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Six Tanzanian children killed ‘for body parts’



…As Afghans paid to return home from Europe have second thoughts***

Six children in south-western Tanzania have been killed and had their ears and teeth removed, the authorities say.

Some of the bodies of the children, aged between two and nine years old, were also missing limbs.

“This is all about superstitious beliefs and many believe they will get help from witchcraft,” Njombe District Commissioner Ruth Msafiri said.

Police have detained one suspect, a close relative of three of the children who were from the same family.

Ten children in all have gone missing in Njombe since the beginning of December and four have been found alive.

Correspondents say that some witchdoctors in the region tell people that human body parts have special properties that can bring them wealth and luck.

“We urge all parents and guardians to be on alert and teach their children on how determine the motives of who is around them,” the district commissioner told the BBC.

The children were taken from their homes at night when their parents were selling food at a market.

In the meantime, a wave of anxiety washed over Mohammad Farooq Niazi as the plane touched down in his homeland.

“I missed my country,” he said, recalling his mindset on the day he returned to Afghanistan after almost three years of trying to build a new life in Europe. “But I wasn’t feeling safe.”

As traffic crawled into Kabul, Niazi worried he’d be killed in one of the regular attacks carried out by militant groups including the Taliban and the Islamic State.

But the number of Afghans returned by European countries to their homeland — either forcefully or voluntarily — nearly tripled, from 3,290 in 2015 to 9,460 the following year, according to Amnesty International.

While some failed asylum-seekers are forcibly removed, others like Niazi opt for the United Nations-operated Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration program, which enables host nations to pay willing returnees to go home. (The U.S. does not fund assisted voluntary returns to any country.)

The amount of money paid by European countries to migrants under the program ranges from around $500 to $4,500 per person, according to Amnesty International.

Niazi, 27, is one of thousands of Afghan migrants who have been paid to return home by European governments. Austria gave him $3,100 and a one-way ticket to Kabul. The rest was up to him.

More than 400,000 Afghans lodged asylum claims in Europe for the first time from 2015 through 2017, according to European Union figures.

Hundreds of thousands of other migrants also arrived in E.U. countries during that period, including many fleeing conflicts, rampant corruption and extreme poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Advocates of the measure say supporting returning migrants financially helps them to rebuild their lives. They say it also promotes reintegration, as some countries attach conditions to receiving funds such as setting up a business, enrolling in a course or renting an apartment.

But other migration experts and rights groups say the program is not truly voluntary, as often people feel they have no choice but to sign up amid the threat of being forcibly removed. Some also argue it legitimizes returns to countries that are not safe.


The first thing Niazi noticed on disembarking from the plane last spring was the state of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“It’s very old and unprofessional in comparison to those of European countries,” he said.

Nearly three years in Europe had changed Niazi.

While he was happy to see his mother again, Niazi said life in Afghanistan initially felt “unfamiliar” and the day-to-day violence weighed on his mind.

He got by on the $3,100 given to him under the U.N. program and went into business with his uncle, who is a butcher.

But after almost a year of being back in Afghanistan, Niazi says he still does not feel safe and says he plans to return to Europe with his mother and his new wife as soon as possible.

Otherwise “our child will be born in a place where there is no peace or stability,” he said. “Afghanistan is not for living or finding jobs.”


Many Afghans like Niazi worry about their families’ safety in a country where an emboldened Taliban is fighting U.S.-led NATO forces and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

The militants were toppled by American forces in 2001 after sheltering 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, but now hold sway over almost half of the country and are again imposing their strict version of Islam on swaths of the population.

By all accounts, security in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The first half of 2018 was the deadliest ever for Afghan civilians, with 1,700 people killed, according to a recent study commissioned by Save the Children.

The State Department also warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Afghanistan due to “crime, terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.”

A recent report by Amnesty International on forced and voluntary returns to the country concluded that returns were taking place despite evidence that people “face a real risk of serious human rights violations.”

Nicola Graviano, who works for the International Organization for Migration, the U.N. body that runs the program, said it continually monitors conditions on the ground as part of the voluntary returns process.

That “doesn’t mean, though, that the situation is rosy everywhere,” he said. “It’s a constantly evolving situation and we need to be ready to adapt and reconsider our lines.”

He cautioned that the principles of international law — such as not forcing asylum-seekers to return to a place where they face persecution — applied when returning migrants to Afghanistan.

Liza Schuster, an expert in migration policy based at City, University of London, questioned whether the U.N. program should be used to return people to a “country in conflict” like Afghanistan.

“For some people who feel they have absolutely no other choice, they will take assisted voluntary return,” she said. “Even though the voluntary is in heavily inverted quotes.”

According to Schuster, migrants are often told by officials in the West that “if we have to force you back on a plane you won’t receive anything when you arrive.”

Taking the money as part of the U.N. program can often appear to be a better answer.

BBC with additional report from NBC

Foreign News

Israel passes law to shield Netanyahu from being declared unfit



Israel passes law to shield Netanyahu from being declared unfit

Israeli lawmakers on Thursday, passed a law to make it harder to declare Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as unfit to serve.

The first in a series of laws comprising the far-right government’s controversial judicial overhaul plan.

The bill was passed early in the morning after a heated overnight debate, with 61 members of the 120-seat Knesset (parliament) voting in favour and 47 against.

The remaining lawmakers either abstained or were not present for the vote.

It was approved despite warnings from Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who said the law would shield the incumbent Netanyahu from being ousted over his corruption trial.

Under the new controversial law, a prime minister could only be declared unfit and forced to step down if three-quarters of the government’s ministers confirmed so due to the prime minister’s physical or psychological incapacity.

The new legislation was an amendment to a quasi-constitutional basic law that provided guidelines for dealing with a prime minister who was unable to perform their duties.

The vote came only hours before Israelis launch another day of nationwide protests against the judicial overhaul.

Since the start of 2023, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets across the country in weekly protests to oppose the government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court.

The protest was also against the expansion of the powers of the government over the judiciary.

The crisis had sparked nationwide turmoil, with calls from within the military’s elite units to refuse to show up for duty in case the overhaul would be approved, unnerved high-tech investors, and drawn international criticism. 

– Xinhua

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Xi wraps up ‘constructive’ Moscow visit, no breakthrough on Ukraine



Xi wraps up ‘constructive’ Moscow visit, no breakthrough on Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on his way back to Beijing on Wednesday after a three-day visit to Russia that saw the two countries ink agreements on extending their strategic partnership.

Xi said there is no sign of a breakthrough when it came to ending the war in Ukraine.

The several hours of talks between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin were dominated by Ukraine, as well as energy and trade issues.

Beijing’s recent peace initiative for Ukraine, which calls for a ceasefire but does not demand the withdrawal of Russian forces, was warmly received by Putin but continued to meet criticism among Western powers.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that relations between Beijing and Moscow represent a “marriage of convenience’’ rather than a real alliance.

“If China wants to play a constructive role here in this conflict, then they ought to press Russia to pull its troops out of Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereign territory,’’ Kirby said.

He added that Xi needed to also speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At a news conference, Xi said he had held constructive talks at the Kremlin on the second of his three-day state visit.

He pointed particularly to the expansion of economic cooperation with Russia.

Putin assured Xi of a reliable supply of Russian oil and gas in the long term and said a new Russia-China gas pipeline via Mongolia is in the works.

Russia has been shut out of much of the European energy market after the invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

Since then, Russia has sought out new customers and emphasised opportunities in Asia.

By 2030, gas supplies to China should rise to almost 100 billion cubic metres per year, Putin said.

In addition, 100 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas would be supplied, as well as coal and other energy sources. China would receive the energy at a discount.

Putin said Russia was ready to supply agricultural products to China, too.

Payments for goods in the Chinese currency yuan and in rouble were also to be expanded, Putin said, while the two countries also plan to expand their transport links by building roads and bridges.

Putin called the talks “warm and collegial.’’

Turning to Russia’s war on Ukraine, Putin again praised Xi’s proposal for peace, which has been met with deep scepticism in Washington and Europe.

“We find that many of the positions in the peace plan put forward by China agree with Russian approaches and could become the basis for a peaceful solution, once the West and Kiev are ready for it,’’ Putin said.

Xi said that China was taking an objective and impartial position on the conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the two had discussed Ukraine for more than four hours on Monday.

“There was an opportunity to clear everything up,’’ Peskov said.

For international observers, however, China was by no means a neutral authority especially because the country, which is allied with Russia, has never condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Nothing was disclosed about possible arms and ammunition deliveries from China to Russia a move that Washington and NATO said Beijing is considering.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned China against supplying Russia with weapons as this would be to support an illegal war.

NATO has not seen any proof that China is delivering weapons but the alliance has seen some signs that he has been a request from Russia, Stoltenberg said.

The top NATO official said providing arms was an issue that is being considered in Beijing and urged China not to do so.

Xi’s visit comes at an opportune moment for Putin.

It is the first by a foreign leader since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

He was accused of unlawfully deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.

Russia says the children were being taken out of a war zone to safety.

For Putin, the visit from Beijing allowed him to show that he was not isolated internationally.

According to Russian analysts, Xi fulfilled his most important mission immediately upon arrival in Moscow.

His demonstrative support signalled to the West that Putin was here to stay, said political scientist Sergei Malakhov.

“China has effectively wiped away the question of international isolation,’’ Malakhov told Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper.

Xi said that it was in line with historical logic that he chose Russia for his first visit after his re-election because both large countries are neighbours and strategic partners.

The two allies issued a joint statement on international issues, showing where their interests align.

They called for an objective investigation into the Nord Stream 1 and 2 explosions and spoke out against U.S. dominance and in favour of a multipolar world order.

They also stressed that their strategic partnership was not a military-political bloc and not directed against other states.

Although China is economically benefiting from its partnership with Russia, Beijing is careful not to blatantly violate Western sanctions.

China is striking a careful balance between assuring stability and political support from its neighbouring country that it shares a 4,000-kilometre-long border.

Still leaving the door open for Europe, which is ultimately an even more important trade partner than Russia. 

– dpa

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China launches 4 meteorological satellites; as Xi extends condolences to Malawi, Mozambique



China launches 4 meteorological satellites; as Xi extends condolences to Malawi, Mozambique

….Over deadly tropical cyclone***

 China successfully sent four meteorological satellites into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China on Wednesday.

The satellites, belonging to the Tianmu-1 meteorological constellation, were launched by a Kuaizhou-1A carrier rocket at 5:09 p.m. (Beijing Time) and have entered the planned orbit.

They will be mainly used to provide commercial meteorological data services.

It was the 19th flight mission of the Kuaizhou-1A rockets. 

In another development, the Chinese President Xi Jinping has extended his condolences to the President of Malawi Lazarus Chakwera and the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi over the deadly tropical cyclone hitting the two countries.

In his messages sent on Monday, Xi said he was saddened to learn that Tropical Cyclone Freddy has caused heavy casualties and property losses in Malawi and Mozambique.

On behalf of the Chinese government and people, he extended deep condolences to those killed in the disaster and offered sincere sympathies to the bereaved families and the injured.

The Chinese president also expressed his belief that both countries are sure to overcome the disaster and rebuild their homeland.

– Xinhua

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