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Nigeria’s Boko Haram threatens to sell kidnapped schoolgirls

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Nigeria’s Boko Haram threatens to sell kidnapped schoolgirls
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The leader of Boko Haram on Monday threatened to sell more than 200 schoolgirls his Islamist militant group kidnapped in northeastern Nigeria last month.

Boko Haram militants stormed an all-girl secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, on April 14 and packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.

The attack shocked Nigerians, who have been growing accustomed to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says in a video, chuckling as he stands in front of an armoured personnel carrier with two masked militants wielding AK-47s on either side of him.

“Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions,” he says.

Boko Haram, seen as the main security threat to Nigeria, Africa’s leading energy producer, is growing bolder and extending its reach. The kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years.

The group’s name means “Western education is sinful” and Shekau in the video makes reference to the fact that the girls were undergoing Western education.

The militants, who say they are fighting to reinstate a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, carried out a second bomb attack more than two weeks later in the same area, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.

The girls’ abduction has been hugely embarrassing for the government and threatens to overshadow its first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa on May 7-9.

Nigerian officials had hoped the event would highlight their country’s potential as an investment destination since it became Africa’s biggest economy after a GDP recalculation in March.

PROTESTER DETAINED, THEN FREED

The apparent powerlessness of the military to prevent the attack or find the girls in three weeks has led to protests in the northeast and in Abuja and Lagos.

On Sunday, authorities arrested a leader of a protest staged last week in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls, further fuelling outrage against the security forces.

Naomi Mutah Nyadar was picked up by police after a meeting she and other campaigners held with President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, concerning the girls.

Nyadar was taken to Asokoro police station, near the presidential villa, said fellow protester Lawan Abana, whose two nieces are among the abductees. She was released later on Monday and police said she had merely been invited in for an interview.

A presidency source said Nyadar had been detained because she had falsely claimed to be the mother of one of the missing girls. Abana said she had made no such claim.

In a statement, Patience Jonathan denied local media reports that she had ordered Nyadar’s arrest but urged the protesters in Abuja to go home, the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria said.

“You are playing games. Don’t use school children and women for demonstrations again. Keep it to Borno, let it end there,” the agency quoted her as saying.

Protests continued in Abuja on Monday and spread to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub in the southwest and geographically as far away from the region troubled by Boko Haram as possible.

Lagosians normally express a degree of shoulder-shrugging apathy about the violence plaguing the north, but on Monday hundreds gathered outside the Lagos state secretariat to demand security forces do more to rescue the girls.

“This is the beginning. Until the girls are back, we will continue. I think this is the first step and we will mobilise more and more people,” said Charlotte Obidairo of Youth Empowerment and Development Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation.

Protests could become a major headache for the government if they continue and coincide with the WEF event, where security arrangements will involve some 6,000 troops.

At least two people were killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a military police outpost in northern Cameroon on Monday, a government spokesman said. The group has been using Cameroon’s Far North region as a base for attacks in Nigeria.

In a televised “media chat” on Sunday, President Jonathan pledged that the girls would soon be found and released, but admitted he had no clue where they were.

“Let me reassure the parents and guardians that we will get their daughters out,” he said, adding extra troops had been deployed and aircraft mobilized in the hunt for the girls.

Britain and the United States have both offered to help track down the girls, but neither has given specifics.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

The Thaiger

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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Economy

Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

The Thaiger

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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