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  • NY attack 'in name of IS,' Trump vows visa crackdown

    he Uzbek who killed eight people in New York acted in the name of the Islamic State group, police confirmed Wednesday, as the US president vowed to scrap the visa program that allowed him to enter the country.

    Tuesday's attack, which mowed down pedestrians and cyclists at high speed on Lower Manhattan's West Side, was the deadliest attack blamed on terrorism in America's financial capital since the September 11, 2001 hijackings.

    While 29-year-old suspect Sayfullo Saipov had not previously been the subject of an FBI investigation, police confirmed he had planned the attack for weeks.

    Saipov, who moved to America legally in March 2010, rented a pickup truck in New Jersey without suspicion, before driving into New York, mounting a bike path and unleashing mayhem as children and their parents prepared to celebrate Halloween.

    Five of the dead were Argentines, visiting for a school reunion. A Belgian woman was also killed. Of 12 injured, nine remain in hospital -- four in a critical but stable condition. One Argentine, a German and three Belgians, were among the injured.

    The suspect was shot in the abdomen by a police officer after he crashed into a school bus and exited his truck, brandishing paintball and pellet guns. He has been interviewed in hospital and remains in custody, police said.

    "He did this in the name of ISIS," John Miller, the head of New York police intelligence and counter-terrorism, told a news conference.

    - Animal -

    "He appears to have followed almost exactly to a 't' the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack," Miller added.

    Vehicle rammings have been a frequent tactic deployed by IS sympathizers in the West, including in Barcelona, London, Stockholm and in Nice, where a Tunisian suicide truck bomber killed 86 people on Bastille Day last year.

    Police said it was too early to determine when Saipov may have become radicalized, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said it happened after he moved to the United States. He is not a US citizen but a legal permanent resident.

    AFP / St. Charles County Dept. of CorrectionsSayfullo Saipov, the suspected driver who killed eight people in New York, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians, before striking a school bus in what officials branded a 'cowardly act of terror'

    Trump, confronting the worst jihadist-inspired attack of his 10 months in office, denounced Saipov as an "animal" and charged that he had been a point of contact for up to 23 immigrants or would-be immigrants, quipping that he "would certainly consider" sending him to Guantanamo Bay.

    The Republican president said that he was "starting the process of terminating" the popular green card lottery, which he said had enabled Saipov to enter the country.

    "We have to do what's right to protect our citizens," the Republican president told reporters. "We will get rid of this lottery program as soon as possible."

    The 1990 program awards US permanent resident visas to around 50,000 applicants around the world each year, opening the door as well for members of their wider families to follow them, so-called chain migration.

    Trump has already slashed the country's annual refugee intake by more than 50 percent, tightened visa issuance around the world and attempted to ban travelers from 11 countries, most of them with Muslim-majority populations, but not Uzbekistan.

    "We also have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," the president said.

    Saipov lived in Florida and Ohio, before moving to Paterson, a former industrial hub in New Jersey about 20 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of New York, where he lived with his wife and three children. The truck was rented in New Jersey.

    - 'Scary' -

    Neighbors in the working-class, immigrant community reacted with shock and horror on Wednesday, saying that they knew little about the man who kept to himself.

    "It's a very quiet neighborhood. We leave our doors unlocked. We thought we were pretty safe, but to know that someone like that lives down the street is scary," said Kimberly Perez, 20, who lives across the street.

    In New York, leaders vowed that the annual marathon would go ahead as planned on Sunday. Police said the event, which attracts more than 50,000 runners and 2.5 million spectators, would be the most protected ever.

    "We will not be cowed, we will not be thrown off by anything," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    While officials say preliminary evidence suggests Saipov acted alone and was not part of a wider plot, Cuomo has drastically stepped up security at airports, tunnels and Penn Station, which he called the busiest rail hub in the hemisphere.

    Uzbekistan, a majority Muslim country that borders Afghanistan and formerly part of the Soviet Union, is a landlocked country racked with poverty, corruption and a stifling authoritarian regime.

    In less than a year, three other men with Uzbek links have been blamed for a deadly nightclub shooting in Istanbul, a Saint Petersburg metro bombing and Stockholm attack.

    In March 2015, two Uzbeks and a Kazakh living in New York were arrested on charges of supporting IS. One of them, who threatened former president Barack Obama, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week

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  • Kenyatta wins 'chaotic' repeat poll with over 98%

    The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Monday declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta as winner of the poll re-run ordered by the Supreme Court.

    Deaths were recorded amid running battles between opposition members and the security forces as Kenyans returned to the polls to elect their president.

    The process was boycotted by the main opposition, NASA coalition led by former Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga.

    Odinga called on all his supporters to “hold vigil and prayers away from polling stations”. That admonition has not been heeded as supporters continue to engage police in running battles.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta has on the other hand called on Kenyans to come out and vote. He said Kenya has underlined its democratic credentials with the process warning against tribal politics.

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  • DR Congo elected to U.N. rights council; Britain, U.S. unhappy

    Democratic Republic of Congo was among 15 countries elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term on Monday, a moved criticized by Britain, the United States and rights groups after the vote by the 193-member General Assembly.

    While Congo was elected uncontested to the 47-member Geneva-based council, it still needed majority support. The country – beset by renewed political and militia violence since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down in December – won 151 votes.

    “Political repression, civilian attacks, mass graves. What happened in DRC last year makes their election to the Human Rights council entirely disappointing,” British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft posted on Twitter.

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who has called for the Human Rights Council votes to be competitive, said Congo’s election harmed the credibility of the body.

    “Countries that aggressively violate human rights at home should not be in a position to guard the human rights of others,” Haley said in a statement.

    The United States is reviewing its membership in the council. It is in the first year of a second term, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has called for reforms to eliminate what it called its “chronic anti-Israel bias.”

    Angola, Senegal, Slovakia, Ukraine, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Australia and Spain were also elected to the body on Monday, while Nigeria and Qatar won second terms. Their terms start on Jan. 1, 2018.

    To ensure geographical representation, states are nominated in five regional categories. Four slates were uncontested, while there were five candidates for four Asia Pacific seats in which Malaysia lost.

    Council members cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. The council is able to rebuke governments it deems as violating human rights and to order investigations.

    Human Rights Watch called for elections to be competitive.

    “The Democratic Republic of Congo’s election to the Human Rights Council is a slap in the face to the many victims of the Congolese government’s grave abuses across the country,” said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch.

    The violence in eastern and central Congo has displaced over 1.5 million in the past year and revived fears of civil war in a country where conflicts from 1996-2003 resulted in millions of deaths and spawned dozens of armed groups that prey on local populations and exploit natural resources.

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  • Gambia orders govt appointees to fly economy class for cost saving

     

    As part of cost cutting in government expenditure, a category of Gambian civil servants have been instructed to fly economy class, the Information Minister Demba Ali Jawo has disclosed.

    According to him, the decision was part of the outcome of a cabinet meeting that was held on Monday. The affected appointees are Permanent Secretaries and persons holding the post of Director-General.

    The said meeting chaired by President Adama Barrow, also dealt with issues such as continental trade negotiations and the drive to resolve the country’s energy challenges by next year.

    He also gave updates of how the finance minister was working on a budgetary framework to deal with controls on governance expenditure. Whiles looking to cut cost, the cabinet he added was also looking to boost resource mobilization in the West African country.

    The country, known as the ‘Smiling Coast’ of Africa experienced a tense political climate late 2016 into early 2017 when long serving leader, Yahya Jammeh, attempted to overturn an election defeat. He was beaten by President Adama Barrow – then an opposition coalition candidate.

    The Adama Barrow government has severally accused Jammeh of looting state resources before leaving the country. Several probes are underway to recover monies and properties belonging to Jammeh who is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

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  • Kenya's disputed election still on after delay bid fails

    Kenya's repeat presidential election looked set to go ahead after a last-ditch bid to delay the highly contentious vote failed on Wednesday when the Supreme Court was unable to reach a quorum.

    The dramatic hearing on the eve of Thursday's poll had stoked opposition hopes of delaying the vote boycotted by their leader Raila Odinga.

    With political tensions soaring ahead of the vote, even the country's top election official has said he cannot guarantee a free, fair and credible election, prompting concerns at home and abroad about the risks of holding another flawed election.

    Chief Justice David Maraga, who overturned the August 8 victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta, was forced to ditch the planned hearing, as only two of seven judges were present in court.

    At least five judges are needed to form a quorum.

    "This matter cannot be heard this morning," Maraga said.

    Maraga said his deputy, Philomena Mwilu, could not attend after her bodyguard was shot on Tuesday evening.

    She was not in her car at the time but the incident fuelled anxiety in a country still reeling from the torture and murder of an IT official at the election commission before August's vote.

    Another judge was ill and out of the country, one could not get a flight to Nairobi and two were "not able to come to court," he said.

    The hearing was one of dozens of legal battles that have gripped the court system since Maraga's September 1 decision to cancel the result of the first election due to "irregularities" in the electronic transmission of results, and mismanagement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

    Also Wednesday, the High Court said the appointment of 290 constituency returning officers, who scrutinise the ballot, had not been done in accordance with the constitution.

    But the judge said quashing their appointment would create a "crisis of unimaginable magnitude", so the decision is unlikely to impact Thursday's election.

    It will, however, open the way for further legal battles over the outcome.

    - Odinga to announce next move -

    The election was meant to pit Odinga, 72, and Kenyatta, 56, against each other for the third time, in a dynastic political rivalry that began with their fathers following independence from Britain.

    But while Odinga secured a rare victory in having the August ballot overturned, he has refused to take part in the rerun.

    He accuses the IEBC of failing to make sufficient reforms to ensure it is free, fair and credible

    Although he initially called for mass protests on election day, on Tuesday in an interview with the BBC he denied doing that, urging supporters to "stay away".

    However on Twitter, his National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition insisted the protests were still on.

    Odinga has vowed to announce his final decision on the election at a rally in Nairobi on Wednesday afternoon, where several hundred supporters have already begun gathering.

    Nairobi city officials have already branded the gathering "illegal", saying the opposition had not followed proper procedures to hold the meeting at Uhuru Park.

    Meanwhile, in Odinga's western stronghold of Kisumu, hundreds of opposition supporters marched towards the IEBC's offices.

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