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Sudanese mark removal of al-Bashir with protest against army rule | Protests News

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The 2019 removal of the former leader is marked with demonstrations against last year’s military coup.

Khartoum, Sudan – Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets to commemorate the anniversary of mass unrest that led to the toppling of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, and to protest the military’s ongoing grip on power.

Rallies were held in Khartoum and outside the capital on Wednesday to mark the removal of al-Bashir and to express public anger at a military coup in October that derailed a two-year transition period to civilian rule in Sudan.

The economic situation in Sudan has deteriorated since the military’s power grab, with hyperinflation reaching 250 percent annually.

“We are going out today because we promised our martyrs [that we will] fulfil the civilian state,” protester Yousif Abdallah, 34, said.

“The civilian state, with its diversity, that … is what we are looking for at the moment,” said Abdallah, a member of Sudan’s activist “resistance committees” network that mobilised against al-Bashir’s rule.

Police reportedly fired tear gas at the protesters in Khartoum and the military’s headquarters in the capital was sealed off by soldiers, razor wire, and dozens of military vehicles.

In 2019, protesters had gathered for months at the headquarters and it is unclear whether activists will try to stage a new sit-in.

Hundreds of protesters were killed in a bloody crackdown by security forces in June 2019 when a large pro-democracy sit-in was organised against a military council that seized power after deposing al-Bashir.

Sudanese protesters take part in a rally on April 6
Sudanese protesters take part in a rally in the capital Khartoum [AFP]

Sajida al-Mubarak, a 22-year-old medical student, told Al Jazeera that she was protesting to say “no” to the military: “No to partnership and no to recognition of the army.”

“We will tell the army that they should go back to their barracks and leave politics to civilians,” she said.

While the resistance committees are accused by critics of being unrealistic in their demands, members of the activist networks say that they believe the military coup must be resisted.

“We can only continue resisting; whenever they repress us, we just resist,” said Mohamed Tahir, a spokesperson with the resistance committees in Khartoum State.

“It is whether to die for what you believe in or win,” he said.

In addition to the removal of al-Bashir following the 2019 protests, April 6 also marks the day in 1985 when Sudanese people took to the streets against former leader Gaafar Nimeiry, also forcing him from power.



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US urges probe, accountability for Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing | Israel-Palestine conflict News

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Washington, DC – The US State Department has renewed calls for a “thorough and transparent” investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot by Israeli forces last week, but stopped short of calling for an independent probe.

A day after the Israeli military said it will not launch a criminal inquiry into the incident, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday that Washington continues to call for a meaningful probe that will lead to accountability.

“Again, we’ve been clear that there must be a transparent and credible investigation of Ms. Abu Akleh’s killing and that any such investigation must include accountability,” he said.

The slain journalist was a US citizen.

Price did not address Israel’s refusal to conduct such an investigation. Last week, he said the Israeli government has the “wherewithal and the capabilities to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation” into the killing of Abu Akleh.

The administration of President Joe Biden had condemned the fatal shooting, but its expressed trust in an Israeli investigation into what happened has sparked anger and demands for an independent or US-led probe.

Earlier on Friday, 57 members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and FBI Director Christopher Wray urging US involvement in the investigation.

Signatories to the letter – all Democrats – include some vocal supporters of Israel as well as members of the progressive wing of the party.

“Given the tenuous situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we request the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launch an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death,” the letter reads.

“We also request the US Department of State determines whether any US laws protecting Ms. Abu Akleh, an American citizen, were violated.

“As an American, Ms. Abu Akleh was entitled to the full protections afforded to US citizens living abroad.”

The Pentagon on Friday appeared to rule out the US military’s participation in any investigation into the killing, saying that there is no indication of a need for such involvement.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Thursday, and a Pentagon readout describing their talks did not make any mention of Abu Akleh.

“The secretary [Austin] brought up the issue and they discussed it, and he welcomed the Israeli government’s willingness to investigate,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Friday, more than 24 hours after the Israeli military said it will not pursue a criminal investigation into the incident.

The killing of Abu Akleh in Jenin in the occupied West Bank has reignited calls for reassessing US military aid to Israel.

The Al Jazeera journalist is the second American citizen to be killed by Israeli forces this year. In January, 78-year-old Omar Assad suffered a stress-induced heart attack after he was arbitrarily arrested, bound, blindfolded and gagged by Israeli forces.

Israel receives $3.8bn in US military aid annually, and this year Washington added another $1bn in assistance to “replenish” Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system after the May 2021 Gaza conflict.

Late on Thursday, progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said US assistance should not fund human rights violations anywhere, including in Palestine.

“It’s really important for us to have eyes on what happened with Shireen Abu Akleh in Palestine. She was killed by Israeli forces – a venerated journalist, a US citizen,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a video broadcast on social media.

The congresswoman rejected accusations of singling out Israel for criticism, highlighting the role of US aid in the conflict.

“We can’t even get health care in the United States, and we’re funding this,” she said of rights abuses against Palestinians. “There has to be some sort of line that we draw; it has to stop at some point.”





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US, Taiwan trade officials discuss deepening relations | Politics News

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Meeting comes as US President Joe Biden began his first visit to Asia in push to show commitment to the region.

The United States’ top trade official has renewed efforts to deepen economic relations with Taiwan in a meeting with her Taiwanese counterpart, as Joe Biden began his first visit to Asia since taking office amid increasing competition with China.

In a statement on Friday, the office of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said she met with with Taiwan’s lead trade negotiator John Deng in Bangkok ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting.

“Ambassador Tai and Minister Deng directed their teams to explore concrete ways to deepen the US-Taiwan trade and investment relationship and to meet again in the coming weeks to discuss the path forward,” it said.

Such high-level meetings can increase tensions between the US and China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and is against any official exchanges between Taiwan’s government and other foreign governments.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been strained in recent months, particularly over China’s neutral public position on the war in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden has warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of “consequences” should China provide any support to Russia in its invasion, and senior members of the Biden administration have urged Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to end the war.

Last month, China also denounced a visit by a group of US legislators to Taipei, saying it was “deliberately provocative” and had “led to further escalation of tension in the Taiwan Strait”.

Six US legislators, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on that trip.

“With Taiwan producing 90 percent of the world’s high-end semiconductor products, it is a country of global significance, consequence and impact, and therefore it should be understood the security of Taiwan has a global impact,” Menendez told Tsai at that time.

The Biden administration has been trying to demonstrate that Washington remains focused on the Asia-Pacific as Beijing becomes an increasingly powerful player in the region.

Last week, Biden hosted a two-day summit with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the White House, pledging $150m on infrastructure, security and anti-pandemic efforts in the region.

On Friday, the US president began his first visit to Asia in South Korea, meeting the country’s newly sworn-in President Yoon Suk-yeol for the first time in person.

Biden said the future would be written in the region and now was the time for the US and like-minded partners to invest in each other.

“With today’s visit, I hope that Korea-US relations will be reborn as an economic and security alliance based on high-tech and supply chain cooperation,” said Yoon, urging Biden to provide incentives for South Korean and US businesses to invest in each other’s countries.



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Russia to cut gas supplies to Finland on Saturday: Gasum | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Finnish state-owned gas company says Russian cutoff, which follows application to join NATO, will not affect supply.

Russia will cut flows of natural gas to Finland on Saturday, Finnish state-owned energy wholesaler Gasum has said.

Gasum said on Friday that it had been informed by Russia’s state-owned energy corporation Gazprom that flows would be halted.

The Finnish company said the move by Russia would not cause disruptions in supplies.

The gas cutoff – which is scheduled to take place at 04:00 GMT on Saturday – comes in the wake of Finland and Sweden applying to join the NATO military alliance amid security concerns spurred by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted,” Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.

“However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation and provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months,” he said.

Payments for Russian gas have become an issue since Moscow demanded that foreign buyers start paying for supplies in roubles, and Russia cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for refusing to do so.

Gazprom Export demanded in April that future payments in the supply contract to Finland be made in roubles instead of euros, but Gasum rejected the demand and announced on Tuesday it was taking the issue to arbitration.

 

Gasum said it will continue to provide Finnish customers with natural gas through the Balticconnector pipeline that connects Finland with Estonia.

Earlier on Friday, Finland announced a 10-year agreement with US-based Excelerate Energy to lease a floating storage and delivery vessel to provide liquefied natural gas to the region.

While the majority of gas used in Finland comes from Russia, the fossil fuel only accounts for between five to eight percent of the country’s annual energy consumption.

‘Far-reaching consequences’

Gazprom did not immediately comment on the cutting of gas supplies to Finland, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while Moscow did not have detailed information regarding Gazprom’s supply contracts, “obviously nothing will be supplied to anyone for free”.

On Sunday, RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of Russian state energy holding Inter RAO, cut off electricity supply to Fingrid, Finland’s electricity grid operator, citing concerns over payment. Fingrid said the reduced power supply would be compensated for with increased domestic output and imports from Sweden.

Finland and Sweden on Thursday broke their historic policies of neutrality and officially applied to join NATO, although their joint application will need to overcome opposition from Turkey.

Moscow has repeatedly warned Finland, which shares a 1,340km (830 mile) border with Russia, of “far-reaching consequences” in response to its bid to join the military bloc.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Friday that Moscow would establish 12 new military units and divisions in the western region of the country, citing the possible expansion of NATO and other emerging military threats.



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