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Rwanda’s Supreme Court has upheld a law that says defaming the president is illegal, but it says drawing cartoons or producing writing that “humiliates” a government official is no longer a crime.

The Rwanda Journalists Association had challenged parts of the penal code that criminalized the publishing of such cartoons with punishment of up to four years in prison.

A three-judge panel decided the provisions contravene freedom of expression.

The association’s executive secretary, Gonza Muganwa, welcomed the ruling, telling The Associated Press it removes a major obstacle to press freedom in the East African nation.

Defaming the president remains illegal, with a punishment of five to seven years in prison and a fine.

Source: Fox News World

The organizers of the protests that drove Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir from power are delaying their announcement of a transitional civilian government as they hold new negotiations with the ruling military council.

The protesters suspended talks with the military last weekend, saying key figures in the council were too close to al-Bashir. But on Wednesday they resumed negotiations, and three members of the council resigned from their posts, apparently in response the protesters’ demands.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the protests, had planned to announce a transitional civilian government at a mass rally on Thursday. But Ahmed Rabie, a senior member of the group, says it will delay the announcement and instead focus on forming different committees to hold talks with the military.

Source: Fox News World

A deadly attack left 11 dead and 30 wounded after a disgruntled police officer drove his truck into a group of children in yet another Easter tragedy, this time in Gombe, Nigeria.

Earlier this month, Islamist militants massacred 17 Christians and injured eight in an attack on a church in Nasarawa state. The attack occurred during an infant dedication when armed militants opened fire in the church, killing the baby’s mother and several children.

These tragic events come just as the terrorist attack in Sri Lanka highlights the dangers that remain from asymmetric terrorism and violence against Christians in ethnically and religiously divided societies.

“There are some similarities between violence in Sri Lanka and Nigeria,” Professor Max Abrahms, a terrorism expert at Northeastern University, told Fox News. “Both have experienced substantial political violence which has traditionally been nationalist but has increasingly been infused with more narrowly religious-motivated extremist attacks.”

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Nigeria, often overlooked by U.S. policymakers usually more concerned with the Middle East, Russia and Europe, is home to one of the world’s most deadly Islamic terror groups.

The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million people are internally displaced from Boko Haram’s insurgency and the group has killed more than 15,200 people since 2011, according to some estimates.

The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million people are internally displaced from Boko Haram’s insurgency and the group has killed more than 15,200 people since 2011, according to some estimates. (YouTube)

Boko Haram is looking to transform Nigeria into an Islamic state based on Sharia law. The group also declared its allegiance to ISIS in 2015 with one branch called the Islamic State West African Province. U.S. intelligence estimates that Boko Haram commands between 4,000 and 6,000 dedicated militants who have attacked schools, burned down entire villages, and abducted hundreds of people in their brutal campaign of terror across Nigeria.

The United Nations estimates that 1.7 million people are internally displaced from Boko Haram’s insurgency and the group has killed more than 15,200 people since 2011, according to some estimates.

Although Nigerian security forces have made inroads in stemming the violence from Boko Haram, the insurgency remains a threat to Nigerians.

“The group, which has now split into two factions (one of which is recognized as a branch of the Islamic State) has been gaining momentum against Nigerian security forces — which have been hampered by corruption and low morale — and conducting increasingly deadly attacks in Northeastern states,” Thomas Abi Hanna, Global Security Analyst at Stratfor told Fox News.

Violence in Nigeria, and against Christians, has risen in recent months, with at least 280 people from Christian communities killed by Fulani militants throughout Nigeria between February and March 2019. It’s not clear to what extent the deadly violence is due to religious affiliations, but the uptick does highlight the growing concern within Nigeria’s Christian communities.

“Religion is not necessarily the primary driver of attacks on Christians though, as there are also ethnic, political, territorial disputes and other factors which contribute to these tensions,” Hanna explained. “Attacks related to any of these issues can feed into one another and exacerbate ongoing tensions across the board.”

Nigeria is divided between a Muslim majority north and a Christian majority south. Because of this religiously-based geographic separation, the country’s political parties formed an unwritten power-sharing agreement during the transition to democracy in 1999 that major offices, most notably the president and vice president, should rotate between the north and the south.

OFF-DUTY NIGERIAN POLICE OFFICER PLOWS INTO CROWD AT EASTER CELEBRATION, KILLING 8 AND INJURING 30

Abubakar Shekau, from a November 2018 propaganda video; he is understood to control one of the two factions of Boko Haram that split in 2016.

Abubakar Shekau, from a November 2018 propaganda video; he is understood to control one of the two factions of Boko Haram that split in 2016.

However, this arrangement can lead to heightened tensions as it did in 2009, when then-President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim, died, allowing his southern Christian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to become president. The north’s opportunity in power was cut short and the swap led to mass electoral violence with the death of 800 people once Jonathan was re-elected in 2011.

Nigeria is also one of Africa’s poorest countries, despite its vast natural resource wealth, making it ripe for terrorist and other insurgent groups to fill the vacuum left by a government that fails to meet the needs of its people.

Not only is Islamist terror a major concern for Nigerians, violence between herders and farmers has eclipsed the threat posed by Boko Haram and has killed more people than the Islamist insurgency while also increasing the north-south religious divide.

SRI LANKA’S LEADER CALLS FOR OFFICIALS’ FIRINGS AS EASTER SUICIDE BOMBERS REVEALED TO BE ‘WELL-EDUCATED PEOPLE’ WHO STUDIED ABROAD

“Christians have been targeted in attacks related to both of these ongoing conflicts which have killed and injured thousands, displaced hundreds of thousands, and become a major political issue,” Hanna said.

The conflict is intertwined with Nigeria’s underlying ethnic, religious, political and territorial disputes, as the herders are nomadic and from the Muslim north while the farmers are mainly Christians.

Deadly clashes over land and resources killed more than 2,000 people in 2018, according to a report by Amnesty International. A massive population boom in Nigeria along with the effects of climate change dried up grazing land, forcing herders and farmers into extremely close quarters with tensions rising due to resource scarcity.

The ongoing farmer-herdsman crisis has sharpened ethnic and religious tensions and increased political polarization in Nigeria. The Nigerian government and security forces have struggled to solve political disputes over land while the security forces have been unable to contain extremist violence.

A State Department spokesperson told Fox News: “In public and private messaging, we have urged the Nigerian government, and community and religious leaders, to work together for an immediate end to violence, the swift and voluntary return of members of displaced communities, and for perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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“U.S. Mission staff, including Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, have traveled to the affected states to engage with government officials, religious and traditional leaders, and civil society.”

Source: Fox News World

Italy’s government has written to the European Union asking it to prepare a plan of action to address the risk of a new wave of migrants escaping from the armed conflict in Libya.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero spoke on Wednesday at a joint news conference in Rome after meeting with the United Nation envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame. Moavero didn’t provide additional details on Italy’s request.

Italy’s anti-immigration Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has ordered that migrant rescue boats cannot enter Italian ports.

Salame downplayed Italy’s fears that a huge number of African refugees could leave Libya trying to reach Europe.

“We know that about 700,000 migrants are in our country now, but not even a minority of them wants to cross the Mediterranean,” Salame told journalists.

Source: Fox News World

An Egyptian court has sentenced two monks to death for killing an abbot in a desert monastery north of Cairo last year.

The Damanhur Criminal Court, north of Cairo, announced the verdict Wednesday for two defrocked monks identified as Isaiah and Faltaous. They can appeal.

The two were convicted of killing of Bishop Epiphanius, an abbot at St. Macarius Monastery built in the 4th century, in July.

The abbot’s shocking death shook Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest in the world and the one that gave monasticism to the faith.

Following Epiphanius’ death, the church took measures aimed at instilling discipline into monastic life. Among them was a halt in admitting novices to monasteries nationwide for a year.

Source: Fox News World

The fighting in Libya’s capital has reached a detention center holding hundreds of detained migrants and refugees, the U.N. said Tuesday.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the U.N. aid agency has received reports that the Qasr Ben Ghashir detention center, holding some 890 refugees and migrants, was “breached by armed actors.” The facility is 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) south of central Tripoli.

The U.N. says some 3,600 refugees and migrants are held in facilities near the front lines of fighting between the self-styled Libyan National Army and other heavily-armed militias. Five detention centers are in areas already engulfed by fighting, while six more are in close proximity to the clashes.

“The situation in these detention centres is increasingly desperate, with reports of guards abandoning their posts and leaving people trapped inside,” Dujarric said, adding that one facility has been without drinking water for days.

Libya became a major conduit for African migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe after the uprising that toppled and killed Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Thousands have been detained by armed groups and smugglers.

The latest fighting in Libya pits the LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, against rival militias allied with a weak, U.N.-supported government. The World Health Organization says the fighting has killed more than 270 people, including civilians, and wounded nearly 1,300. It says more than 30,000 people have been displaced.

Source: Fox News World

Egypt’s election commission says voters have approved constitutional amendments allowing President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030.

The referendum was widely seen as another step toward restoring authoritarian rule eight years after a pro-democracy uprising that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the commission, said Tuesday the amendments were approved with 88.83% voting in favor. The turnout was 44.33% of eligible voters. The nationwide referendum took place over three days, from Saturday through Monday to maximize turnout.

Pro-government media, business people and lawmakers had pushed for a “Yes” vote and a high turnout, offering incentives while authorities threatened to fine anyone boycotting the three-day voting.

Authorities have waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent since el-Sissi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

Source: Fox News World

Uganda’s government has taken delivery of two new passenger jets in a bid to revive the national carrier that collapsed years ago.

Uganda Airlines is set to begin operations in June. It will fly to regional destinations at first.

Fanfare marked the arrival on Tuesday of two jets from Canadian aerospace company Bombardier at the Entebbe International Airport. Two more Bombardier jets have been ordered, as well as two Airbus planes.

The old Uganda Airlines collapsed in 2001 amid alleged mismanagement. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is championing the revamped airline as a symbol of national pride, calling it “a new baby.”

Authorities acknowledge challenges ahead but hope Uganda Airlines will survive as the East African nation becomes an oil producer.

Source: Fox News World

Sudanese activists are calling for nationwide protests to press the military to hand over power to a civilian authority after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.

Railway workers and other protesters are gathering in Atbara, the northern transport hub where the uprising began in December, and will travel by train to the capital, Khartoum.

The call by the Sudanese Professionals Association comes amid heightened tensions with the military council that seized power earlier this month. The protesters have called for an immediate move to civilian rule and say they will announce their own transitional council on Thursday.

The SPA has also vowed to maintain a mass sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, after the military called for the reopening of roads and the removal of barricades.

Source: Fox News World

The deadly Easter attacks in Sri Lanka are a bloody echo of decades past in the South Asian island nation, when militants inspired by attacks in the Lebanese civil war helped develop the suicide bomb vest.

Government ministers have said seven Sri Lankans from a little-known local group carried out the six near-simultaneous bombings at churches and hotels that killed at least 290 people and wounded over 500. While little else was known about the group or their motives, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger fighters used suicide bombing in the country’s 26-year civil war before being wiped out by government forces.

Similar bombs would then detonate across Israel, wielded by Palestinian militants, and later across the wider Middle East, Africa and Europe by Islamic extremists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Such attacks strike fear around the world because of their indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, like those eating breakfast at a hotel or worshipping in a church on Easter. Sunday’s assault also raises questions about whether the perpetrators had help or experience from abroad.

“I call today the age of the suicide bomber. This is very much a time of extreme acts that have to, in a way, usurp the previous attacks,” said Iain Overton, executive director of the London-based group Action on Armed Violence who wrote a book on suicide bombings. “They have to be much more devastating, more impactful, more hurtful, to get as much media headlines as possible.”

Experts put the first modern suicide bombing in 1881, when a radical killed Tsar Alexander II of Russia. What may be the first photographs of a suicide bomb vest came in the 1930s when China used them in its war against Imperial Japan around World War II. Japanese kamikaze pilots turned their own planes into weapons.

But the shock of the suicide bomber only struck the minds of many in the West in the 1980s with Lebanon’s bloody civil war. Suicide truck bomb attacks struck both the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people, and later a U.S. Marine barracks, killing 231 American troops in the bloodiest day for the armed forces since World War II. The U.S. later would blame the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which formed out of Lebanon’s civil war, and Iran for the bombings. Both deny involvement.

At that time, however, a small contingent of Tamil fighters was receiving weapons training in Lebanon and took what they learned back to Sri Lanka, Overton said. Their first suicide attack in 1987, in which a bomb-laden truck drove into a Sri Lankan army barracks and killed 55, resembled the U.S. Marine barracks attack.

Over nearly 30 years of civil war, the Tamil Tigers would launch more than 130 suicide bomb attacks, making them the leading militant group in such assaults at the time. They killed a Sri Lankan prime minister and a former Indian prime minister among others, including bystanders. The war ultimately ended in 2009 with the government crushing the Tamil Tigers, with some observers believing that tens of thousands of Tamils died in the last few months of fighting alone.

But while the Tamils were secular nationalists, Islamic extremists in the Middle East would embrace the suicide bomb as a weapon. By the 1990s, Palestinian militants from both Hamas and Fatah would use suicide bombs against Israel. Then al-Qaida under Osama bin Laden would employ them against U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and later against the USS Cole off Yemen.

Then came Sept. 11 and the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Up until then, there were some 350 suicide attacks worldwide from 1980, said Robert A. Pape, a political science professor at the University of Chicago who directs its Chicago Project on Security and Threats.

The U.S. war in Iraq followed, which fueled bloody sectarian violence that put it on the brink of civil war. Suicide bombers pounded the country. An al-Qaida branch there would morph into the Islamic State group, which would launch its own suicide attacks around the world.

Today, the number of suicide attacks since 1980 is around 6,000, Pape said, with around half in Iraq and Syria alone.

“When we invaded and conquered Iraq, we touched off the largest suicide terrorist campaign in modern times,” he said.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local Islamic group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, for the Easter attacks. However, there is no recent history of Muslim extremist attacks in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist island nation off the southern tip of India. Nor was there any explanation for how a group previously not known for violence could engineer such a massive attack, which experts said resembled an assault by the Islamic State group or al-Qaida.

“What they are seeking to push is this ISIS mantra, which is ‘We love death more than they love life,'” Overton said, using an alternate acronym for the militants. “It is the icon of a death cult.”

Since the Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once held across Iraq and Syria, there’s been more concern among nations about foreign fighters returning home. Sri Lanka’s justice minister told parliament in 2016 that 32 Muslims from “well-educated and elite” families had joined the Islamic State group in Syria. It’s unclear what happened to them.

“There weren’t many, but there don’t have to be many,” Pape said.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap

Source: Fox News World


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