Foreign News in Brief: India, Bangladesh sign agreement

India, Bangladesh sign agreement

India and Bangladesh yesterday signed an agreement to simplify their 4 000-km border and clarify the identities of 52 000 living in enclaves, over four decades after the neighbours first tried to untangle complex territorial rights set down in 1713.

Under the deal, signed in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, the two countries will swap 200 tiny enclaves, most of them close to the official border. Their inhabitants have been deprived of public services and living in squalid conditions.

Established by a treaty between two former princely states, the 106 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves in India are islands of foreign territory inside each country.

Under the agreement, each country will take over most of the enclaves on its territory and residents will have the right to stay where they are or move to the other side of the border.

The deal was originally agreed in 1974 by Indira Gandhi of India and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Progress stopped for a long time, however, after Mujibur was assassinated in 1975, and subsequent governments failed to agree on the transfer of enclaves.

Dhaka’s Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has described the deal, which has since been updated, as “a historic milestone in the relationship between the two neighbouring south Asian countries.”

The two prime ministers, along with the chief minister of West Bengal, India Mamata Banerjee, also inaugurated bus services along the border towns of India and Bangladesh.

The two countries are also looking to boost trade and security along the border and fight human trafficking.

Also yesterday, Adani Power Limited of India and Reliance Power Limited of India signed deals worth over $4.5 billion with state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to develop six units of power plants to produce 4,600 MW of electricity.

Reliance will invest $3 billion to produce 3,000 MW power, while Adani will set up two coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 1,600 MW, costing more than $1.5 billion. – Reuters

 

Death toll in Yola bomb blast increases

The death toll from two blasts in northeast Nigeria rose to 35, raising the total number killed in suspected Boko Haram attacks to 82 during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first week in office.

Rescue officials in the Adamawa state’s capital Yola said 31 people had been confirmed dead in the explosion that ripped through a market on Thursday, with another 38 wounded.

The Yola blast followed a suspected suicide bombing in Maiduguri, capital of neighbouring Borno state, that killed at least four people when a truck carrying firewood rammed into a checkpoint outside a military barrack.

The violence on Thursday came as Buhari ended his first foreign trip since taking office.

He visited Chad and Niger, which with Cameroon are Nigeria’s key allies in the battle against an Islamist uprising blamed for 15,000 deaths since 2009.

Buhari urged closer regional security cooperation, thanking troops from Nigeria’s neighbours for their efforts to date while demanding more action from a multi-national force battling the insurgents on the frontline.

He vowed to crush the Islamists when he was sworn in one week ago but the spate of bombings through his first week in office highlighted the severity of the challenge.

Boko Haram has been weakened by a four-nation offensive launched in February but the extremists have proved resilient in the past.

A new video released by the group — its first for several months and first under the banner of the “Islamic State in West Africa” — insisted the rebels were still to be reckoned with.

Yola had been seen as a relative safe haven in Nigeria’s embattled northeast, with no confirmed Islamist attacks in several years.

The fresh explosion hit the popular Jimeta Main Market at about 7:40 pm (1840 GMT), as traders were finishing business.

“So far, we have 31 dead victims and 38 people in hospital receiving treatment”, the National Emergency Management Agency’s coordinator in the city Sa’ad Bello told AFP.

An inital toll from the Adamawa state police said two people were killed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram who have frequently targeted crowded markets.

The Maiduguri explosion outside the Maimalari Barracks at about 5:00 pm killed four people and also resembled past strikes by the insurgents, who have made suicide attacks the military a key feature of their uprising.

Buhari was on Thursday in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, for talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby after visiting Niger on Wednesday.

“Your troops have stood shoulder to shoulder and fought gallantly with ours in the fight against the forces of evil,” the 72-year-old former military ruler told Deby.

Deby for his part “reaffirmed Chad’s involvement and availability” to work with Nigeria, according to a statement from his office.

Anglophone Nigeria has typically viewed its Francophone neighbours with suspicion, which has been blamed for the lack of a joined-up approach in tackling the militants.

On Wednesday, the military in Abuja announced that a Nigerian officer had taken charge of the new African Union-backed Multi-National Joint Task Force based in N’Djamena.

The 8,700-strong unit, made up of military personnel, police and civilians from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, had been due to be deployed last November.

Buhari said “sustained and robust” regional cooperation was essential because of the cross-border threat posed by Boko Haram.

Buhari has ordered the military’s command centre be moved from the capital, Abuja, to Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and which is regarded as its spiritual home.

The army has since been tested with two rocket attacks on the city, as well as an explosion opposite a military facility on Wednesday, which left at least 18 dead.

There were also two suicide bomb attacks — one at a mosque on Saturday that killed 26 and another on Tuesday at a cattle market, in which 13 people died.

While Maiduguri residents have come to expect relentless bombings, a surge of violence in Yola will create new challenges for Buhari as he strives to pacify the northeast.

The city has been home to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting elsewhere in the region.

Hundreds of women and children kidnapped by Boko Haram have also been brought to camps in the city after they were rescued during recent military operations in the rebels’ Sambisa Forest stronghold in Borno. – AFP

 

Kenya charges five men over Garissa attack

Five men were charged in connection with an attack by Somali Islamist gunmen on Garissa University in northeast Kenya that killed 148 students, the worst militant attack in the east African nation in almost two decades.

The assault on Garissa University on April 2, in which gunmen from Somalia’s al Shabaab group stormed in and sought to kill Christian students, has piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to do more to secure the border and other regions.

The effects of the assault are still being felt in Garissa County, where almost two-thirds of schools have had to shut because students, many from other regions, are not willing to go to work there any more, regional officials said.

Four men from Kenya and one from Tanzania were charged in court for conspiring to commit “a terrorist act at Garissa University College” and other related offences, court documents showed.

They are the first people to face formal charges over the attack.

Chief Magistrate Daniel Ogembo told the Nairobi court that a hearing would be held on July 11 to rule on whether to grant bail to the men accused of involvement in the attack, the worst since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassy in Kenya in 1998.

Kenyatta has faced mounting criticism for not doing enough to halt a spate of attacks by al Shabaab, which has vowed to keep up assaults until Nairobi pulls its troops out of Somalia where they are part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

Diplomats and security experts say the security services do not coordinate properly due to rivalries and the police often use heavy-handed tactics of mass arrests that undermine efforts to build intelligence on militant cells.

As well as Garissa, there have been assaults in the border region, along the coast and in the capital, including the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in which 67 people were killed.

The region along the long Somali border, already a desperately poor area, has been particularly hard hit.

“There are about 96 schools which have closed in a span of a few weeks because of security fears,” Harun Rashid Khator, an official advising the presidency on Garissa County and former county commissioner, told Reuters, saying that was out of a total of 150 primary and secondary schools in the county.

About 1,300 teachers work in the schools and many have refused to return to work, with primary schools the most affected. Khator said efforts to hire new teachers drew a poor response.

Garissa County Governor Nathif Jama said officials were appealing to the government to help. “This is going to affect the future economy and social life of this area badly if the national government doesn’t treat it with urgency now,” he said. – Reuters

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