High Court upheld his conviction in 2021.
Masud’s fate has been tied up in the warring factionalism of Libyan politics that followed Qaddafi’s ouster and death in 2011.
Masud was reportedly imprisoned in Libya for his alleged involvement in attacks on Libyan opposition figures in 2011.
According to a September 2015 article in The New Yorker, Masud was sentenced that year to 10 years in prison in Libya after being accused of using remote-detonated bombs against Libyan opposition members in 2011.
The Lockerbie probe was relaunched in 2016 when Washington learned of Masud’s arrest and his reported confession of involvement to the new Libyan regime in 2012.
According to an affidavit from an FBI agent involved in the probe, Masud worked as a “technical expert” for Libya’s External Security Organization, building explosive devices and earning the rank of colonel.
Masud confessed in a 2012 interview with a Libyan law enforcement officer to assembling the bomb that brought down Flight 103, the affidavit said.
“Masud confirmed that the bombing operation of Pan Am Flight 103 was ordered by Libyan intelligence leadership,” it said.
“Masud confirmed that after the operation, Qaddafi thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States.”
According to the FBI agent’s affidavit, Masud also admitted to committing the April 1986 bombing of the LaBelle Discotheque in Berlin which killed two US service members and a Turkish woman.
In a statement US Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked those who helped bring Masud into US custody “following an intensive diplomatic effort.”
“The prosecution of Masud is the product of years of cooperation between US and Scottish authorities and the efforts of Libyan authorities over many years,” Blinken said.
 
KYIV, Ukraine: Ukraine’s prime minister has appealed for Patriot missile batteries and other high-tech air defense systems to counter Russian attacks that knocked out electricity and water supplies for millions of Ukrainians, putting Europe on alert Monday to brace for more refugees.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told French broadcaster LCI that in addition to making Ukrainians suffer, Russia wants to swamp Europe with a new wave of Ukrainian refugees by continuing to strike power stations and other infrastructure.
Poland’s president said his nation already has seen an increased demand to shelter refugees due to the combination of such attacks coupled with the freezing weather in Ukraine.
“The number of refugees in Poland has risen (recently) to some 3 million. That will probably also mean an increase in their numbers in Germany,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said following talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin.
Millions of Ukrainians fled their country after Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Thousands of people have died and dozens of cities and towns across Ukraine have been reduced to rubble during a war now in its 10th month. On Monday, Russia shelling again mostly focused on eastern and southern regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed.
To defend against further strikes, Shmyhal reiterated previous Ukrainian calls for Patriot surface-to-air missiles — a highly sophisticated system. During an interview with LCI that aired Sunday night, he also asked for more German and French air-defense systems, resupplies of artillery shells and modern battle tanks.
Organizers in France expect more than 45 nations and 20 international institutions to take part in a Paris conference starting Tuesday to raise and coordinate aid for Ukraine’s water, power, food, health and transportation needs during the tough winter months.
The provision of Patriot missiles to Ukraine would mark a major advance in the kinds of air defense systems the West is sending to help the country repel Russian aerial attacks. So far, no country has offered them, and such a step would likely mark an escalation in the fight against Russia.
US officials have said they were considering providing Ukraine with Patriot missile batteries. But Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, told reporters recently there were no plans to send the complex, high-tech system.
“We’ll continue to have those discussions,” he said. He added, “None of these systems are plug-and-play. You can’t just show up on the battlefield and start using them.”
Air defenses were also a topic of a phone call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held Sunday with US President Joe Biden. Zelensky, his office said, told Biden “about 50 percent of the Ukrainian energy infrastructure was destroyed.”
Biden “highlighted how the US is prioritizing efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense through our security assistance, including the Dec. 9 announcement of $275 million in additional ammunition and equipment that included systems to counter the Russian use of unmanned aerial vehicles,” the White House said.
Russian drone attacks near the Black Sea port of Odesa over the weekend destroyed several energy facilities and left all customers except hospitals, maternity homes, boiler plants and pumping stations without power.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, completed a four-day visit to Ukraine, including Odesa, on Monday. She said she “saw how families have been torn apart and how power cuts and freezing temperatures have increased the suffering for too many during this difficult winter.”
The European Union’s foreign ministers gathered Monday in Brussels to discuss fresh sanctions to further punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney sharply condemned “deliberate targeting by Russia of civilians in terms of inflicting suffering on a broad population.” He described Russia’s actions as “a crime, in terms of both aggression and a crime against humanity.”
Slovakia said that in cooperation with Germany, it has opened a center to repair Ukrainian arms of Western origin. The center is located inside a military base in the town of Michalovce, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of the border with Ukraine, the EU member nation’s Defense Ministry said. Howitzers and air defense systems are among the arms to be fixed there.
In Ukraine, the eastern Donbas, which is made up of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, again has become a focus of intense fighting, particularly around the city of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian officials said Monday the country’s forces hit a hotel in the Luhansk region that served as a headquarters of the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor and mercenary group that has played a prominent role in eastern Ukraine.
The region’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said hundreds of Russians were killed in the strike on Kadiivka on Sunday. Moscow-backed local officials in Luhansk confirmed that a Ukrainian strike destroyed a hotel building in Kadiivka but claimed it was unused.
The Ukrainian mayor of the southeastern town of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, reported that Ukraine also attacked a hotel that reportedly housed analysts from Russia’s top security agency, the FSB. Moscow did not comment on that claim, and none of the reports could be independently confirmed.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Monday that two civilians were killed and 10 were wounded in Russia’s shelling of the town of Hirnyk in the Donetsk region.
“It was yet another Russian attack against civilians,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on his Telegram messaging app channel.
Kherson Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said a Russian strike on the southern city of the same name, which Ukraine reclaimed a month ago, killed two civilians and left five wounded Monday. He said the Russian shelling hit residential buildings and damaged power lines. Yanushevych urged city residents
 
SEOUL: BTS star Jin starts his mandatory South Korean military duty on Tuesday, the band’s first member to enlist since a hiatus announcement this year left fans heartbroken over the K-pop juggernaut’s uncertain future.
The septet is widely considered the country’s biggest-ever cultural phenomenon — selling out stadiums around the world and dominating the charts while raking in billions and building a global legion of fans known as ARMYs.
But all able-bodied men in South Korea must serve at least 18 months in the military, and while there was a years-long debate about whether BTS deserved an exemption, they confirmed in October that all members will enlist.
Jin — whose full name is Kim Seok-jin — will begin five weeks of training on Tuesday, the military said.
Yonhap news agency reported the star is expected to be deployed to a “frontline” unit near the border with North Korea, with which South Korea remains technically at war.
“We ask you to keep your heart-warming words of support and farewell in your hearts,” BTS’s label Big Hit Music told fans last week, urging them to stay away from the families-only entrance ceremony.
Fans were stunned in June when the group revealed that it was going on hiatus, citing exhaustion and pressure as well as the desire to pursue solo careers.
But analysts said the announcement was strategically timed because of the compulsory military duty.
The group will reunite around 2025, when its seven members have completed their service.
“For a while, it’s true that there were many fans who would spend days just crying,” a South Korean fan, who runs the Twitter account @5heterotopia, told AFP.
Nimah Mustafa, a 20-year-old fan in Dubai, added: “(Jin’s absence) will be like a huge… void for me.”
South Korea exempts some elite athletes, such as Olympic medallists, and classical musicians from duty, but pop stars do not qualify.
However, BTS have already benefited from a 2020 revision to the conscription law that raised the enlistment deadline for some entertainers from age 28 to 30.
Jin, the oldest member of BTS, turned 30 on December 4.
The seismic changes for BTS in 2022 have sparked feverish speculation among fans and K-pop watchers about what the future holds for the group — will they retain their fame or struggle to revive that success?
Some male K-pop stars have struggled to resume their careers after military service in a cut-throat industry where artists are easily replaceable.
“For the K-pop industry, the retreat of BTS will be a big deal,” Lee Taek-gwang, a communications professor at Kyung Hee University, told AFP.
“During the absence, they could lose public interest, and the decline in popularity will damage their business. It would not be easy for the boy band to reunite.”
However, other experts have pointed to the massive success of BTS and said they will be an exception to that trend.
They “obtained another level of popularity, influence and credibility,” said Lee Ji-young, a BTS expert and professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
“So they won’t be forgotten by other artists in a highly competitive K-pop industry,” she told AFP.
Since their debut in 2013, BTS have been widely credited with doing more than any diplomat or other celebrity to boost the image and soft power of South Korea, today considered a global cultural powerhouse.
They have been invited to speak at the United Nations, and to meet US President Joe Biden at the White House. They are also official ambassadors to bring the 2030 World Expo to Busan, South Korea.
The South Korean government has credited BTS with bringing billions of dollars into the economy.
But despite that success, a draft proposal to grant them service exemptions proved too controversial and never made it through parliament.
“In South Korea, the military service is the indicator of egalitarianism… (where) all men are equal,” Lee at Kyung Hee University told AFP, adding that it was a “necessary” symbol of citizenship.
Jin will reportedly join a “frontline” unit stationed near the border with North Korea.
“It shows the role of culture, and public opinion, in shaping international affairs. Is this ‘frontline’ role a combat role, or is it about public relations and media?” Sarah Keith, a senior lecturer in media and music at Macquarie University, told AFP.
Jin bid farewell to thousands of tearful fans in Buenos Aires in October when he performed his new song “The Astronaut” with Coldplay.
On Monday, he posted a photo of himself with military-style cropped hair on the South Korean social media platform Weverse, with the caption: “It’s cuter than I expected.”
 
NEW YORK: A federal appeals court on Monday allowed New York to restrict the carrying of firearms on private property under a new law adopted in wake of a major US Supreme Court ruling that expanded gun rights.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold a judge’s order from last month that barred officials from enforcing part of the new law making it a felony to carry a gun on private property without the property owner’s express consent.
It marked the latest instance of the New York-based federal appeals court staying a ruling that had blocked large parts of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, passed this year by the Democratic-led state legislature.
The law was enacted after the Supreme Court in June struck down the state’s strict gun permitting regime and declared for the first time that the US Constitution protects a person’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
The new law made obtaining a firearms license more difficult as of Sept. 1 and barred firearms from a long list of “sensitive” public and private places.
Two firearms owners and two gun rights groups including Firearms Policy Coalition sued to challenge a provision that made it a felony for a licensed gun owner to possess a firearm on any private property unless the property owner allowed it with a sign or by giving express consent.
US District Judge John Sinatra, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump in Buffalo, in a Nov. 22 decision concluded that provision violated the US Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
Sinatra said the provision was unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s gun rights precedents and would “interfere with the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens who seek to carry for self-defense outside of their own homes.”
 
LONDON: A Muslim community in the UK are living in fear after a pig’s head was left on the roof of their mosque, Metro reported.
Members of Heatons Muslims Community Trust in Manchester say that the animal’s head was discovered in a visible part of the building at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 9.
The incident was reported to the police, who logged the event as an Islamophobic hate crime.
HMCT trustee Mohammed Tayyab Mohiuddin said that the building’s CCTV footage from the evening showed a car pulling up with two people inside.
One of the individuals was carrying a rubbish bag that was visible when they exited the vehicle.
Mohiuddin added that the car’s registration plate was recorded.
He said: “In the evening, we have a bit of a gathering at the community center and some people came out and someone said, ‘There’s a pig’s head on the roof.’
“It’s a short roof, so it was easy to see. I think they have picked that point in order to terrify people. Everyone knows someone has placed it there and what their intentions were.
“In our religion, we are not allowed to eat pig’s meat or handle it in any way so someone has done it specifically for that reason.
“We have a lot of elderly people and a lot of children who use the center, and obviously they are a bit terrified that someone is targeting us and fear in the future someone could go further or take a wrong step.”
The HMCT said in a statement: “A pig’s head was placed on the roof, in what looks like a hate crime. Unfortunately, this behavior is not a one-off occurrence.
“In survey data released earlier this year, by Muslim Census and Muslim Engagement and Development, it was reported that almost half (42 percent) of mosques or Islamic institutions surveyed have experienced religiously motivated attacks in the last three years.
“Seventeen percent of mosques from the 42 percent reported having faced physical abuse directed at staff or worshipers, including the stabbing of a muezzin in 2020.
“The HMCT asks local residents and worshipers to remain vigilant and report any hate to the police.”

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