Aleppo: Up to 20,000 flee as government advances

France calls for emergency UN Security Council session as battles rage for control of Syria’s second city.

Residents work on fixing a house in the town of Darat Izza, province of Aleppo on Sunday [Reuters]

Residents work on fixing a house in the town of Darat Izza, province of Aleppo on Sunday [Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Up to 20,000 people have fled eastern Aleppo over the past 72 hours as Syrian government forces continued to advance in the rebel-held part of the city, according to the Red Cross.

Terrified civilians have fled empty-handed into remaining rebel-held territory, or crossed into government-controlled western Aleppo or Kurdish-held districts.

The 20,000 figure is an estimate and could increase as “people are fleeing in different directions”, International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson Krista Armstrong told the AFP news agency.

United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien had earlier put the number of displaced people from eastern Aleppo at 16,000.

The city, which was Syria’s biggest before the start of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, has been divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east, where UN officials say at least 250,000 people remain under siege.

The Syrian government offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo has sparked international alarm as it intensified this week.

A voluntary rescue group known as the White Helmets reported at least 51 civilians killed in east Aleppo and more than 150 injured during the government assault.

Syrian government forces dropped “more than 150 air strikes from war planes and helicopters and [fired] more than 1,200 artillery shells”, the group wrote on its Facebook page.

The attacks hit the neighbourhoods of Bab al-Nairab, al-Mayser and al-Salheen, among others.

SANA, the official Syrian state media arm, reported that Syrian government forces and allies on Monday took control of several areas in the city’s northeast, including al-Haidariya, al-Sakhour, al-Inzarat, al-Sheikh Khedr, Jabal Badro, and al-Halk.

‘Cannot remain silent’

France called for an immediate UN Security Council session on the fighting, which has seen the army capture a third of opposition-controlled east Aleppo in recent days.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday on the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Aleppo, diplomats said.


The 15 ambassadors of the UN Security Council will get a video-conference briefing on the situation in Aleppo by a UN official in charge of humanitarian operation and the UN mediator in Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

“France and its partners cannot remain silent in the face of what could be one of the biggest massacres of civilian population since World War II,” said France’s UN ambassador Francois Delattre on Tuesday.

He and his British counterpart Matthew Rycroft earlier in the day pushed for the emergency council meeting on providing humanitarian relief to the besieged Syrian city.

Eastern Aleppo has been under government siege for more than four months, with international aid stocks exhausted and food supplies running low.

Rycroft said the council would discuss plans for the UN to deliver much-needed food and medicine into Aleppo and evacuate the sick and wounded.

“Russia complained that the opposition had not agreed to this plan. Now they have, so I call on Russia to make sure the Syrian regime agrees,” Rycroft said.

“The future of Aleppo is in the hands of the regime and Russia, and we urge the regime and Russia to stop the bombing and let the aid go through.”

The Syrian conflict started as a largely unarmed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in March 2011. It has since morphed into a full-on civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands.

The UN refugee agency has registered more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting, while another 6.1 million people are internally displaced within the country’s borders.

UN: Rohingya may be enduring ‘crimes against humanity’

Bangladesh turns away Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar crackdown as the UN decries “pattern of violations”.

Hundreds of thousands live in camps in Bangladesh [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Hundreds of thousands live in camps in Bangladesh [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

by Al Jazeera

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims may be victims of crimes against humanity, the United Nation’s rights agency has said, as former UN chief Kofi Annan arrived to the country for a visit that will include a trip to the conflict-ravaged region of Rakhine.

The army has carried out a bloody crackdown in the western state and thousands of the Muslim minority have flooded over the border into Bangladesh this month, making horrifying claims of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of security forces.

Some 30,000 have fled their homes and analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found that hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, saying the army is hunting “terrorists” behind raids on police posts last month.

The government has lashed out at media reports of rapes and killings, and lodged a protest over a UN official in Bangladesh who said the state was carrying out “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya.

Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from a camp for displaced people in Myanmar’s Sittwe, said human rights investigators and journalists have been blocked from accessing the areas where massacres are alleged to have happened.

“The Myanmar government has denied that these allegations of abuse have happened, but at the same time, they haven’t been giving people access to these areas,” she said.

“Many people we’ve spoken to say they aren’t very hopeful that the [UN] commission will be able to acheive anything.”

On Tuesday, the UN human rights agency said Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya could be tantamount to crimes against humanity, reiterating the findings of a June report.

Eight boats attempting to cross the Naf River separating Rakhine from southern Bangladesh were pushed back on Monday after six were refused entry on Sunday, Colonel Abuzar Al Zahid, the head of the border guards in the Bangladeshi frontier town of Teknaf, told AFP.

Dhaka says thousands more are massed on the border, but has refused urgent international appeals to let them in, instead calling on Myanmar to do more to stop people fleeing.

In the past two weeks, Bangladeshi border guards have prevented more than 1,000 Rohingya, including many women and children, from entering the country by boat, officials told AFP.

More than 120,000 Rohingya have been crammed into displacement camps since sectarian violence kicked off in 2012, where they are denied citizenship, healthcare and education and their movements are heavily curbed.

‘Pattern of violations’

“The government has largely failed to act on the recommendations made in a report by the UN Human Rights Office… (that) raised the possibility that the pattern of violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity,” the UN human rights agency said in a statement.

Amid the mounting crisis, former UN chief Kofi Annan on Tuesday began a week-long visit to Myanmar that will include a trip to northern Rakhine

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi in August appointed her fellow Nobel laureate to head a special commission to investigate how to mend bitter religious and ethnic divides that split the impoverished state.

Annan has expressed “deep concern” over the violence in Rakhine, which has seen thousands of Muslims take to the streets across Asia in protest.

But Aye Lwin, a Muslim member of the Rakhine commission, defended Suu Kyi’s handling of the crisis.

“What she has inherited is a dump of rubbish, a junk yard,” he told AFP, pointing out the army retains control of security and defence under a constitution written under the former junta.

“Her hands are tied – she can’t do anything. What she is doing is trying to talk and negotiate and build trust” with the army, he added.

Kohli vaults to career best No.3 spot in ICC Test rankings

Virat Kohli

Dubai: After leading India to an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-match Test rubber against England, skipper Virat Kohli on Wednesday vaulted to a career best third spot in the latest International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings for Test batsmen released here.

The 28-year-old Kohli, who scored 62 and six not out to help India crush England by 8 wickets in the third Test against England at Mohali, moved to 833 points, within 14 points of second-ranked England’s Joe Root in a list led by Australia captain Steve Smith.

Starting the series in 15th position, Kohli has risen at a fast pace scoring 405 runs in the three Tests against England, according to an ICC release.

Kohli, who is top-ranked in Twenty20 internationals and second in One-Day Internationals, looks determined to top the table in Tests, the only format in which he has never been top-ranked.

The remaining two Tests provide more opportunity to Kohli, who had led India to victory in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia in 2008.

England’s Jonny Bairstow has also reached a career best ranking of 9th — a leap of three places with knocks of 89 and 15 while Australia opener Usman Khawaja has moved up nine places to 19th after a match-winning knock of 145 that helped Australia win the day-night final Test against South Africa in Adelaide by seven wickets.

For South Africa, Faf du Plessis’s innings of 118 not out and 12 have helped him move up eight positions to 23rd rank while opener Stephen Cook has moved up 30 places to a career best 44th position after scoring 40 and 104 in Adelaide.

New Zealander Ross Taylor has moved up four places to take the 18th slot after scores of 37 and 102 not out in New Zealand’s 138 run victory over Pakistan in Hamilton.

In the ICC rankings for Test bowlers, India’s Mohammad Shami has moved up two places to a career best 19th position in the list led by his teammate Ravichandran Ashwin.

Ashwin’s spin partner Ravindra Jadeja occupies the 7th spot.

Australia pace bowler Josh Hazlewood has moved into the top five for the first time in his career after taking six wickets in Adelaide. He has moved up four places to take fifth position.

Meanwhile, in the list of all-rounders, Jadeja has gained two slots to reach a career best fourth slot after scoring a crucial 90 in his only innings in Mohali.

Ashwin has consolidated his position at the top with 493 points, a tally not reached by anyone since retired South Africa player Jacques Kallis in 2008.


Printing works of Rs 500 currency notes shifted from Nasik and Dewas to Mysuru


Mumbai/Mysuru: Indian currency note printing units in Nasik and Dewas have stopped printing Rs 500 currency notes as there were mistakes found in the currency notes printed. Now, printing works have been shifted from those printing units to Reserve bank of India (RBI) owned currency note printing unit located in Mysuru.

Currency note printing unit at Nasik in Maharshtra and Dewas located in Madhya Pradesh. Both units come under Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India of union finance ministry. Printing capacities of both units was low and were capable to print only 50 lakh currency notes of Rs 500 currency notes per day through old machines. However, currency note printing unit located in Mysuru is competent to print 2 crore notes of Rs 500 currency notes a day.


Demonetisation despotic action, undermines trust: Amartya Sen


New Delhi: Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has called Modi government’s demonetisation move “despotic action that has struck at the root of economy based on trust”.

“It (demonetisation) undermines notes, it undermines bank accounts, it undermines the entire economy of trust. That is the sense in which it is despotic,” Sen told NDTV.

He further said his immediate point of view on demonetisation is on its economic aspect.

“It’s (demonetisation) a disaster on economy of trust. In the last 20 years, the country has been growing very fast. But it is all based on acceptance of each other’s word. By taking despotic action and saying we had promised but won’t fulfil our promise, you hit at the root of this,” Sen, also a Bharat Ratna awardee, said.

Noting that capitalism has many successes that have come from having trust in businesses, he said if a government promises in promissory note and breaks such promise, then it is a despotic act.

“I am not a great admirer of capitalism. On the other hand, capitalism has many successes… It’s despotic in the sense that if a government promises in promissory note that when given, we will give you this amount of compensation for it and to break such a promise is a despotic action,” Sen, who is currently Thomas W Lamont University Professor at Harvard University, said.

The demonetisation issue has also rocked Parliament as both Houses have been witnessing disruptions and adjournments due to noisy protests by Opposition parties for the past several days.


National anthem must be played before screening of films: Supreme Court

Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today directed that cinema halls across the country must play the national anthem before the screening of a film and people should stand up as a mark of respect.

The court also directed that the national flag should be shown on screen when the anthem is played. “People must feel this is my country and this is my motherland,” a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said while stressing that it is the duty of every citizen of the country to show respect to the national anthem and the flag.

“At the root of protocol for national anthem, is respect for national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism,” the bench said while directing the Centre that the order should be given effect in a week’s time and be circulated to all States and Union Territories through chief secretaries.

It also said no person should take commercial benefits by playing the anthem and that it should not be dramatised.

The apex court said the anthem should not be printed or displayed on undesirable objects, and also barred it from being played on variety shows and its abridged version anywhere.

Directing that its order be shown in electronic and print media and be followed in letter and spirit, the court said, “Time has come when people should feel they live in a nation” and “even in Shastras, nationalism was accepted.”

The court’s directions came on a PIL filed by Shyam Narayan Chouksey seeking directions that the national anthem should be played in cinema halls across the country before a film begins and proper norms and protocol be fixed regarding its playing and singing at official functions and the programmes where constitutional dignitaries are present.

The apex court had last month issued notice to the Centre asking it to specify what would constitute disrespect to the national anthem.


Pakistan’s new army chief takes command

Qamar Javed Bajwa takes control of army as tensions escalate with arch-rival India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan's army is the world's sixth largest in terms of active military personnel [EPA]

Pakistan’s army is the world’s sixth largest in terms of active military personnel [EPA]

by Al Jazeera

The new head of Pakistan’s military took command of the country’s armed forces on Tuesday amid rising tensions with India over disputed Kashmir and as ties with Afghanistan remain rocky.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa was installed at a ceremony in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, replacing General Raheel Sharif, who stepped down after completing his three-year term.

In his first comments after assuming charge of the country’s army, Bajwa called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute for the sake of regional stability.

But he also warned that any miscalculation on the part of India could be dangerous.

“I want to make it clear to India that taking our policy of constraint and patience as any sign of weakness will prove dangerous for itself,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said General Bajwa has inherited a complex set of problems with intensified ceasefire violations along the LoC, the de facto border dividing Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and tensions with Kabul.

“He is going to be very focused on what is happening on the LoC, and that he also has to deal with what is happening on the country’s western frontier with Afghanistan,” our correspondent said.

Bajwa was fourth in seniority on a list of five army generals sent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been little discussed before he was selected.

According to the constitution, the prime minister can pick any officer from the list forwarded to him by the Defense Ministry.

Observers believe Bajwa will offer further support to Sharif’s efforts to improve ties with Pakistan’s neighbours, including Afghanistan and India.

Pakistan’s relations with Kabul have soured amid allegations from Afghan officials that Islamabad is sheltering the Taliban, who have intensified attacks against the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Bajwa, who was commissioned in the 16 Baloch Regiment in October 1980, is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Canada, and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Amit Shah escaped prison only because Modi became PM: Siddaramaiah


Bengaluru: Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has hit back at BJP national president Amit Shah for calling his government the most corrupt in the country. He said Shah escaped going to jail in a murder case only because Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister.

On the sidelines of the event, Siddaramaiah alleged that “Shah barely escaped from the clutches of the CBI in a murder case. He would have been behind bars if Modi had failed to become the PM.”

Later, while addressing the OBC Ekta Morcha in Bengaluru, Siddaramaiah said, “People like Shah have no moral right to comment on mys government as he was addressing the gathering along with leaders who had gone to jail for corruption and another leader had a currency counting machine at his house.”

Siddaramaiah said defeat is certain for the BJP in the next parliamentary election since it had gone ahead with demonetization without making proper preparations and the common man was forced to face hardships.

Ridiculing BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa’s pledge to resolve the Cauvery and Mahadayi issues within 24 hours of assuming power, Siddaramaiah asked why he did not solve the Mahadayi issue when he was CM. “The Mahadayi tribunal was set up during his tenure but no step was taken to solve the issue. Now, he’s boasting of resolving it within 24 hours,” he said.


India beat England in 3rd Test, take 2-0 lead in series


Mohali: Parthiv Patel struck a whirlwind half-century as India thrashed England by eight wickets in the third Test at the Punjab Cricket Association I.S. Bindra Stadium here on Tuesday.

Patel stormed to 67 runs off 54 balls as India overhauled the 103-run target a short while after the tea break on the fourth day.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli remained unbeaten on six runs at the other end. Patel hit a boundary to overhaul the target as India finished at 104/2.

Pacer Chris Woakes and leg-spinner Adil Rashid bagged a wicket each for England.

India now lead the five-match Test series 2-0. The hosts had won the second Test in Visakhapatnam by 246 runs while the first match of the series had ended in a draw at Rajkot.

Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 78/4, England lost quick wickets to end their second innings at 236 runs.

Haseeb Hameed posted a half-century in difficult conditions to remain unbeaten on 59 and help take England past the 200-run mark.

The visitors were all out for 283 runs in their first innings while India had posted 417.


Plane carrying football team from Brazil crashes in Colombia

Players from Brazil’s Chapecoense and journalists among the dead as five people survive air disaster.

Only five people survived when a charter plane en route to Colombia went down in the mountains [Luis Noriega/EPA]

Only five people survived when a charter plane en route to Colombia went down in the mountains [Luis Noriega/EPA]

by Al Jazeera

A plane carrying players from a Brazilian football team headed to Colombia for a regional tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin’s airport, killing at least 76 people.

Police officials said that five passengers had survived, one died in hospital and that the rest of the passengers were killed in the crash.

The entire Chapocoense football team – and an accompanying entourage of staff – were among 72 passengers and nine crew on board the aircraft. Local reports said a large number of journalists were also on the plane.

Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said the flight crashed in a mountainous region.

“There have been heavy rains day in and day out in the last week or so,” he said. “That could have played a big role in the crash, but that is still unconfirmed.”

Medillin’s Mayor Federico Gutierrez said he was on his way to the region where the chartered aircraft was believed to have crashed shortly before midnight local time.

“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” he told Blu Radio.

It was not clear what caused the British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane to crash, but, as reported by Rampietti, Colombia had been hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms in recent hours.

Data from the website showed the plane circling before eventually disappearing south of Rio Negro. Medellin’s airport confirmed that the aircraft, which made a stop in Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense team from southern Brazil.

The team was scheduled to play on Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.

‘Completely devastated’

Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar, reporting from Brazil’s Sau Paolo, said the country was “completely devastated”.

“This team in particular had been a miracle team,” she said. “The mood has changed from total celebration – to the fact that the team was in the finals – to total sadness here hearing the news of the crash.”

A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed players, filled with enthusiasm, preparing for the flight earlier on Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.

The sister of defender Alan Ruschel, who local media reported was the first survivor taken to hospital, tweeted her relief.

“I love you BRO. You’re a warrior!” she said.

Ruschel had earlier posted images of his journey to Colombia on his Instagram account , including a photograph of he and his teammates onboard the plane.

Local reports said that goalkeeper  Marcos Danilo Padilha was another of the survivors, along with an unnamed air stewardess and a journalist.

After the incident, the team published an update on Facebook in which it said players, staff, journalists and guests were among those travelling with the club on the plane.

The team, from the small city of Chapeco, joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals last week by defeating Argentina’s legendary San Lorenzo squad.

Al Jazeera senior sports presenter Andy Richardson described the team as “a rare model of organisational success” that was “lauded as an example of how to run a club”.

He added: “They were seen as a real success story of the last three or four years in Brazilian football.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, CONMEBOL, the South American Football Federation, announced it had suspended all activities until further notice.

After news of the disaster broke, tributes poured in from the football community with teams and players from across the world offering condolences and tributes.

“Sad news to wake up to today,” Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney tweeted.