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UN bars Nigerian peacekeeper for sexually exploiting woman

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UN calls for priority attention to end GBV in Nigeria

…As Helicopter jailbreak gangster arrested in France***

A Nigerian policeman who served as a UN peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been sent home and barred from peacekeeping after an investigation found he had sexually exploited a woman, a UN spokesman said Tuesday.

The allegations against the Nigerian national date back to February and March 2017, but the woman later withdrew her complaint to the MONUSCO peace mission.

UN investigators “found that the allegation of sexual exploitation was substantiated and that the victim had been paid off by the alleged subject to withdraw her complaint,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

The policeman, who had since moved on to serve in the UN mission in South Sudan, was recently sent home and UN officials have asked Nigeria to report on any disciplinary or legal action taken against him.

UN peacekeeping missions are facing a damaging wave of allegations of sex abuse and sexual exploitation of civilians that they are mandated to protect in conflict zones worldwide.

Under UN rules, it is up to the troop- or police-contributing country to take action against their nationals in cases of misconduct in peacekeeping missions.

That has led to complaints that peacekeepers have not been held accountable in their countries for sexual abuse and exploitation of civilians while serving under the UN flag.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has vowed to toughen the response to allegations of misconduct by the peacekeepers.

Last month, the Security Council adopted a US-drafted resolution aimed at reinforcing measures such as repatriating peacekeepers and withholding UN payments to soldiers involved in misconduct.

The United Nations has 96,000 peacekeepers serving in 14 missions worldwide.

In the meantime, a gangster who made a Hollywood-esque helicopter jailbreak was arrested in northern France on Wednesday after three months on the run, sources close to the case said.

Notorious French robber Redoine Faid was apprehended in the Oise region north of Paris along with his brother Rachid and two other family members, one source said, confirming earlier media reports.

A massive manhunt was launched after Faid’s daring July 1 escape, in which two heavily armed accomplices used smoke bombs and angle grinders to break through doors and whisk him to a waiting helicopter.

Faid, a career criminal with multiple convictions for armed robbery who had escaped from prison once before, was sprung from the jail in Reau, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Paris.

Around 100  police were deployed to track down the 46-year-old, who has cited movie baddies such as Tony Montana in “Scarface” as an inspiration and said he discovered his “calling” at the age of 12.

Weapons were seized in the raid which unfolded calmly in the town of Creil in the early hours of Wednesday, according to the source.

Outgoing Interior Minister Gerard Collomb praised the local police force in a tweet for their “commitment, bravery and determination”.

Faid, who previously escaped from prison in 2013 before being captured six weeks later, had been serving a 25-year term over a botched 2010 heist in which a policewoman was killed, though he claims her death was accidental.

– Smoke bombs –

The spectacular jailbreak saw two men posing as flight-school students, who had already taken an introductory flight, force a helicopter instructor at gunpoint to fly them to the jail.

The terrified pilot landed in the courtyard — the only part of the prison not fitted with anti-helicopter nets.

A pair of black-clad men armed with assault rifles then alighted and set off smoke bombs before breaking into the visiting room, where Faid was meeting with his brother who was later taken into custody.

The wardens, who were unarmed, fled and raised the alarm. But within 10 minutes Faid was gone, cheered on by his fellow inmates.

The helicopter was found shortly afterwards in a suburb northeast of Paris, along with the pilot, who had been beaten and was taken to hospital in a state of shock.

Several days after his escape investigators found a stash of guns, masks and a cement cutter in the Oise region where Faid grew up, which they believed belonged to his gang.

Faid narrowly avoided capture on July 24 and had to abandon a car containing explosives after he was identified as one of two people who sped away when police tried to carry out a security check on their car north of Paris.

In early September police carried out searches targeting the robber’s relatives, but made no arrests.

The escape, which brings to at least five the number of jailbreaks in France in the past three decades involving helicopters, prompted a heated debate about whether the country’s prisons are secure enough.

AFP

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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