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South Korea air force chief quits over death, sex abuse case | Military News

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President Moon Jae-in immediately accepted Lee Seong-yong’s resignation making him the country’s shortest-serving head of the air force.

South Korea’s air force chief has resigned, apologising and taking responsibility for the death of a member of the force who took her own life, according to her family, after being sexually harassed by a colleague.

Lee Seong-yong offered to step down a day after an air force master sergeant was arrested on charges of molesting and injuring a female colleague of the same rank in March.

“I feel heavy responsibility over the series of circumstances,” the general said.

“I express my deep condolences to the victim and extend sincere condolences to the bereaved family.”

President Moon Jae-in immediately accepted Lee’s resignation, his press secretary said on Friday, making him the shortest-serving South Korean air force chief after appointing him in September.

 

The family of the victim said she had suffered mental distress and persistent bullying, and accused the air force of trying to cover up the assault and silence her during the past two months.

The case sparked a public outcry after the woman’s family filed a petition with Moon’s office on Tuesday calling for a thorough investigation and punishment for those involved. More than 326,000 people have signed it so far.

The case also weighs heavily on Moon, whose public approval rating has been steadily declining, and whose party suffered crushing electoral defeats in two major cities before the presidential election next year.

Too little, too late

Moon ordered an investigation on Thursday including on how the air force handled the case, as the family reported three officials at Lee’s base to military prosecutors, accusing two of them of dereliction of duty and attempted compulsion and the other of sexual harassment.

The air force on Thursday dismissed two supervisors involved in Lee’s case, without elaborating why.

On Friday, military prosecutors raided the offices of the air force military police at its headquarters and Lee’s base, the defence ministry said.

A series of incidents has prompted the military to tighten rules and penalties for sexual abuse, but activists say the military is still too soft on members accused of wrongdoing.

“The investigation is under way, but so far there were signs that the air force tried to protect its own organisation, rather than the victim, despite her multiple attempts seeking help,” a defence source told Reuters on condition of anonymity citing the investigation.

The woman’s death came amid growing discussion about whether the South’s all-male draft should be abolished.

All able-bodied male citizens have to serve for nearly two years but women can volunteer for the military.

Barrack-room bullying as well as other forms of abuse have long tainted South Korea’s military service and have resulted in several suicides and deadly shooting sprees in the past.

In March, a transgender South Korean soldier, who was forcibly discharged from the army after gender-reassignment surgery, took her own life, prompting another public outcry.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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UAE-produced film slammed for depicting Qatar a ‘terrorist state’ | GCC News

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The Misfits, a Hollywood film co-produced by an Emirati company, condemned as ‘immoral’ and ‘absurd’.

A Hollywood film co-produced by an Emirati film company has been condemned as “immoral” and “absurd” for portraying Qatar as a “terrorist state”.

The Misfits, co-produced, filmed, and financed by the UAE-based FilmGate Production in partnership with Paramount Pictures and Highland Film Group, tells the story of savvy thief Richard Pace, played by Pierce Brosnan, who escapes from a high-security US prison and goes on to steal millions from the world’s most secure facilities.

In the film, the director refers to Qatar as “Jazeeristan” and accuses its citizens of supporting “terrorist organisations” while Abu Dhabi’s mercenaries are depicted as heroes, Doha News reported.

It added that the film portrays Qatar-based Egyptian Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the sponsor of global terrorism”.

‘Absurd’

The report cited Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Nasser, as saying in a video posted online that The Misfits is nothing more than an attempt by the UAE to “destroy Qatar’s reputation”.

A Twitter user, who watched a leaked copy of the movie, describes it as “absurd” and not worthy of feedback.

“Shame on whoever funded this nonsense,” he added.

Palestinian journalist Jamal Rayyan described the film as “immoral”.

In a series of tweets, Qatari scholar Muhammad al-Kubaisi also slammed the film.

“May God never bless the Emirati leadership. They are using Hollywood and producing a movie called The Misfits, which cost them more than $50m dollars to damage Qatar’s reputation and accuse its peaceful society of terrorism,” he said.

“I do not know why exactly the UAE wants to damage Qatar’s reputation? Is it because we are Muslims and united with God and it wants to eliminate Islam and Muslims? Does the UAE want to distance Qatar from the essence of Islam and support of Muslims everywhere?”

The development came just months after Qatar and its neighbours renewed ties after more than three years of a blockade imposed on Doha by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE.

Qatari and UAE officials held their first meeting since the detente in February this year. In January, the UAE resumed air and sea entry points to Qatar.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Air raid kills dozens in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, say witnesses | Ethiopia News

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Witnesses say Tuesday’s attack targeted a busy market in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray village of Togoga.

Dozens of people have been reportedly killed after an air attack targeted a busy market in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray village of Togoga on Tuesday, a day after residents said fighting had flared north of the regional capital Mekelle.

The bomb hit the market at approximately 1pm (10:00 GMT), according to a woman who told Reuters news agency that her husband and two-year-old daughter were injured in the attack.

“We didn’t see the plane but we heard it,” she said. “When the explosion happened, everyone ran out. Later, we came back and were trying to pick up the injured.”

Two doctors and a nurse in Mekelle told the Associated Press (AP) they were unable to confirm how many people were killed, but one doctor said health workers at the scene reported “more than 80 civilian deaths”.

The health workers spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Increased fighting

The reported air attack comes amid some of the fiercest fighting in the Tigray region since the conflict began in November as Ethiopian forces supported by those from neighbouring Eritrea pursue Tigray’s former leaders.

Reuters reported that Ethiopian military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane did not confirm or deny the incident. He said air attacks were a common military tactic and the force does not target civilians.

Three other health workers told Reuters that the Ethiopian military was blocking ambulances from reaching the scene.

Wounded patients being treated at Mekele’s Ayder Hospital told health workers that a plane dropped a bomb on Togoga’s marketplace.

A nurse at the hospital said the wounded included a two-year-old child with “abdominal trauma” and a six-year-old. She added that an ambulance carrying a wounded baby to Mekelle was blocked for two hours and the baby died on the way.

Hailu Kebede, foreign affairs head for the Salsay Woyane Tigray opposition party and who comes from Togoga, told AP that one fleeing witness had counted more than 30 bodies and other witnesses were reporting more than 50 people killed.

“It was horrific,” said an official for an international aid group who told the AP he had spoken with a colleague and others at the scene.

“We don’t know if the jets were coming from Ethiopia or Eritrea. They are still looking for bodies by hand. More than 50 people were killed, maybe more.”

Witnesses said several more ambulances were turned back later in the day and on Wednesday morning, but one group of medical workers reached the site on Tuesday evening via a different route.

“We have been asking, but until now we didn’t get permission to go, so we don’t know how many people are dead,” said one of the doctors in Mekelle.

Another doctor said the Red Cross ambulance he was travelling in on Tuesday, trying to reach the scene, was shot at twice by Ethiopian soldiers who held his team for 45 minutes before ordering them back to Mekelle.

“We are not allowed to go,” he said. “They told us whoever goes, they are helping the troops of the TPLF.”

The TPLF refers to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which governed Tigray until it was overthrown by a federal government offensive in November. The subsequent fighting has killed thousands and forced more than two million people from their homes.

While the United Nations has said all sides have been accused of abuses, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have been repeatedly accused by witnesses of looting and destroying health centres across Tigray and denying civilians access to care.

This month, humanitarian agencies warned that 350,00 people in Tigray are facing famine. Aid workers have said they have been repeatedly denied access to several parts of the region by soldiers.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says it has nearly defeated the rebels. But forces loyal to the TPLF recently announced an offensive in parts of Tigray and have claimed a string of victories.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Deadly blast in Pakistan near residence of armed group founder | Pakistan News

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Three killed and 13 others wounded after explosion near house of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed in Lahore.

At least three people have been killed and 13 others wounded after an explosion near the residence of the founder of armed group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, hospital and police officials said.

The blast took place in the Johar Town area of the city, Pakistan’s second largest, on Wednesday, provincial police chief Inam Ghani said.

“The [Counter Terrorism Department] has taken over the site of the attack completely,” Ghani told reporters at the site of the blast shortly after it took place.

“The CTD will ascertain what it was, what material it was, what was used … and secondly, was it an [improvised explosive device] lodged in a vehicle, and whether it is a suicide attack or not.”

Ghani said a police picket that was set up near the home of a “high-value target” was the apparent target of the attack.

Television footage from the scene showed significant damage to a number of homes near the blast site [Arif Ali / AFP]

A residence belonging to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of LeT that is designated as a “terrorist” group under Pakistani law and by the United Nations, is located near the site of the blast.

“The biggest target that we see right now is that they are targeting law enforcement agencies,” Ghani said.

Television footage from the scene showed massive damage to a number of homes near the blast site, with windows smashed in, doors blown open and extensive damage to buildings close to the blast epicentre.

At least 16 wounded people were shifted to the nearby government-run Jinnah Hospital, with three of them succumbing to their wounds, a hospital official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera.

Six of the wounded were in a critical condition, the official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security officials inspect the site of the blast near Saeed’s residence [Rahat Dar/EPA]

LeT founder Saeed is blamed by the United States and India for being the “mastermind” behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 160 people in a series of coordinated bombings and shootings across the Indian financial capital.

Saeed has denied any wrongdoing and currently runs the charitable wing of the LeT, called Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which has been designated by both Pakistan and the UN as a front for the armed group.

He was convicted and jailed last year in a series of terrorism financing cases lodged by the Pakistani government as it tightened financial laws and restrictions as part of its review by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) inter-governmental body.

A JuD spokesperson told the Reuters news agency that Saeed was in prison and therefore not in the residence that may have been targeted in Wednesday’s bombing.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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