West Africa: Africa’s Youth – We All Have a Role to Play in the Ebola Response

By Fally Ipupa

Je suis Fally Ipupa, and the place that I call home is the Democratic Republic of Congo – formerly known as Zaire – the second-largest country by...

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Ethiopia: Meeting Halfway

It is not just business as usual for the Egyptian government. On the one hand, Egypt is prepared to send troops into Yemen, with President el-Sisi stating that his...

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Ethiopia: Ethiopian, Egyptian Leaders Flow Smoothly On the Nile

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Fudged Evidence Leads Djibouti to Suffer Blowing Defeat

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West Africa: Africa’s Youth – We All Have a Role to Play in the Ebola Response

By Fally Ipupa

Je suis Fally Ipupa, and the place that I call home is the Democratic Republic of Congo – formerly known as Zaire – the second-largest country by area in Africa. The capital Kinshasa became visible on a global stage after American sports legend Muhammad Ali brought the historic boxing event “Rumble in the Jungle” to D.R. Congo in 1974. Although this was before my time, it is recognized as the greatest sporting event of the 20th century. D.R. Congo is unfortunately also known as ground zero for the first case of Ebola in 1976. Nearly 40 years later, it has survived seven Ebola outbreaks. When new cases emerged in West Africa, it created the worst global health crisis in modern history. I felt immediately concerned by this, and started sharing best practices on social media.

In 2015, I was ranked in South Africa’s Mali & Guardian as the most followed pan-African artist from D.R. Congo on Twitter. As a singer and songwriter active on social media, I am able to engage my fans on social issues and play an active role in the Ebola response. In the absence of strong healthcare systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the greatest force is young people. Over 60 percent of the population on the continent is under the age of 25, and growth trends indicate that Africa’s children – our children – are the future of humanity.

Throughout the early stages of the outbreak in West Africa, I used social media to send key messages on Ebola prevention and best practices on hand-washing, and reminders to avoid direct contact with sick people. This led to me becoming the face of local campaigns in D.R. Congo and abroad, while I was also already working with rock star Bono’s ONE organization on broader global initiatives. This included Do Agric, It Pays, aimed at holding African leaders accountable for their commitments to poverty reduction by investing in agriculture and promoting agribusiness as a viable employment sector for Africa’s youth.

During the peak of the Ebola crisis in August 2014, I attended President Obama’s inaugural U.S.–Africa Summit in Washington, D.C. and participated in interactive roundtable discussions with Mandela Washington Fellows, also known as the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). As an artist, I really appreciated having this opportunity to discuss firsthand how I can work more with the youth and contribute to the development of Africa. The candid conversations with YALI fellows were truly inspiring and I left with the desire to do more.

After Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf activated a global humanitarian response in the fall of 2014, I participated in the launch of the ONE organization’s Ebola: Waiting multimedia campaign, which included a video featuring 14 African icons in music. An array of international film stars were also in the line-up, including Thandie Newton, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman. The call to action focused on pressurizing world leaders to quickly make and deliver bold commitments to help end the Ebola epidemic.

Although music and football are embedded in the DNA of African culture, it will take more than the efforts of celebrities – artists, athletes, actors – lending their voices to regional and global campaigns to win the fight against Ebola.

Today the three most affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – are edging closer to the recovery phase. Liberia successfully reached zero cases almost three weeks ago and began its countdown to 42 days without a case, only to have a new patient test positive on Friday. In Sierra Leone, cases seem to be falling at last, with zero new cases recorded on Friday, and two new cases on Monday. In Guinea, numbers are still fluctuating, although there is a general decline. But in the broader regional context, a lot of work still needs to be done around demystifying myths and fears in rural communities, particularly in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Ebola survivors are faced with stigma and many children are now orphans.

As Ebola no longer makes major news headlines, it is ultimately the community ownership and continued social mobilization efforts made by the Liberian, Guinean and Sierra Leonean people that will lead to reaching zero, and staying there. UNICEF, an international partner in the Ebola response, has taken the lead in responding to the multi-sector needs of children and empowering Africa’s youth to become active social mobilizers. The youth are leading door-to-door campaigns in Liberia and Sierra Leone and using innovative social monitoring platforms, such as U-report, available in 11 African countries. These young people are amazing and should get more credit for their hard work and commitment. In response, I champion their volunteerism, bravery and commitment to #KickEbolaOut.

There are many lessons to be learned from the other African nations – such as Uganda and D.R. Congo – that have tackled Ebola. In the meantime, I will continue to make music rooted in rumba that makes global audiences move. I will continue to help locally through my foundation, lending my voice to raise awareness and help support Africa’s most valuable resource: its young men and women.

Mariama Keita also contributed to this OpEd. She is a communication and development expert who serves as a consultant and lead voice on Africa’s sustainable development in political, creative and social sectors. As a contributing writer and scholar she has interviewed a roster of African high-level officials and cultural icons.

Ethiopia: Meeting Halfway

It is not just business as usual for the Egyptian government. On the one hand, Egypt is prepared to send troops into Yemen, with President el-Sisi stating that his country must “fulfill the calls of the Yemeni people for the return of stability and the preservation of the Arab identity.”

On the other hand, there are also the quagmires in the home front regarding the political instability as well as the economic quandary, which came as a result of the oil price decline. Not to mention the strained relationship that Egypt’s government has with the West.

To some, common sense might dictate that the above problems require his immediate attention. But this did not deter the Egyptian president from making a visit to Addis Abeba, sending the message that the relationship with Ethiopia, with regard to the Nile, holds a spot at the top of his list of priorities.

The visit mainly focused on the relationship between the two countries, circulating around the issue that binds them together – the Nile River and Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

It was on April 2, 2011, that the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had laid the foundation stone for the construction of the biggest dam ever built both in the history of Ethiopia and the continent at a cost of 4.7 billion dollars.

The dam has been in the process of construction over the past four years with a plan to generate 6,000 Mw of electric power as part of the first Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP I), which proposed and promised to bring the countries current power generation capacity to 10,000 Mw; and in broader terms, to strengthen the regional integration of Nile riparian countries via connecting countries with power.

Initially referred to as Project X, then renamed the Millennium Dam until it was finally changed to its current name, the GERD is considered by the general public as a symbol of diplomatic superiority over its counterparts along the River Nile.

The dam, located in the Benshiangul Gumuz Regional State, has its foundation based 40Km east of the border with Sudan and 500Km north west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

This announcement to build the dam came in the midst of – as some would call it – war over utilising the 6,650Km long river with fair distribution of its waters among the Nile Basin countries. The lower riparian countries, especially Egypt have been keen to refer to the colonial agreements signed in 1929 and 1959, which claim to favour only Egypt and Sudan at the expense of the upper riparian countries.

The 1959 agreement between Sudan and Egypt give them the right to utilise 18.5 and 55.5 billion cubic meters of the water, respectively. Ethiopia, for its part, after these two agreements between the lower riparian countries, has tried to have a stake in the utilisation of the river starting from the regime Emperor Haileselassie I.

As part of this plan, the Emperor had tried to have a fair share over the Nile with the support of a study conducted by the United States Department of Reclamation (USDR) to build a dam in the Nile a.k.a. Abay River.

The USDR had helped the Emperor to develop a master plan for 29 irrigation and hydroelectric projects on the Blue Nile. However, following the collapse of the feudalist regime, the revolutionary Derg government seemed busy dealing with both internal instability and external aggression.

Egypt has been seen for decades as interrupting the upper riparian countries’ attempts to utilise the water due to its fear that their increased use would reduce the total amount of water it gains from the river, which is considered to be the engine of its economy.

But the coming of EPRDF to power as well as its success in finally managing to bring a relative political and economical stability to Ethiopia, in contrast with its predecessor, helped the regime to bring the issue of fair utilisation of the Blue Nile to the table and to finally push the agenda to the extent of persuading other upper riparian countries to claim their share of the Nile.

Subsequently, the Nile riparian countries agreed to establish the Nile Basin Initiative in 1999 with nine countries including Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. The initiative was founded by states with the aim to develop and utilise the Nile in a cooperative manner among the 280 million population of the river that covers 2.8 million square kilometres of catchment area.

Pushing the issue more and demanding greater share of the river, the upper riparian countries crafted and signed the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA) a.k.a Entebbe Agreement in 2010.

As of now, six countries, with the exception of Egypt and Sudan, have signed the agreement. And out of this only three countries have ratified the agreement – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and as of March 26, 2015, Tanzania.

On side of Egypt, there were several cases that both the leadership of President Mubarak and the ousted post-revolution President Mohammed Morsi had intensified with the claim of maintain the country’s historical right. There were accusations on Ethiopia’s side that Egypt was funding and arming militant groups to raise arms against the Ethiopian government at some point in time.

Particularly, during the Morsi’s period, a video emerged showing Egyptian politicians discussing how to stop Ethiopia from constructing the GERD via aggressive acts and sabotage mechanisms, representing the climax of the sabre-rattling that was going on between the two countries.

In June 2013, the Daily News Egypt, an Egyptian newspaper, published an article about the aforementioned discussion and quoted the argument made by the Chairman of Al-Nour Party, Younis Makhyoun suggesting that Egypt would go so far as to create unrest in the domestic affairs of Ethiopia by supporting different political factions that are fighting against the Ethiopian government in order to sabotage the construction of the dam.

Since then, the mood of cooperation among upper and lower stream countries, particularly Egypt, was on unstable ground, adding to what has been a history of suspicion and mistrust as far as the historical and political relationship of the lower and the upper stream countries was concerned. In contrast to this, the three countries established an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) comprising two experts each from Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, as well as four from other countries. The IPoE recommended further studies, specifically on environmental and social impact of the dam on lower riparian countries, leading to four meetings among the minsters of each country to reach agreement over the conduct of the study by an international consulting firm.

Since el-Sisi took power from Morsi, he has been expressing his willingness to come to the table of discussion for cooperation. Then on March 23, 2015, the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan all gathered in Khartoum to sign a Declaration of Principles (DoP) on Ethiopia’s GERD. This was followed by el-Sisi’s arrival in Addis Ababa.

On the first day of the visit, March 24, el-Sisi headed directly to the National Palace to meet with President Mulatu Teshome (PhD), and again to hold discussions with Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn.

On a press brief to the media and higher officials of the two countries, both have addressed that they have been consulting in all aspects of their relation.

“We discussed major issues such as bilateral and trilateral issues,” said Hailemariam.

He also elaborated that at the bilateral level, the two agreed to upgrade the ministerial commission to a high level ministerial committee that will be overseen by the leaders of the two countries, who will meet twice a year. And at trilateral level, the three parties agreed to have a committee led by ministers of each respective country (Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia) to ensure compliance with the DoP.

The declaration is a collection of 10 principles regarding the GERD.

“Within the declaration we agreed on cooperation, regional integration as well as on exchange of data that could be used for studies to be conducted by the experts committee from the three countries,” Alemayehu Tegenu, minister of Water, Irrigation & Energy (MoWIE), told Fortune. He also pointed out that coming to these principles was a good move from Egypt.

According to the English version of the declaration, the first principle talks about cooperation based on mutual understanding, followed by the principle of development, regional integration and sustainability whereas the third principle is that of not causing significant damage.

The purpose of the GERD is to generate power, contribute to economic development, promote cooperation beyond borders, and create regional integration through generating clean sustainable energy that can be relied on, said principle two of the declaration.

“The DoP shows the ‘official’ acceptance of GERD by Egypt. It can be said with certainty that the GERD is now a fact on the ground to be reckoned with by all. This will also shape some of the views the international community and development partners have on GERD,” said Wondwosen Michago, guest African researcher at Nordic African Institute and a former water resources consultant at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) via an email sent to Fortune.

He noted that if Egypt accepted the GERD and started talking about the operation of the dam, there was no reason why others could fail to do so.

One of the principles is about dam security. Ethiopia will continue in good will to implement all recommendations related to the dam’s security in the reports of the international technical experts, stated the declaration. Again, principle three says that signing parties should discuss compensation if damage occurs while using the Blue Nile.

If the three parties are committed to settling any disputes resulting from the interpretation or application of the Declaration of Principles, they will settle their differences through negotiations based on good will. However, if they fail to do so, they can ask for mediation or refer the matter to their Heads of States or ministers.

The declaration deals with a host of issues including fair and appropriate use of the Nile, the filling of the reservoir, the security of the dam, building of trust and sovereignty. Addressing Egypt’s concern that the first five years, which are designated for the first filling of the dam, may affect the volume of water that flows to it, the DoP proposed that the first filling will be determined as per the study that will be made soon.

“This declaration is a signal of building a confidence and a context of working in cooperation bypassing the legacy of misunderstanding and suspicion,” said Mohammed Idris, ambassador of Egypt to Ethiopia.

Aside from the major issue surrounding his visit, el-Sisi also emphasised boosting the economic ties between the two countries, to that end, having a discussion with the business community of both countries at Sheraton Addis Hotel following his meeting with the Head of State and Government of Ethiopia. Prior to the January 25, 2011, popular revolution of Egypt that swept away the old vanguards, the economic tie between Ethiopia and Egypt specifically their trade turnover was estimated to be 121.6 million dollars; in 2013 this figure reached to 165 million dollars, with the balance of trade in favour Egypt, which accounted for 77.5pc of the business between the two countries.

Though the meeting was open only for the state media, Solomon Afowrek, president of Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations, who attended the discussion, told Fortune that the meeting had deliberated on the topic of investing in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia exports mainly sesame, camels, and cattle to Egypt and in return imports petroleum oils, edible soya and palm oils. The Egyptian side has already made a request to build their own industrial zone in Ethiopia and Hailemariam has given them a positive response, added Solomon.

During the second day of his official visit, President el-Sisi received a warm welcome from the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HoPR), where he delivered a half-hour long speech.

Rira Julo, a Member of Parliament from South Omo, saw the visit as a turning point in the relationship between the two.

“What I understand from his speech is that there is a lot to share and to cooperate on the GERD in a way that it will cause no harm for all,” said Rira.

During his speech to the parliament, el-Sisi noted that the brotherly country, Ethiopia, has the right to develop and utilise its resources to improve the standard of living of its people. He also reiterated that Egyptian brothers also have not only the right to develop but also the right to life itself and to live in safe haven on the banks of the Nile, the river, which he said, had created ceaseless civilisation for thousands of years.

He also emphasised that Egypt’s water resources did not witness any increase despite the huge population increase, as well as the escalation of its needs.

“This visit will give a very strong impetus to the relationship Ethiopia has with Egypt, benefiting our people and our country,” said Idris.

Ahram, a renowned online Egyptian newspaper, on March 24, 2015, featured an article which presented arguments mainly surrounding the DoP and the implication it would have on Egypt and its people; under the title “Egyptian experts divided over Renaissance Dam declaration of principles.”

One of the arguments reflected was that DoP gave nothing to Egypt as well as granted nothing for any signing party; it was simply an introductory step, ran one line of argument. Another, coming from Mohamed Nasreldin Allam, Irrigation & Water Resources minister during the Mubarak era, and now professor of Irrigation & Drainage Engineering at the Cairo University, Faculty of Engineering, criticised the DoP for not being in favour of Egypt.

“Most of what was in the Entebbe Agreement that we refused in 2010 is in this declaration,” he said.

As recommended by the International Panel of Experts (IPoE) to further study the dam’s hydrology simulation model and trans-boundary environmental and socio-economic impact assessment, four international consultancy firms have already been short-listed though it is not clear when they will be evaluated and one selected.

The selection is within the evaluation process, said Alemayehu. But he declined to say when the exact selection of the firm would be.

GERD, the largest project undertaken by the Ethiopian government, is celebrating its fourth year since the inauguration, and has already completed 42pc of its construction.

Contracted by Salini Costruttori, an Italian company, it will have the capacity to hold a total volume of 10 million cubic metres of water when it is completed and will create a 1,680sqm reservoir. It is 1,800m long and 170m high.

The project involves the construction of a main dam in Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC), with two power stations installed at the foot of the dam. The power stations are positioned on the right and left banks of the river and comprise 16 Francis turbines with a total installed power of 6,000 MW and estimated production of 15,000 GWh per year, according a statement posted at Salini’s website. As far as generating power is concerned, principle six of the DoP gives priority for downstream countries to purchase energy generated by the dam.

The goodwill shown in the singing of the DoP may not lead to Egypt signing the CFA, which rejects the earlier accord signed in 1959 between Sudan and Egypt, says Wondwosen; it could be tantamount to throwing away what Egypt has always claimed as its historical right.

“Even if they want it, is very difficult to convince the Egyptian public,” he said.

But the way forward for Egypt is to continue to collaborate with upstream countries, as the old Egypt policy on Nile is not working anymore, he added.

“The assertion that Egypt is a gift of the Nile will not take Egypt anywhere. It requires the Egyptian politicians to uphold the principles of mutual benefit in a spirit of cooperation rather than advocating for monopoly of the Nile River, which is outdated and seriously challenged by the GERD,” commented Wondwosen.

Maritime Authority Sets Big Boost to Containerisation

By Brook Abdu
The target is to reach aggregate stuffing 30pc by year’s end, save $121 per 20ft container
The Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA), in concert with the Ministry of Trade (MoT), is planning to increase the country’s export stuffing…

Children used as human bombs: UN

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IOL pic mar13 boko haram membersAFP This still image, captured from a video obtained by AFP, shows Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) delivering a speech. The Nigerian group has pledged its allegiance to Islamic State.

London – Boko Haram Islamist militants in northern Nigeria are using children as human bombs and targeting women and girls for particularly horrific abuse, including sexual slavery, the United Nations human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that his office had received reports of Boko Haram using children as its first line of attack, as “expendable cannon fodder”.

“Bodies of children around 12 years old have been found strewn across such battlefields,” Zeid said. Boko Haram has been attacking towns and villages in northern Nigeria and border regions of neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

“The group has also repeatedly used young children as human bombs, including a case of a 14-year-old girl carrying a baby on her back who detonated a bomb in a marketplace,” Zeid said.

The Council condemned “the heinous terrorist activities of Boko Haram”, including the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, a year ago, and called for “drying up all possible sources of financing” for the group.

It called for those who have committed crimes on behalf of Boko Haram to be brought before competent courts of the affected states and held accountable.

Boko Haram has killed thousands and displaced some 1.5 million people during a six-year campaign to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

A joint offensive by Nigeria and its neighbours has succeeded in driving the group from most of the positions they controlled earlier this year, reversing militants’ gains that forced Nigeria to delay its February presidential election.

Zeid said that appalling atrocities committed by the group had created a critical human rights situation not only in Nigeria, but in the whole Lake Chad region.

Both children and adults have been abducted by the group on a massive scale, he said.

Women and girls have been enslaved and subjected to sexual violence, forced labour and compulsory conversion, he said, citing reports from witnesses and survivors.

Retreating Boko Haram militants have murdered their so-called “wives” – women and girls they held as slaves – and other captives as military offensives by Nigeria and its neighbours advanced, Zeid said.

He said he had received information suggesting that the security forces of Nigeria and other nations combating the insurgency had also committed human rights violations, and called for a thorough and transparent investigation.

“Such violations intensify the suffering of the people – and (…) this can only create resentment, facilitate recruitment of new insurgents, and foster vicious cycle of greater extremism,” he said.

The insurgency has sharply reduced farming activity and many people are facing severe food shortages, Zeid told the Council.

“Because the farms of northern Nigeria provide produce across the Sahel, this also means that the price of several basic foods has risen sharply across the region,” he said.

The current dry season has intensified Boko Haram incursions into Cameroon, Chad and Niger, spreading bloodshed and desolation even more widely, the rights chief said.

“What was initially a localised crisis is fast growing to very disturbing regional dimensions,” he added.

Reuters

Fudged Evidence Leads Djibouti to Suffer Blowing Defeat

By Tamrat G. Giorgis
A London court lifts the freeze order on Abdourahman Boreh’s assets
The Government of Djibouti suffered a major defeat recently after a judge in a London court reversed a former ruling to freeze Abdourahman Boreh’s assets, once he …

Israel withholds Palestinian funds

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iol news pic Mideast Palestinians Confronting IsraelAP FILE – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Fatah revolutionary council in the West Bank city of Ramallah. AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File

Ramallah, West Bank – The Palestinian Authority will pay partial salaries to most of its employees for a fourth straight month in April after Israel failed to transfer revenue it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, the Palestinian Finance Ministry said.

Israel started withholding around $130 million a month in tax and customs revenues in December after the Palestinians announced that they were joining the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move finalised on Wednesday.

Under international pressure, Israel agreed last week to resume the transfers, saying it would immediately pay around $400 million – the withheld revenues less what the Palestinians owe for utilities supplied by Israel.

But Palestinian finance minister, Shukri Bshara, said no money had yet been received from Israel and as a result most Palestinian Authority employees will receive 60 percent of their salaries on Thursday, the fourth month of pay cuts.

Angry at the delay, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would seek to take the dispute to arbitration under terms of a 1993 interim peace deal with Israel, and that if that did not resolve it, he would consider appealing to the ICC.

Abbas also rejected the sum Israel was offering, accusing it of having calculated utility costs owed by Palestinians unilaterally.

Despite the shortage of funds, Palestinians earning less than 2,000 shekels a month ($500) will continue to receive their full salary. The Palestinian Authority employs around 150,000 people in Gaza and the West Bank.

“This procedure is because Israel has not yet transferred the Palestinian tax revenues for a fourth consecutive month,” Bshara said in a statement on Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund has warned of dire consequences for the Palestinian economy if the transfers are not rapidly resumed.

Not only does it affect consumption, but it means loans taken out by Palestinian Authority employees and the Palestinian Authority itself are in danger of falling into default.

The Palestinian Monetary Authority, the central bank, warned last week that lending had nearly reached its limit, with the banking system increasingly in danger.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last Friday that the government would release the transfers for humanitarian reasons and because it was in “Israel’s interests”, he received praise from the United States and the European Union for the decision.

Israeli officials had no immediate response on Wednesday when asked to explain why the money had not been transferred.

According to Bshara, a total of 2.1 billion shekels ($500 million) is now outstanding – four months’ worth of withheld revenue less the amounts the Palestinians pay for water, electricity and other services supplied by Israel.

Reuters

Istanbul police HQ attacker shot dead

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iol news pic Turkey Police HQ AttackAP Police officers stand after two leftist militants attacked Istanbul Security headquarters, rear, in Istanbul, Turkey. One militant was killed and two police officers were injured in a shootout with police. A day earlier, a chief prosecutor and two gunmen who took him hostage were killed in a shootout with security forces inside Istanbul’s main courthouse. AP Photo/Akin Celiktas

Istanbul – Turkish security forces on Wednesday shot dead a female assailant after she and an accomplice sought to attack the Istanbul police headquarters, as the city reeled from its second deadly shoot-out in two days.

The woman, who was carrying bombs and a gun, was killed by the police. While her male accomplice initially escaped he was then arrested, officials said.

The clash in the Fatih district of central Istanbul came just a day after leftist militants took a top Istanbul prosecutor hostage in a standoff that ended in his death.

Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who had been investigating the politically-sensitive death of a teenage protester, was buried Wednesday after an emotional ceremony at the Eyup Sultan mosque in Istanbul.

One policeman was also lightly wounded in Wednesday’s attack on the Istanbul police headquarters, Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

“A female terrorist, with bombs and a gun, was killed in the clash,” Sahin said.

Television images showed the body of the female attacker sprawled on the tarmac on the road outside the police station as terrified passers-by crouched behind fences to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

Turkish television said the attacker was carrying two bombs which were then made safe by disposal teams in controlled explosions.

Police late on Tuesday launched an operation to free Kiraz after an hours-long standoff with his captors at an Istanbul courthouse.

But the official, who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the head and chest, died shortly after arriving at hospital.

There was no clue who had fired the fatal shots.

Both his captors, two men in their 20s affiliated to the outlawed Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), were killed in the police operation.

There was so far no firm indication that the attack on the police headquarters was linked to the hostage-taking.

Turkish authorities had earlier Wednesday detained 22 suspected members of the DHKP-C in the southern city of Antalya after receiving a tip-off they were planning further attacks.

Police in the western city of Izmir also detained five suspected DHKP-C members, seizing documents, digital recordings, banned magazines and 30 bullets. Five more people were also detained in Eskisehir, reports said.

The DHKP-C is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and has carried out a string of attacks in Turkey in the past.

Police also arrested an armed man who stormed an office of the ruling party in an Istanbul district but the incident was not believed to be related.

Hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors and staff stood in respect on every floor of the giant Istanbul Caglayan Palace of Justice where Kiraz worked and the hostage drama unfolded.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined the mourners at the funeral at the mosque on the banks of the Golden Horn, with police snipers posted on the balconies of minarets amid tight security.

He said the government was fighting an “evil alliance” and warned that disorder on the streets would not be tolerated.

“We won’t fall into this trap, we won’t sacrifice this country to them,” he said.

“If one more person covers his face and resorts to Molotov cocktails: I’m warning, it won’t be tolerated.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cutting short a visit to Romania and returning home to visit Kiraz’s widow, the official Anatolia news agency said.

Kiraz had been leading a hotly-politicised investigation into the killing of teenager Berkin Elvan, who died in March last year after spending 269 days in a coma from injuries inflicted by police in anti-government protests in the summer of 2013.

Elvan has since become an icon for the far-left.

In a major controversy, Davutoglu revealed he had personally denied accreditation to the funeral for media organisations who had used the image of the captive prosecutor.

“Freedom of the press is as important as mourning and respect. Freedom of the press is as important as not playing into the hands of terrorist propaganda,” Davutoglu said.

The shoot-outs came at a time of intensifying political tensions in Turkey ahead of June 7 legislative elections.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is seeking a landslide victory, which would allow it to change the constitution to boost the powers of the presidency which he assumed in 2014 after over a decade as prime minister.

AFP


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First Tikrit, then all of Iraq: PM

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iol news pic BAG01_MIDEAST-CRISIS-IRAQ_0401_11REUTERS Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi (C) tours the city of Tikrit after Iraq security forces regained control from Islamist State militants. Iraqi troops and Shi’a paramilitary fighters were battling Islamic State on Wednesday in northern Tikrit, which officials described as the Sunni Muslim militant group’s last stronghold in the city. REUTERS/Stringer

Tikrit, Iraq – Iraq vowed Wednesday to reclaim the entire country from jihadists after retaking the city of Tikrit in its biggest success yet in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Speaking from a newly-recaptured area of central Tikrit after a month-long operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the government was “determined to liberate every inch of Iraqi land”.

But Tikrit is far from secure, with various officials saying that IS militants were still present in the city, while bomb-rigged houses and buildings also pose a major threat.

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghaban told journalists in Tikrit that there were “a few pockets (of IS fighters) remaining in some of the neighbourhoods.”

And a commander from the Ketaeb Imam Ali militia, one of the paramilitary forces fighting alongside police and soldiers, reported clashes with IS in the city’s north in the morning.

They “tried to advance on the university”, Rasul al-Abadi told AFP, adding that there were “no more than 30” IS fighters left in the city’s large Qadisiya district.

Ghaban said IS fighters were trying to cross the Tigris river, east of the city, to escape.

Supporting that assertion, a paramilitary commander said the jihadists launched an attack Wednesday from a mountain hideout northeast of Tikrit in an attempt to open a safe passage for fleeing militants.

There has been concern that Iraq does not have enough specialised ordnance clearance teams to handle the large quantity of traps left by IS fighters.

Ghaban said that security forces had so far found 185 rigged houses and around 900 other bombs.

Exploding bombs periodically sent clouds of dust rising over Tikrit on Wednesday, apparently detonated intentionally by forces working to clear the city.

Columns of black smoke also rose from various burning houses and businesses.

Some of the dozens of palaces in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s massive complex on the eastern side of the city were smashed by shelling or air strikes, but other areas of Tikrit were comparatively lightly damaged.

Militiamen have quickly set about spray painting the names of their groups on walls and windows, and also stole items including clothes, shampoo and shaving cream from shops in central Tikrit.

There is still evidence of IS’s almost 10-month presence in the city, including the group’s black flag painted on walls and writing identifying some buildings as “properties” of the jihadists’ self-declared state.

On Tuesday, Abadi claimed the city was retaken but the US-led coalition supporting Baghdad from the air said IS still held parts of Tikrit.

Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi vowed Wednesday to press on with offensive operations.

“We are coming, Anbar. We are coming, Nineveh,” he said in a recorded address, referring to the last two provinces still largely controled by IS.

The loss of Tikrit further isolates Mosul, the capital of Nineveh and the main IS hub in Iraq, with Baghdad’s forces now poised to push north while Kurdish forces close in from the three other directions.

Zaid al-Ali, author of “The Struggle For Iraq’s Future”, said however that the fighting in Tikrit was made easier because the city was largely emptied of its population even before the operation began on March 2.

“Mosul still has a large civilian population, which will make things very complicated,” the analyst said.

The government has provided no information on how many fighters were killed, wounded or captured in the fighting but Baghdad’s forces are believed to have suffered significant casualties.

Iraqi army and police forces, as well as pro-government paramilitary forces dominated by Iran-backed Shi’a militias, completely surrounded Tikrit within two weeks of launching the operation, but the operation then stalled.

Abadi requested coalition strikes, which began on March 25.

But Iran was Baghdad’s top foreign partner for much of the operation — involvement evidenced by graffiti in Persian in the city.

The Iraqi government had tried and failed several times to retake Saddam’s hometown, but the latest operation was much larger and better organised.

A significant number of local Sunni tribal forces were involved in the battle to retake Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital, from IS, in an effort to defuse sectarian resentment.

Amid concerns over abuses committed by Shi’a fighters against Sunnis in recaptured areas, the UN’s top envoy in Iraq has reiterated an appeal for civilians to be protected.

But militia and police said civilians had left the city prior to its recapture.

AFP


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