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Canada anti-Muslim attack: ‘It could have been any one of us’ | Crime News



Montreal, Canada – Like so many others have done during the coronavirus pandemic, the Afzaal family was out for an evening walk. But on Sunday, as they waited to cross a street in London, Ontario, they were run down by a driver motivated by anti-Muslim hate.

For members of Muslim communities across the country, the Islamophobic attack that killed four people, including a 15-year-old girl, and seriously injured a nine-year-old boy, harkens back to painful memories of a deadly assault on a Quebec mosque more than four years ago.

It is also a sign that something is terribly wrong.

“The sentiment that I’m hearing across the board, and I think everybody is feeling, [is] that it could have been any one of us,” Selma Tobah, a 31-year-old graduate student at the Western University who has lived in London for more than 10 years, told Al Jazeera.

“They were just out on an evening walk. I take evening walks all the time with my friends and family. I wear hijab – my mom, my sisters, my friends. So it literally could have been any one of us.”

Family targeted

London police told reporters on Monday that three adults and two children were hit in “an intentional act” about 8:40pm local time on Sunday (00:40 GMT on Monday). “We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” police chief Steve Williams said.

The victims – a 46-year-old man, two women aged 74 and 44, and a 15-year-old girl – were all members of the same family, police said. A nine-year-old boy is in hospital with serious injuries, but is expected to recover.

A statement released by the family and shared on social media, as well as Canadian media outlets, have identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha and their daughter Yumna. Salman’s mother was also killed, but her name has not been released. Al Jazeera is not publishing the name of the boy because he is a minor.

A 20-year-old London man, Nathaniel Veltman, was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

“Let me be clear: This was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims — against Londoners — and rooted in unspeakable hatred,” London Mayor Ed Holder said in a statement, announcing that three days of mourning would be held in the city.

A moment of silence was also observed on Monday in Parliament in the capital, Ottawa, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the deadly violence as “a terrorist attack motivated by hatred in the heart of one of our communities”.

“Unlike every other night, that family never made it home. Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident,” said Trudeau, promising to take stronger action against far-right groups in Canada.

People put up a sign at a makeshift memorial where a man ran over a Muslim family in London, Ontario [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

‘Floodgates of fear’

But Tobah said anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobia are not new in London – or across the country.

For years, politicians of all stripes in the French-speaking province of Quebec have debated the “reasonable accommodation” of immigrants, leading to the passage of a law that now bars some public servants from wearing religious attire. This includes hijab worn by Muslim women, who are the most directly affected by the legislation, known as Bill 21.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in his failed 2015 re-election campaign, proposed barring Muslim women from wearing a niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies. His party also promised to create a “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline – a move that critics said aimed to get Canadians to phone in complaints against their Muslim neighbours.

In 2017, after a gunman killed six Muslim men as they prayed at a mosque in Quebec City, an effort to pass a largely symbolic motion condemning Islamophobia and studying the extent of the problem drew heated debate in Canada’s Parliament. Conservative politicians said it could infringe on freedom of speech, while far-right commentators jumped into the fray to accuse the governing Liberal Party of seeking to impose Islamic law in Canada.

“I think after the Quebec mosque shooting, the floodgates of fear are just wide open. I think previous to that incident, it was always just a what-if in the back of our minds: ‘What if this happened here in Canada?’ But then after that, it was just like all bets are off in a sense, like anything can happen,” said Tobah, adding though that the attack in London hits close to home.

She said far-right groups such as the anti-Islam movement “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident” or PEGIDA have marched in the city in recent years, while Muslims and other visible minorities regularly experience racism in the streets. “So I don’t think any incident was beyond the imagination of Muslims in Canada.”

Community in mourning

More recently, a string of verbal and physical assaults against Muslim women have taken place in the province of Alberta, while a mosque caretaker was stabbed to death in the west end of Toronto in September, prompting calls for the government to take far-right violence more seriously.

Statistics Canada said in March that police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims “rose slightly” to 181 incidents in 2019 – the last year for which the data is available. That is up from 166 incidents the previous year.

“There’s fear. There’s shock. There’s sadness,” said Yusuf Faqiri, a spokesman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a national advocacy group, about the deadly attack in London.

A vigil will be held in the city on Tuesday evening to honour the family, while people are also raising funds online to support the nine-year-old boy injured in the attack.

“This tragedy brings back the horrible memories of what happened in Quebec, which was only four and a half years ago,” Faqiri told Al Jazeera. “There [are] so many emotions, but what’s important to understand is that we need to put a stop to tragedies such as this. We need to call it for what it is: this was a terrorist act, this was an Islamophobic act.”

People gather at a makeshift memorial after an anti-Muslim hate crime killed four people in London, Ontario [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Nawaz Tahir, a lawyer and Muslim community leader in London, said, “The horror that has visited this family, the Canadian Muslim community, and Canada at large … is unfathomable.”

“These were innocent human beings who were killed simply because they’re Muslim,” Tahir told reporters during a news conference on Monday. “The London Muslim community has a long history in this city. This is our home, and it is as much a part of us as we are a part of it. The individual that did this doesn’t understand that.

“Hate will never overshadow the light of love. Make no mistake about it, justice must and will be done. Every Londoner, every Ontarian, every Canadian must stop and ask ourselves, how do we make sure this never happens again?”

That was echoed by Tobah, who added that many young Muslim Canadians are in shock over what happened. “There are a lot of young people right now that are reeling, that are traumatised, that are trying to process,” she told Al Jazeera.

“How do you look your child in the eye and tell them that they’ll be safe here, as a young Muslim or as a visible minority? Because at present we can’t guarantee that for our kids.”

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600 doses of stolen COVID-19 vaccines recovered at 2 private clinics




Police have recovered 600 doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from two private pharmacies in Kampala. 10 suspects were also arrested in the two-day operation following a tip-off from a concerned citizen.    

A police officer, who was involved in the operation, intimated to URN that they carried out raids on First Pharmacy Mulago-Wandegeya and Victoria Pharmacy in Ntinda. He explains that they first sent operatives to both facilities under the disguise that they were travellers looking for Covid-19 vaccination and certificates and got assurance that the service was available.    

“We swiftly stormed these places in Wandegeya and Ntinda, and the stolen vaccines were found there and of course arrested some suspects from there,” he said.

He says that during the raid on First Pharmacy, they intercepted one of the employees who was running away with some materials in the bag.  

“We forced him to open the bag for searching. Upon opening, documents that looked like Covid-19 vaccination certificates dropped down,” he said.

He says that they searched the pharmacy where they recovered some exhibits and arrested some suspects. According to police, they also conducted another raid on Victoria Pharmacy, recovered several doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and arrested five suspects. 

Kampala Metropolitan deputy police spokesperson, Luke Owoyesigyire confirmed the arrests but declined to reveal the identities of the suspects. 

“It’s true about that operation intelligence in Bukoto, we found 600 doses of the vaccine, in these two pharmacies and also ministry of Health vaccination cards and other documents” said Owoyesigyire’’. 

He says the suspects are locked up at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. According to police, similar operations are still ongoing after discovering that unscrupulous people stole Covid-19 vaccines from the ministry of Health storage facility and are now busy selling them to the public on the black market.

At a press conference held today, however, First pharmacy demanded an apology from the police, claiming no raid was conducted at their facility or vaccines recovered. 

More than 50 pe rcent of the 964,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines donated by Covax Facility and India have already been used. Recently, President Museveni in his televised address said that the government is preparing to get Johnson and Johnson vaccines from the USA and Cuba since India suspended exports. Unicef announced that another 170,000 doses would be arriving in the country in two weeks. 


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Pakistan FM accuses previous gov’t of ‘mishandling’ Jadhav case | India News




Shah Mehmood Qureshi says the bill passed by Parliament last week aims at bringing Pakistani laws in line with orders from the International Court of Justice.

Pakistan’s foreign minister has blamed the country’s previous government for “mishandling” the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national convicted for spying by a Pakistani military court four years ago, as legislation related to the cases passes up to Pakistan’s Senate.

Speaking to the media in the Pakistani city of Multan on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said a bill passed by the lower house of parliament last week was aimed at complying with orders from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to deprive India of an opportunity to have Pakistan “dragged back” to the court.

“The PML-N are the ones who mishandled the Kulbhushan Jadhav case,” he said, referring to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, a main opposition political party.

“The steps we have taken are in order to comply with the International Court of Justice’s orders and recommendations.”

Qureshi’s comments follow a noisy debate on the bill in Parliament on Thursday, with both treasury and opposition benches accusing each other of incompetence in the handling of the case.

Jadhav was arrested by Pakistani security forces in March 2016, and convicted a year later by a military court for espionage and facilitating attacks by armed groups on Pakistani soil.

At the time of his arrest, the military released a video of Jadhav appearing to confess to having operated a network of operatives to conduct attacks in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.

In July 2019, after a petition lodged by India, the ICJ ordered Pakistan to allow Jadhav full and unimpeded consular access to Indian officials but rejected an Indian plea for his conviction to be dismissed.

The court also ordered that Jadhav be given the right of review and reconsideration of his conviction before a civilian court.

The bill passed by Pakistan’s lower house of parliament on Thursday gives foreign nationals convicted by military courts in Pakistan the right to file an appeal before a high court, as well as to file petitions seeking consular access.

India’s government has not so far remarked on the passage of the bill, which will also have to be voted on by the upper house of parliament before it becomes law.

In August 2020, India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi had asked Pakistan to allow an Indian lawyer to represent Jadhav in his appeals.

In defence of the bill, on Sunday, Qureshi said: “India wants that [Jadhav] not be given consular access, and on that excuse, Pakistan be dragged back into the International Court of Justice,” he said.

“This is what India wants. I hope that our opposition members will not misunderstand things and will understand India’s plan.”

India’s foreign ministry has not commented on Qureshi’s accusation.

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Rwandan Army Releases Abducted UPDF Soldier – Here is How He Got in Trouble




Private Bakulu Muhuba has regained his freedom following his release by Rwandan security. According to the Rwanda government, Muhuba who is attached to the 32nd Battalion Nyakabande in Kisoro district was arrested by Rwanda Defense Force-RDF soldiers at around 2:45pm on Sunday while loitering in Kamanyana-Majyambere village, Cyanika sector in Burera district, Northern Province.

RDF soldiers on patrol intercepted Muhuba while donning a UPDF uniform and carrying a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) with 100 rounds of ammunition, a binocular, cell phone, and his military identification documents. However, a Ugandan security official at Chanika border who preferred anonymity refuted Rwanda’s claims saying that Muhuba was in a group of fellow UPDF soldiers while patrolling the Ugandan side of Chanika border on Saturday evening at around 5:50pm but stayed behind to make a short call.

He says that he later fell in an ambush of Rwandan soldiers who had crossed to the Ugandan side. They placed him at gunpoint and whisked him off to Rwanda. At around 9:00pm on Sunday evening, Rwandan security officials repatriated Muhuba and handed him over to Ugandan security officials at the no man’s land at Chanika border.

They also handed over a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) with 100 rounds of ammunition, binocular, cell phone and the military identification documents recovered from Muhuba. Captain Peter Mugisha, the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner witnessed the repatriation and hailed RDF for releasing Muhuba unhurt. Such incidents are common along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

On May 25, this year, two RDF soldiers crossed to Kazaza and Mukayaga villages in the Kamwezi sub-county, Rukiga district. The soldiers who included a captain and his two escorts crossed to Uganda in pursuit of Waragi smugglers.

The soldiers returned to Rwanda without being arrested by Ugandan security authorities. The governments of Uganda and Rwanda have been feuding since 2019. On February 27, Rwandan President Paul Kagame issued a travel advisory to his nationals against travelling to Uganda, saying their safety is not guaranteed.

He accused Ugandan authorities of abducting its citizens and locking them up in non-designated areas. Kagame also accused Uganda of hosting and facilitating dissidents especially from Rwanda National Congress-RNC and the Democratic Forces for the liberation of Rwanda FDLR, which have declared war on the Kigali government.

The Rwandan authorities advised the truck drivers to use the Mirama Hill border in Ntungamo district. The border closure took a huge toll on truck drivers and suffocated business along the border especially Katuna and Chanika town. This led to an increase in smuggling along the border with most Rwandan nationals crossing to Uganda through porous border points to buy food.

Rwandan authorities on accusations of smuggling have shot dead at least eight people including Ugandan and Rwandan nationals. On July 30, 2019, President Museveni told journalists at Kabale State Lodge that they are discussing the impasse with his Rwandan counterpart. However to date, the negotiations mediated by the Angolan President João Lourenço and his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Félix Tshisekedi, are yet to bear positive results.





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