Top 5 Worst Countries With Blasphemy Laws: All Are Islamic Nations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Top 5 Worst Countries With Blasphemy Laws Ranked by USCIRF, One Christian Nation Listed at No. 7

(PHOTO: REUTERS/FAYAZ AZIZ)Protesters gather to condemn the killing of university student Mashal Khan, after he was accused of blasphemy, during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan, on April 20, 2017.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has issued a report on blasphemy laws around the world, with the top five worst-scoring nations all seeking to protect Islam.

“In all five of the worst-scoring countries (Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Qatar), the blasphemy laws aim to protect the state religion of Islam in a way that impermissibly discriminates among different groups,” a press release from the organization stated on Wednesday.

The major report found that 71 of the world’s 195 countries have blasphemy laws, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and death.

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said that religious freedom should protect people’s rights to express their thoughts and beliefs, even those that others may find blasphemous.

“Advocates for blasphemy laws may argue that they are needed in order to protect religious freedom, but these laws do no such thing. Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders, and mob attacks. Wherever they exist, they should be repealed,” Mark insisted.

Christians and other religious minorities have been targeted by such blasphemy laws in Pakistan where they’re punished any time an accusation of having insulted the Islamic faith is lobbed against them.

In June, a Pakistani Christian father was arrested on charges of blasphemy after he asked a Muslim man to pay for a bicycle that he had repaired the week before, but was then accused by the same man of insulting Islam.

Islamic hardliners have also taken justice into their own hands. In one instance in November 2014, a Christian couple was burned to death by a mob after they were accused of having desecrated the Quran, a claim that turned out to be false.

Iran, which persecutes Christians, Baha’is, and other minorities, has threatened to execute anyone who’s accused of insulting the Islamic faith.

The Iranian government has been particularly concerned about the rise of Christianity in the country, especially among youths. This has led to Islamic seminary officials calling on the government to “stop the spread” of the faith.

Though the majority of high-ranking countries beyond the top five focused on defending Islamic sensibilities, Italy and its blasphemy laws protecting the Roman Catholic Church also scored a high ranking, coming in at number seven.

Article 403 of Italy’s criminal code reads:

“Anyone who insults the State religion in public by offending those who profess it shall be subject to a prison sentence of up to two years. Anyone who insults the State religion by insulting a minister of the Catholic Church shall be subject to a prison sentence of one to three years.”

USCIRF noted in its report that most of the blasphemy laws that it studied were “vaguely worded,” and failed to specify intent as part of the violation. It added that a majority of blasphemy laws are embedded in the criminal codes of countries, with 86 percent of nations with such laws threatening imprisonment for offenders.

“Though implementation varies, countries from Switzerland to Sudan persist in outlawing expression of views deemed ‘blasphemous,'” Mark added.

“Some countries, including Canada, have such laws but do not actively enforce them. We call upon those countries to set an example for the others and repeal their blasphemy laws. And we call upon all countries to repeal any such laws and to free those detained or convicted for blasphemy.”

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Somali President: Defeat of Terrorism Paves Way for Economic Revival

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Somali President: Defeat of Terrorism Paves Way for Economic Revival

Mogadishu– Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said that defeating terrorism would pave the way for reviving the economy.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on the occasion of the passing of 100 days since he took office, Mohamed said that “changing the security situation” and overcoming terrorist threats, represented by ISIS and Al-Shabaab militant group, would allow the achievement of decent living conditions by stimulating economic growth and providing the Somalis with good job opportunities.

The Somali president said he “inherited a very difficult situation”, especially on the security level.

He noted in this regard that despite efforts exerted by the former government to counter terrorism, Al-Shabaab militants still represent “a real threat to stability in my country.”

“At the same time, I have inherited a difficult economic situation that does not allow the government to regularly pay the Army salaries,” he continued, stressing that the military institution was in need of comprehensive restructuring and rearmament.

As for social services, government’s capabilities are limited, according to the president, in particular with regards to health and educational services.

“I am not saying that we have to begin from nothing, but we have big challenges ahead compared to the available capacities,” he stated.

Asked about the reason he chose Saudi Arabia as his first state visit, Mohamed said: “This visit is a clear proof of the deep and historic relations between Somalia and the Kingdom.”

He underlined Saudi Arabia’s continuous support to Somalia at all levels. He added that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has expressed his keenness to help the African country in facing its challenges.

As for the support provided by the Kingdom, the president said that Saudi Arabia has assisted Somalia in rebuilding its army, fighting terrorism, launching reconstruction projects, as well as supporting the state budget and responding to the drought crisis.

With regards to rebuilding the army, Mohamed, who goes by the nickname “Farmajo”, said that the issue was a priority in the new government’s program.

“We are seeking to build a professional army that is able to protect the borders, defend the country’s sovereignty and achieve stability,” he stated.

As for the African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the president said that the current plan was to drive Al-Shabaab militants out of the country within the next two yeas, and gradually start reducing the number of peacekeeping forces as of October 2018, in line with the ongoing negotiations.

Asked about the arms embargo on Somalia since the beginning of the 1990s, Farmajo said that ongoing sanctions on the country were limiting the army’s capabilities.

“The current project to reorganize and restructure the army would not be effective if it is not paralleled with the lifting of sanctions,” the president noted.

“We are committed to this demand because we know that the support, which is offered by the African Union forces, would not last,” he added.

On wearing the military uniform twice since taking office in February, the Somali president said: “This is to remind the Somali people that we are in an open war against terrorism represented by Al-Shabaab movement.”

“I do not believe in the military choice alone,” he said, noting that after his election, he called for dialogue with the movement and offered to grant amnesty to militants who abandon arms and violence.

“We should admit that not all Al-Shabaab militants are the same; there are those who believe there are citizens just like us and they reject violence; and others, who are very extremists and influenced by al-Qaeda and who would not accept dialogue,” he said.

Asked about his visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Somali president said that the UAE was one of the biggest supporters to his country, describing his meetings in Abu Dhabi as “successful at all levels”.

As for the assistance needed from Arab countries and institutions to support Somalia, Mohamed highlighted the importance of investing in the country’s “tremendous economic resources, which include natural resources, maritime wealth and agriculture, as well as infrastructure and transport”.

“This can create job opportunities for the youth, who represent 70 percent of the Somali population,” he said.

He added that his government was ready to provide the required facilities for Arab investments.

North Dakota: Muslim refugee gets 20 years for sexually assaulting and terrorizing young women

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘CREEPING SHARIA’ WEBSITE)

North Dakota: Muslim refugee gets 20 years for sexually assaulting and terrorizing young women

Abdirahman Sahel listens to his attorney Monty Mertz during his sentencing hearing Monday, April 10, 2017, in District Court in Fargo for gross sexual imposition and terrorizing in 2013. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

His second conviction. Source: Fargo teen who spent childhood in refugee camp gets 20 years for sex assault | Grand Forks Herald

A Fargo teenager who endured a “feral” childhood in a refugee camp was sentenced Monday, April 10, to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting and terrorizing a young woman nearly four years ago.

Abdirahman P. Sahel, who is believed to be 18 years old, approached two young female guests in the parking lot of the Fargo Holiday Inn in August 2013 and threatened them with a handgun before forcing one of the girls to perform a sexual act, prosecutor Cherie Clark said during Monday’s sentencing hearing.

Clark said the victim was traumatized by the attack, as was the young woman who witnessed the incident.

The essence of the sentence—20 years behind bars—was endorsed by both Clark and Sahel’s attorney, Monty Mertz. Sahel earlier pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition and terrorizing in connection with the attack.

The sentence will be served at the same time as a 12-year sentence Sahel received after he was convicted at trial in September of attacking a woman in the parking lot of the West Acres Shopping Center in September 2014. In that case Sahel was convicted on charges of robbery, attempted kidnapping, terrorizing and simple assault. DNA collected from Sahel while he was in custody for the West Acres assault tied him to the Holiday Inn attack.

At Sahel’s earlier plea hearing, the victims in the Holiday Inn case said they wanted the sentence for that crime to be served consecutive to the 12 years behind bars ordered in the West Acres case. That would have meant a much longer sentence for Sahel, since he wouldn’t serve the sentence for the 2013 crime until serving the 12-year term. The women said the two cases were separate and deserved separate sentences.

Mertz said during Monday’s sentencing hearing that Sahel will likely spend more than 15 years behind bars and when he gets out there is a strong chance he will be deported.

The defense attorney called Sahel’s situation a complex one, as it was possible Sahel was 14 when the crime at the hotel parking lot was committed. He said Sahel, who is from Somalia, lost his parents at a very early age and lived the “life of a feral child” in a refugee camp.

Mertz said because Sahel’s believed birth date in January 1999 is not a certainty, at least one psychologist who has assessed him thinks he may still be a juvenile.

“Which was very fascinating to me,” Mertz said.

Sahel was given credit for having already served about two and a half years of his sentence.

31 Killed When Airstrike Hits Refugee Boat Near Yemen’s Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

31 Killed When Airstrike Hits Refugee Boat Near Yemen’s Coast

SANAA, Yemen — A boat packed with Somali migrants came under attack overnight off Yemen’s coast close to a strategic Red Sea strait, in an incident that killed 31 people, a U.N. agency and a Yemeni medical official said Friday.

According to the International Organization for Migration, the victims carried UNHCR papers. Laurent De Boeck, the IOM chief in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, said the agency believes all the people on board the stricken vessel were refugees but it was not immediately clear where they came from in Somalia.

The SABA news agency in Yemen, run by the country’s Shiite rebels, said the attack was an airstrike that took place off the coast of Hodeida province, close to the Bab al-Mandab strait. It did not say who was behind the airstrike.

De Boeck added that 77 survivors who were pulled out of the water were taken to a detention center in Hodieda. He said the IOM is in contact with the hospital, clinics, and the detention center to provide the necessary medical care the victims.

In Geneva, IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters that he was unable to confirm news reports indicating that an Apache helicopter gunship was responsible for the attack. “Our confirmation is that there are dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals,” he told The Associated Press.

The Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting alongside Yemen’s internationally recognized government, has accused the Shiite Houthi rebels of using Hodeida as a smuggling route for weapons. There was no immediate comment from the coalition.

The coastal province has been under heavy airstrikes over the past two years since the coalition joined the conflict in support of the government. African migrants continue to head to Yemen, a transit point to Saudi Arabia where they seek jobs and a better life.

A Yemeni medical official in Hodeida said bodies of the dead were being retrieved from the sea and taken to the morgue of a hospital in al-Thawra. Only 14 bodies had arrived at the morgue so far, the Yemeni official said, adding that women were among the dead.

There were also 25 wounded, including those who lost arms and legs, who were brought to the hospital, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

On its Twitter account, the UNHCR said it was “appalled by this tragic incident, the latest in which civilians continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict in Yemen.”

Federal Judge In Hawaii Rules That President Trump’s New Travel Ban Is Illegal, Freezing Implementation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) A federal judge in Hawaii blocked President Donald Trump’s new travel ban on Wednesday afternoon, hours before the ban was set to go into effect.

In a 43-page ruling, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson concluded in no uncertain terms that the new executive order failed to pass legal muster at this stage and the state had established “a strong likelihood of success” on their claims of religious discrimination.
Trump decried the ruling during a rally Wednesday night in Nashville, introducing his statement as “the bad, the sad news.”
“The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first one,” Trump said, as the crowd booed the news.
“This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach,” he added, before pledging to take the issue to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The practical effect of the ruling — which applies nationwide — is that travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees will be able to travel to the US.
Unlike the previous executive order, the new one removed Iraq from the list of banned countries, exempted those with green cards and visas and removed a provision that arguably prioritizes certain religious minorities.
The new ban was announced earlier this month and was set to take effect Thursday. It would have banned people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
“The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed,” Watson wrote.
“Equally flawed is the notion that the Executive Order cannot be found to have targeted Islam because it applies to all individuals in the six referenced countries,” Watson added. “It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%.”
“It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam,” Watson added. “Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.”
“When considered alongside the constitutional injuries and harms … and the questionable evidence supporting the Government’s national security motivations, the balance of equities and public interests justify granting the Plaintiffs’ (request to block the new order),” Watson wrote.
The Justice Department said it will defend the new travel ban.
“The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the federal district court’s ruling, which is flawed both in reasoning and in scope. The President’s Executive Order falls squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our Nation’s security, and the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts,” DOJ said in a statement Wednesday night.

Judge points to cable news comments

After Trump initially blasted a federal judge in Seattle on Twitter for blocking the original travel ban, and several other federal courts halted its implementation last month, the White House went back to the drawing board for over a month and rewrote the ban — hoping this one would survive legal scrutiny.
Yet certain statements made by Trump’s senior advisers have come back to bite the administration in court.
In the ruling, Watson brought up specific statements made by the President and Stephen Miller, one of his top policy advisers and a reported architect of the original order, in cable news interviews.
Trump made plain his opposition to Islam in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper last year, asserting: “I think Islam hates us.”
Cooper asked then-candidate Trump in the interview to clarify if he meant Islam as a whole or just “radical Islam,” to which Trump replied, “It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”
The judge cited this interview as an example of the “religious animus” behind the executive order and quoted Trump telling Cooper: “We can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States.”
Likewise, the decision cited an interview Miller had on Fox News following the legal struggles of the first executive order last month, which the legal opponents of the ban have emphasized repeatedly.
In a February interview, Miller downplayed any major differences the new executive order would have from the first and said it would be “responsive to the judicial ruling” holding it up and have “mostly minor technical differences.”
“Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” Miller added.
“These plainly worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose,” Watson wrote.
“Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, ‘secondary to a religious objective’ of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims,” he added.

Changes not enough, judge says

While Watson signaled that this temporary freeze of the travel ban may not last forever, he nevertheless concluded that the changes made between the first and second versions of the travel ban weren’t enough.
“Here, it is not the case that the Administration’s past conduct must forever taint any effort by it to address the security concerns of the nation,” he wrote. “Based upon the current record available, however, the Court cannot find the actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be ‘genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions.'”
Immigration advocates applauded the ruling immediately.
“The Constitution has once again put the brakes on President Trump’s disgraceful and discriminatory ban. We are pleased but not surprised by this latest development and will continue working to ensure the Muslim ban never takes effect,” said ACLU attorney Omar Jadwat, who argued for the case for the challengers in Maryland federal court earlier on Wednesday.
The Justice Department has yet to indicate its next legal steps, but Trump administration has argued the ban is necessary to protect the nation’s security.
“We cannot compromise our nation’s security by allowing visitors entry when their own governments are unable or unwilling to provide the information we need to vet them responsibly, or when those governments actively support terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said March 6.
Federal judges in several states, including Maryland and Washington state, are also in the process of evaluating challenges to the new travel ban, but may defer ruling in light of the nationwide ruling in Hawaii.
This story is breaking and will be updated.

A Scourge To Human Morality: 110 Women And Children Have Starved To Death In Somalia In Last 48 Hours

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MAR 5 2017, 3:06 PM ET

Somalia: 110 Dead From Hunger in Past 48 Hours in Drought

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s prime minister announced Saturday that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region as a severe drought threatens millions of people across the country.

It was the first death toll announced by Somalia’s government since it declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone.

Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. secretary-general last month in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the U.N. chief said.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.

Image: Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government run health clinic in Shada, Somalia.
Abdullahi Mohamud, 5, cries next to his mother Sahro Mohamed Mumin, 30, and brother, Abdulrahman Mahamud, 2, as a nurse struggles to find a vein for an injection at a government-run health clinic in Shada, Somalia. Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.

The drought is the first crisis for Somalia’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile. Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of 2 million people for help.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned.

Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, U.N. experts say. Some deaths from cholera already have been reported.

The government has said the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”

The U.N. humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million to provide assistance to 3.9 million people. But the U.N. World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.

Mogadishu Somalia: Car Bomb Rips Apart Open Air Market: 18 Dead And 25 Injured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Feisal Omar | MOGADISHU

A blast from a suicide car bomb ripped through a market in Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, killing 18 people and wounding at least 25, a local official said, days after the country elected a new president.

Casualties were confirmed by Ahmed Abdulle Afrax, the mayor of Wadajir, the district of the city where the bombing happened.

“I was staying in my shop when a car came in into the market and exploded. I saw more than 20 people lying on the ground. Most of them were dead and the market was totally destroyed,” witness Abdulle Omar said.

Al Shabaab, the Islamist insurgent group that is fighting the U.N.-backed Somali government, did not immediately claim responsibility.

Al Shabaab has been able to carry out increasingly deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory in the country to African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali government.

This month, Somalia elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. The dual U.S.-Somali citizen and former prime minister is better known by his nickname, “Farmajo”.

The Horn of Africa country has been torn apart by civil war since 1991. Aid agencies are warning that a severe drought has placed large swathes of the country at risk of famine.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Jane Merriman)

6 of 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution Are Muslim

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘CREEPING SHARIA’ WEBSITE)

6 of 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution Are Muslim

 

Source: Top 7 Nations With Worst Record of Christian Persecution: Report

Persecution watchdog group Aid to the Church in Need released its 2016 “Religious Freedom in the World” report on Thursday, highlighting the growing cases of intolerance around the world, particularly between the time period of June 2014 and June 2016 — coinciding with the rise of the Islamic State terror group.

The report included case by case studies of a number of different countries around the world, and the religious discrimination people of faith face. Some of the most extreme forms of oppression were experienced by people in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Yazidis, who have been targeted in an ongoing genocide campaign by IS.

One Yazidi boy trained for jihad in Syria shared the chilling words his radical instructors told to him: “You have to kill kuffars [unbelievers] even if they are your fathers and brothers, because they belong to the wrong religion and they don’t worship God.”

The report revealed that 196 countries were examined, with 38 showing “unmistakable evidence” of significant religious freedom violations. Twenty-three of those countries were placed in the top-level “Persecution” category, while 15 others in the “Discrimination” group.

Religious freedom conditions “clearly worsened” in 14 countries, the report added, and only three — Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar — showed signs of improvement since the last study in 2014.

The seven nations where persecution was branded so extreme that “it could scarcely get any worse” include: Afghanistan, Iraq (northern), Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Syria.

“A virulent and extremist form of Islam emerged as the number one threat to religious freedom and was revealed as the primary cause of persecution in many of the worst cases,” the report noted.

It added that “religious hyper-extremism,” such as the actions of IS in their quest to build a caliphate and kill off minorities, has been on the rise, characterized by mass killings, ‘horrific’ forms of executions, rape, and extreme torture such as burning people alive, crucifixion, or throwing victims off buildings.

The atrocities committed by Islamist radical groups in nations such as Syria, Iraq and Libya were called arguably some of the “greatest setbacks for religious freedom since the Second World War,” with victims being subjugated to a system which “insults almost every tenet of human rights.”

Other watchdog groups, such as Open Doors USA, have called on the global Church to resist being too self-centered, and instead reach out to help its brothers and sisters in need.

Open Doors President David Curry told The Christian Post in October that the factors that led to 2015 being the worst year for Christian persecution have stayed in place for 2016 as well.

“You still have rogue nations like Eritrea, North Korea, Sudan and others, who are not concerned about international justice laws, and are persecuting Christians within their government,” Curry told CP at the time, ahead of the International Day of Prayer.

“I’m not encouraged yet by the response of the global Church, but I’m hopeful that they are going to wake up and see what is happening,” he added.

Obama fast-tracks secretive plan to import 1,800 Muslims rejected by Australia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CREEPING SHARIA NEWS)(I HAVE ALSO SEEN THIS SAME INFORMATION IN AUSTRALIAN NEWS PAPERS IN THE PAST 4-6 WEEKS SEVERAL TIMES)

Obama fast-tracks secretive plan to import 1,800 Muslims rejected by Australia

no-refugees-demonstration

If the reported number is 1,800, expect a much larger number with many more to follow. Don’t expect big media to investigate (i.e., do their job). Source: Obama fast-tracks plan to take Muslim migrants rejected by Australia

by Leo Hohmann

The chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees are demanding the Obama administration provide details of a secret resettlement deal in which the U.S. has agreed to take up to 1,800 mostly Muslim asylum seekers who have been rejected by Australia as illegal aliens.

Congress only learned of the deal through media reports two weeks ago and, according to a letter sent to administration officials by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the deal is not only a matter of grave national security concern, but it could be illegal.

That’s because it amounts to an international treaty that Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated without consulting or notifying Congress according to Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, according to the letter, sent by the two lawmakers Nov. 22 to Kerry and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Goodlatte chairs the same committee in the House.

The rejected aliens come from terror-infested countries including Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Nearly 2,500 of them were interdicted off the coast of Australia in 2013 in accordance with that country’s policy of not accepting any of the wave of “refugees” streaming out of the Middle East. Unlike Europe, Australia effectively said “no” to the United Nations’ plan to open up Western democracies for millions of refugees fleeing not only the Syrian civil war but conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and even countries like Pakistan that are not at war. Germany alone has accepted 1.5 million Muslim refugees and subjected itself to thousands of sexual assaults on its women and girls.

But migrants who tried to get to Australia did not find a welcome mat. They were rescued by the Australian coast guard from their unsafe vessels and taken to off-shore camps on the Islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they have remained ever since. The United Nations stepped in and is looking for countries that will take the asylum seekers.

The U.N. found a taker in the Obama administration. Kerry confirmed he had reached a deal to take an undetermined number of the 2,465 aliens for permanent resettlement in the United States. Goodlatte and Grassley said they have since found out that up to 1,800 of the boat people could end up being distributed to U.S. cities and towns. But very little information has been released about the aliens or how many will end up in which American cities.

“This situation is concerning for many reasons,” the letter states. “First, your department s negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress. Such information was not disclosed to Congress during the annual refugee consultation that occurred on September 13, 2016, even though your staff confirmed that the agreement had, at the time, been negotiated ‘for months.’ Second, the agreement and the number of refugees to be resettled has been deemed by your departments as classified, thus the American people are left in the dark as to the rationale for this agreement. Third, the individuals who will be resettled are coming from countries of national security concern. In fact, two of the countries are officially designated by the State Department to be State Sponsors of Terrorism. Finally, it begs the question why Australia and other countries refuse to admit these individuals, what other countries are doing to help alleviate the situation, what kind of precedent this sets for future refugees interdicted at sea by Australian forces and prevented from entering Australia, and how a similar situation will be prevented in the future.” Read the entire letter from Grassley and Goodlatte.

They came from the following countries:

Iran
Sri Lanka
Pakistan
Afghanistan
Somalia
Iraq
Sudan
Stateless

No details have been released as to how many from each country would be considered for resettlement in the U.S., what cities or states they would be sent to, the breakdown of men, women and children, or the state of their health. The U.S. sent teams to begin screening the aliens almost immediately after the deal was brokered by Kerry, according to the letter.


Read it all and this previous Hohmann piece: Leaked memo: Refugees vet themselves

Resurrection’ of Somali Pirate Attacks Feared After Tanker Shootout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSVINE.COM)

NOV 20 2016, 4:45 AM ET

‘Resurrection’ of Somali Pirate Attacks Feared After Tanker Shootout

Jubilation as Pirates Release Sailors After Four-Year Ordeal 0:59

As the chemical tanker CPO Korea passed the coast of Somalia late last month, security personnel aboard the ship noticed a blue-hulled skiff rapidly moving towards them.

Warning shots were fired by guards as the approaching vessel closed-in, only for gunfire to be swiftly returned.

Image: CPO Korea
The CPO Korea EU Navfor via Twitter

The CPO Korea immediately increased its speed and altered course before eventually breaking away without sustaining casualties, according to a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence.

A once-frequent occurrence, the suspected pirate attack — which took place 330 nautical miles off the Somali coast — was the first on a merchant vessel in the region in two and a half years.

Yet the incident led Maj. Gen. Rob Magowan, the head of the EU Naval Force (EU Navfor) in Somalia, to demand that the international community stay “vigilant.”

And a U.N. report published last month described progress made fighting piracy in the region as “fragile and reversible.”

Raising ‘Cost’ of Piracy

Much work has gone into pacifying the once-notorious waters that stretch from the Gulf of Aden, along the coast of Somalia and out into the Indian Ocean.

The multi-nation Combined Maritime Forces, NATO, EU Navfor and individual state navies have all contributed.

In Jan. 2011, 736 hostages and 32 commercial ships were being held by Somali pirates, according to the EU Navfor. By this October, those numbers had been reduced to zero.

Image: Somali pirate in 2010
An armed Somali pirate along the northeastern coast of Somalia in 2010. MOHAMED DAHIR / AFP – Getty Images

However, the U.N. notes that attacks on fishing vessels have continued. Just last month, 26 fishermen from several countries in Asia were released after being held captive in Somalia for four years.

Col. Richard Cantrill, chief of staff for EU Navfor, highlighted increased naval patrols, private security staff aboard vessels, the formation of best maritime practice guidelines and the ability to prosecute pirates captured, as key factors in closing off opportunities for piracy when he spoke to NBC News by phone.

“If you’re a pirate, what we’ve sought to do is raise the cost of you going to sea to commit an act of piracy,” Cantrill said. “If you do, you could meet a naval asset. Ultimately you might end up in prison for your crime.”

Yet some experts worry that the CPO Korea incident shows the Somali piracy issue has merely been dormant.

Cyrus Mody, assistant director of the International Maritime Bureau, noted the vast improvement in security over recent years. But he added that the “resurrection” of pirate activity was entirely possible.

“Everyone is quite concerned that the capability and capacity within the Somali pirates still exists. It is just lack of opportunity [because of the naval forces operating in the area] that is showing in the lull,” Mody said.

Image: Map showing Somalia
A map showing the location of Somalia. Google Maps

This is a point of view shared by Gerry Northwood, chief operating officer of maritime security firm MAST.

He told NBC News that the risk of piracy “is certainly there” and will remain so until economic, security and political issues within Somalia are resolved.

Although Somalia’s first freely elected government in decades came to power in 2012, the country remains beset by problems.

A recent U.N. Monitoring Group report highlighted the continuing threat of al Shabaab militants, while it said “continuing problems of corruption, mismanagement and financial constraints have compromised the effectiveness of the Somali national army.”

These factors, Northwood argues, make securing Somalia’s coastline and preventing safe anchorage for potential piracy missions extremely difficult.

On top of this, there remain challenges in offering a viable economic alternative to would-be pirates — the most junior of whom can earn as much as $30,000 per mission.

“There’s been a lot of good work with [the Somalis] and there has been progress but it’s still a very fragile state of affairs,” Northwood said.

Nowadays, piracy activity is far likelier to occur in the Gulf of Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, or in Southeast Asia. Data from the ONI states that there have been 152 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea so far in 2016 and 97 in Southeast Asian waters.

Window of Opportunity

With naval resources in the region around Somalia drawn back as incidents have decreased in recent years, it doesn’t take much foresight to envision the window of opportunity for pirates widening.

EU Navfor confirmed that while 75 percent of vessels that pass through the Gulf of Aden adhere to maritime best practice — sticking to prescribed routes and checking in with naval forces in the area — only 50 percent of them employ private security.

Northwood argues that some ship owners view the cost of security —which he says can stretch between $4,000 and $30,000 for a voyage between the Red Sea and Sri Lanka — as “a cost too far.”

Although the CPO Korea was one of the ships with well-equipped security aboard, others could potentially offer a softer target.

“The thing which we have been particularly clear about is that the sort of attack which we saw happen a couple of weeks ago was likely,” said EU Navfor’s Cantrill, who expects his organization’s mission in the area to be extended in the coming weeks. “The threat is there.”

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