KANO: A “ghost town” of burnt-out homes and looted properties greeted residents returning to Gamboru in northeast Nigeria for the first time since Chadian forces retook it from Boko Haram. Scores of people crossed the 300-metre bridge that forms the border with Cameroon under military escort on Friday to survey the ravaged town. Boko Haram seized Gamboru, in the violencewracked Borno state, in August last year, forcing thousands to flee across the frontier to the town of Fotokol, on the other bank of the river in northern Cameroon.
Chadian forces, who have joined the regional fight to crush the Islamist insurgency, retook Gamboru earlier this month, after intense fighting that left hundreds of insurgents dead. “We met a ghost town strewn with burnt vehicles, destroyed buildings and emptied homes,” Kachalla Moduye said by telephone from Fotokol after a two-hour tour of the town. “Many homes were burnt in the Boko Haram invasion and in the fighting to reclaim it by Chadian soldiers. Those that were spared were looted by Boko Haram in the five months they stayed in the town.”
Gamboru has been repeatedly targeted in the bitter conflict, which has left more than 13,000 people dead since 2009 and made more than one million homeless. It was the first town recaptured in the regional fight-back by troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which was launched because of dawning fears of Boko Haram’s threat to regional security. Gamboru residents who hoped to salvage personal effects were disappointed as they found their homes empty.
“There was nothing in my house save the three wooden beds and my old cushion chairs. Every other item was stolen,” Fanna Bukar, a mother-ofthree, said. “Even my sewing machine, which I so much looked forward to salvaging, was gone.” But even though their possessions were gone, locals said the tour was reassuring. “Seeing is believing. We are now convinced our town has been liberated and we hope to come back and rebuild our lives once Boko Haram is finally wiped out,” Moduye said. “I’m sure we will return soon to start a new life,” Bukar added.
‘Seeing is believing’
Boko Haram fighters meanwhile prevented hundreds of residents from leaving a dozen villages in the nearby Marte district due west from Gamboru, as Chad conducted sweeping aerial and ground attacks. The villages affected were Kwalaram, Bukar-Mairam, Abbaganaram, Sidir, Kirta, Jibillaram, Zannari, Kutukungulla, Baranga, Kitikime, Krenuwa and Jillam. “They will not allow everyone to leave and threaten to kill anyone that attempts to flee,” Maji Zaram, who escaped from Kitikime to Fotokol, said. Zaram said he pretended he was going into the bush to gather firewood but escaped and threw away his axe.
“They (Boko Haram) said we must stay with them in good and in bad times,” he added. “They said we can’t leave them after partaking in all the booty they brought to us.” Chadian troops this week pushed deep inside Nigerian territory for the first time, bombarding Dikwa, 50 kilometers from Gamboru to the southwest, near Boko Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold. Nigeria’s military also said they attacked Sambisa Forest and Gwoza, where the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, first proclaimed the existence of an Islamic state inside Nigeria last year.
Maji Ariye, a Nigerian refugee in Fotokol, said the villagers were “reaping what they sow”, as many had decided to stay voluntarily when Boko Haram moved in. They said they would rather live under Boko Haram because the militants were bringing in free food and other consumables from raids elsewhere, he claimed. “Now that the table has turned against their benefactors they want to leave,” he said. “I warned several people to leave because when soldiers deployed there would be no hiding place for them but they refused to listen.”— AFP
FRANKFURT: American and British spies hacked into systems of the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards, allowing them to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile phone users around the world, an investigative news website reported.
The alleged hacking of Gemalto’s systems, if confirmed, would expand the scope of known mass surveillance methods available to the US and British spy agencies to include not just email and web traffic, as previously revealed, but also mobile phone communications.
The Franco-Dutch company said on Friday it was investigating whether the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ had hacked into its systems to steal encryption keys that could unlock the security settings on billions of mobile phones.
The report by The Intercept site, which cites documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, could prove an embarrassment for the US and British governments.
It opens a fresh front in the dispute between civil liberties campaigners and intelligence services which say their citizens face a grave threat of attack from militant groups like Islamic State.
It comes just weeks after a British tribunal ruled that GCHQ had acted unlawfully in accessing data on millions of people in Britain that had been collected by the NSA.
A spokesman for GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) said on Friday that it did not comment on intelligence matters. The NSA could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Intercept report (http://bit.ly/19E0KUK) said the hack was detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document and allowed the NSA and GCHQ to monitor a large portion of voice and data mobile communications around the world without permission from governments, telecom companies or users.
“We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques,” said Gemalto, whose shares sunk by as much as 10 per cent in early trading on Friday, following the report.
The report follows revelations from Mr Snowden in 2013 of the NSA’s Prism programme which allowed the agency to access email and web data handled by the world’s largest Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
The new allegations could boost efforts by major technology firms such as Apple Inc and Google to make strong encryption methods standard in communications devices they sell, moves attacked by some politicians and security officials.
Leaders including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such encryption into a mass-market feature could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.
Gemalto makes SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards for phones and tablets as well as “chip and pin” bank cards and biometric passports. It produces around two billion SIM cards a year and counts Verizon, AT&T Inc and Vodafone among hundreds of wireless network provider customers.
The Intercept, published by First Look Media, was founded by the journalists who first interviewed Mr Snowden and made headlines around the world with reports on US electronic surveillance programmes.
It published what it said was a secret GCHQ document that said its staff implanted software to monitor Gemalto’s entire network, giving them access to SIM card encryption keys. The report suggested this gave GCHQ, with the backing of the NSA, unlimited access to phone communications using Gemalto SIMs.
French bank Mirabaud said in a research report the attacks appeared to be limited to 2010 and 2011 and were aimed only at older 2G phones widely used in emerging markets, rather than modern smartphones. It did not name the source of these assertions.
Some analysts argue that if a highly security-conscious company like Gemalto is vulnerable, then all of its competitors are as well. Gemalto competes with several European and Chinese SIM card suppliers.
KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday saluted Pakistan’s cooperation as Kabul seeks to lay the groundwork for peace with Taliban insurgents, the latest sign of improving ties between the two countries.
Afghanistan “appreciates Pakistan’s recent efforts in paving the ground for peace and reconciliation”, Mr Ghani said in a statement. “We welcome the recent position Pakistan has taken in pronouncing Afghanistan’s enemy as Pakistan’s.”
He cited two major recent attacks as helping to bring the countries closer together — one in Yahya Khel in Afghanistan in November that left nearly 50 people dead, and the Taliban massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar in December that killed 153, mostly children.
Mr Ghani’s statement came after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said on Thursday that relations between the two countries had never been better.
“I think Afghanistan and Pakistan, working in close hands and in close cooperation, it will do wonders for cooperation in the field of counterterrorism,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said as he met top US diplomat John Kerry in Washington. “Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have never been better, and that is a very, very positive development.”
President Ghani also spoke after Taliban ‘commanders’ said the militants would soon restart contacts with US officials in Qatar to try to get peace talks on track after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan.
The US and the Taliban’s main spokesman later denied the claims, however.
There have been several attempts at starting dialogue in recent years between the Taliban, Kabul and the United States — the Afghan government’s chief supporter — but with little success.
Last year’s election of Mr Ghani, who pledged to make peace talks a priority, as well as supportive signals from Pakistan, which has long held significant influence with the Taliban, have however boosted hopes for possible dialogue.
“Ghani has done good work to promote a dialogue for peace,” one Taliban leader said. Another said his recent talks with tribal chiefs had led to progress.
Mr Ghani, however, said in his statement that “there are obviously elements opposing the peace process by spreading false information to cause public confusion and anxiety”.
This time last year was when I first started my journey with social media. I was never into any social media network before having my Instagram, I think I registered for an email when I enrolled in university to start emailing assignments and researches.
I wasn’t the most “social” person, I can say. I started off my Instagram for the reason that I loved taking selfies, pictures of make-up products I used and many more things that I liked to share. It was never planned, and I definitely had no idea whatsoever that social media existed in Kuwait, and not only did it exist, it had become an industry. At the time I was going to different make up workshops, to learn more about techniques, tricks and tips to help me more with my make-up and how to apply make-up on other people. I loved it. Before make up, I used to paint. Not a lot of people know this about me, and I would never come off as an “artist”, my mum till this day tells me off for not going forward with it.
However, I loved understanding women’s features and how to play around with the lighting and all, a lot like make up! Going to university and seeing all the girls dolled up somehow inspired me to start putting on make up. I really started loving it when girls started complimenting my eyeliner, and asking what products I used.
As time passed by, I started loving Instagram more and more, and it was when I reached 11k followers on Instagram that I was approached by Ghaliah Technology, which happens to be one of the main social media agencies in Kuwait. Keep in mind I had no idea what I was called in for, I was expecting a job offer, well it sort of was.
More opportunities I signed with Ghaliah Technology an exclusive contract, which meant that they would get me, deals for me to promote certain brands, stores and restaurants. At the time it sounded awesome, and it was something new to me so I thought, why not? It’s all about the experience! Four months went by, I went from 11k to 100k and things changed a lot. What I mean by changed, is that I was getting more known, I had different offers coming in and I then had a goal, or more of an image, that I wanted for myself, and so that’s when I decided to leave Ghaliah Technology, and not be exclusive with them, just for the fact that I’d like to do more things on my own.
Leaving Ghaliah Tech was a very difficult decision for me to take. I thought to myself I have a full-time job (at the time I was working at a university, in which I wanted to teach) and “TheRealFouz” was doing good so why stop there when there was so much potential and more opportunities? Leaving was hard as I thought that I would fail after leaving the agency. Turns out, I was more confident and accurate with whatever decision I took, because I worked so hard trying to brand myself and have a certain image that I really wanted to keep, which was trying to show how girls in The Middle East are beautiful, simple, and stylish.
Bullying and negativity
We’ve been told many times how we overdo it, which is true sometimes, but there is a whole other “category” of girls who are just fabulous from head-to-toe! Advertising and promoting isn’t what social media is all about, however, anyone with a large number of followers wouldn’t mind promoting something that they like or see themselves doing, but I definitely am against promoting negativity, bullying and any negativity through any network and anywhere not only on social media. Many people ask me how I deal with negativity, the only way you can deal with it is when you just don’t deal with it. Ever since, it has been a one-man army. I accept and reject bookings, reply to emails and running around by myself. I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work. Social media is a part of my life, not my entire life. Maybe that’s why I’m still sane, well I hope I still am. I have a job; will be owning a personal business and social media is the icing on top.
Till next week beauts! xo
TAIPEI: At least 25 people were killed yesterday when a passenger plane operated by TransAsia Airways clipped an overpass soon after take-off and plunged into a river in Taiwan, the airline's second crash in seven months. As the rescue operation continued into the night, a crane lifted the rear and central sections of the plane from the water, with one body retrieved from inside. The front part, where 17 people are believed to be trapped, was still in the water.
TransAsia said 16 survivors had been pulled out of the wreckage after the turboprop plane crashed with 58 people onboard. Many of the passengers were mainland Chinese tourists. Cold weather, poor visibility and rising water levels were hampering the rescue, officials said, admitting they were now "not optimistic" about finding survivors. Dramatic amateur video footage showed the TransAsia ATR 72-600 hit an elevated road as it banked sidelong towards the Keelung River, leaving a trail of debris including a smashed taxi. "I saw a taxi, probably just metres ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane. The plane was huge and really close to me. I'm still trembling," one witness told TVBS news channel.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw bodies being pulled from the wreckage into the early evening. Desperate crew members shouted "Mayday! Mayday! Engine flameout!" as the plane plunged out of the sky, according to a recording thought to be the final message from the cockpit to the control tower, played on local television. Aviation officials said they had not released the cockpit recording, suggesting it may have come from amateurs monitoring the radio. "An engine flameout refers to the engine shutting down in flight," said
Daniel Tsang, founder of Hong Kong-based aviation consultancy Aspire Aviation. "The engine stops producing thrust and the combustion process fails and no longer generates any forward propulsion to the aeroplane." But Tsang told AFP that pilots were "very well trained" to deal with the failure of one engine and the causes of the accident were likely to be more complex. It was the second fatal crash involving a TransAsia Airways plane within a few months. A flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm, killing 48 people.
Wednesday's accident happened just before 11:00 am (0300 GMT), shortly after Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen with 53 passengers and five crew on board. Six airline officials, including chief executive Peter Chen, bowed in apology at a televised press conference. "We would like to convey our apologies to the families (of the victims) and we'd also like to voice huge thanks to rescuers who have been racing against time," said Chen.
In a statement later yesterday, the airline said that 25 were confirmed dead, with 16 survivors. Those missing are thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane. "As it has been a while and the weather is cold, things are not optimistic, but rescuers will do everything to find and rescue the remaining missing people," said Lin Kuan-cheng from the National Fire Agency. "Rising water levels and poor visibility underwater has made the work very difficult," added senior rescue official Wu Chun-hung.
There has been no official comment on the cause of the crash, but the black boxes have been retrieved from the French-made aircraft. France's civil aviation body said yesterday two of its investigators and four from plane manufacturer ATR were being dispatched to assist Taiwanese authorities with their enquiries.
Rescue boats remained in the water late yesterday, where the remaining front section of the plane is completely submerged. Rescuers with flashlights scoured through the rear and central parts of the plane after they were brought to shore by crane. Earlier in the day survivors had been ferried to safety in dinghies as rescuers tried to pull people out with ropes. China's Xiamen Daily said on its social media account that the 31 mainlanders on board were part of two tour groups from the eastern Chinese city. One tour guide now confirmed dead, named as Wang Qinghuo, had been due to marry on Sunday, it added.
Xiamen is in Fujian province, across the Taiwan Strait from the island. An employee of one of the tour agencies, surnamed Wen, told AFP that it had 15 clients onboard, including three children under 10. The rest of the passengers and crew were Taiwanese, according to the airline. Aviation officials said the plane crashed minutes after taking off from Songshan airport, after losing contact with the control tower. Lin Chih-ming, head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the ATR 72-600 was less than a year old and was last serviced just over a week ago. The pilot had 14,000 flying hours and the co-pilot 4,000 hours, he added.
The airline said it had received the plane in April last year and it was the newest model of the ATR. In last July's crash, the 48 people were killed when another domestic TransAsia flight crashed onto houses during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu. - AFP
Complying with a Turkish court order, Facebook has started to censor pictures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), deemed hurtful to a majority of Muslims living in Turkey, said a report published on The Washington Post.
The decision comes barely weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an unrelenting statement on his profile declaring his unwavering support for the right to free speech and solidarity with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which suffered a deadly attack that took 12 lives, most of whom were cartoonists. He included the #Jesuischarlie hashtag in his post to show support for the slain victims.
On Sunday, a Turkish court had ordered Facebook to block a number of pages deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), threatening to stop access to the whole social networking site if it does not comply. The country is believed to have 40 million members on Facebook.
Facebook’s latest compliance with the court order to ban offensive images is seen by some as a contradiction to some parts of Zuckerberg’s statement. In particular, a part of his testimonial read:
“Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas. We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world.”
Some believe that Facebook tends to release promising statements as a strong proponent of free speech, but is fails to (voluntarily or involuntarily) live up to its word, as past records clearly indicate.
Earlier in December, Facebook had blocked a page of the Russian president Vladimir Putin critic Alexei Navalny on the request of Russian Internet Regulators.
Facebook is also occasionally criticised for taking down pages erroneously. A petition against the allegedly inaccurate censorship by Facebook of the International Campaign for Tibet is currently circulating online and has been signed over 20,000 times already.
Some weeks ago, Facebook had also issued an apology for wrongfully taking down the page of popular Pakistani actor and activist Hamza Ali Abbasi. In his apology, the Vice President of Global Operations and Media Partnerships for Facebook Justin Osofsky had said: “We try to do our best, but sometimes make mistakes.”
Turkey houses a vast potential audience for social networking websites although its government is often not in agreement with the content on Facebook. As per Facebook’s latest transparency report which focused on the first half of 2014, Turkey demanded Facebook to censor 1,893 pieces of content in the six month period, which is the second most of any country.
Many of the censorship requests from Turkey stemmed from local laws that prohibit any vocal or written disrespect against the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Being a global company, Facebook is liable to obey the laws of each country it operates in. It maintains that it has been successful in responding to the censorship requests of each country, provided that they they meet what the company calls a “very high legal bar.”
The report quoted the BBC as saying that Facebook has banned an indeterminate number of pages that it deems disparaging against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and yet this decision has stirred a new controversy whether Facebook actually possesses the freedom of speech that it ardently professes.
TRIPOLI: Gunmen stormed a hotel in Tripoli popular with diplomats and officials Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, killing at least nine people including five foreigners before blowing themselves up.
After setting off a car bomb outside the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Libya’s capital, three armed militants rushed inside and opened fire, Issam al- Naass, a spokesman for the security services, told AFP. They made it to the 24th floor of the hotel, which is a major hub for diplomatic and government activity in Tripoli, before being surrounded by security forces and blowing themselves up, he said.
The dead included three security guards killed in the initial attack, five foreigners shot dead by the gunmen and a hostage who died when the attackers blew themselves up, he said. At least five people were also wounded during the assault, including two Filipina employees hurt by broken glass from the car bomb explosion, he said.
The nationalities of the foreigners killed and the person taken hostage were not immediately known, but Naass said two of the foreigners were women. The hotel’s 24th floor is normally used by Qatar’s mission to Libya but no diplomats or officials were present during the assault, a security source said. The head of Libya’s selfdeclared government, Omar al- Hassi, was also inside the hotel at the time of the attack but was evacuated safely, Naass said.
In a brief statement on Twitter, the Tripoli branch of the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, the SITE Intelligence monitoring group said. It said it was carrying out the attack in honour of Abu Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda suspect who died in the United States earlier this month, days before facing a trial for bombing US embassies. Several militant groups in Libya have pledged allegiance to IS, the Sunni extremist organisation that has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic “caliphate”. Security forces loyal to Hassi’s government, which is jostling for power with the internationally backed authority of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, surrounded the building during the assault.
Ambulances, armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks with mounted artillery could be seen around the hotel during the assault. Security forces prevented journalists from entering the hotel after the assault, saying work was needed inside to ensure the assailants had not left behind booby traps. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini condemned the attack, calling it “another reprehensible act of terrorism which deals a blow to efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya.” She expressed “solidarity with the victims and their families” but made no mention of the nationalities of the dead.