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Vienna attacker acted alone and had tried to join so-called Islamic State, say authorities

The man who killed four people in a shooting rampage in Vienna on Monday had sought to join the so-c..

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The man who killed four people in a shooting rampage in Vienna on Monday had sought to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) and most likely acted alone, Austrian authorities said on Tuesday.

Authorities have named the gunman, who was carrying an assault rifle and a fake suicide vest, as Austrian-North Macedonian dual national Kujtim Fejzula.

He was shot dead by police.

The 20-year old had previously served time in prison following an April 2019 conviction for an attempt to travel to Syria to join IS.

He was granted early release from his 22-month jail term in December under juvenile law, authorities said.

Authorities had initially feared that multiple gunmen were involved in the attack, but Interior Minister Nehammer told reporters early in the afternoon that evidence showed no indication there had been other assailants.

He added that 14 people close to the suspected perpetrator had been detained and that 18 properties in and around the Austrian capital had been searched.

Two men, aged 18 and 24, were also arrested near Zurich, Swiss police have said.

Four people — two men and two women — were killed in what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz a “repulsive terrorist attack” as residents of the capital enjoyed a final night out before the city entered a partial coronavirus lockdown. One of the victims was a German national, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, confirmed on Twitter.

A further 22 people were injured, some of the “seriously”, police said. Austrian news agency APA reports that Viennas hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition.

A minute of silence was held across the country on Tuesday afternoon to commemorate all the victims.

Kurz has convened the country’s national security council to discuss what should happen next and stressed that the fact that the attacks were carried out by Islamists did not mean that Austrians “should condemn all members of a religion”.

“It is a fight between the people who believe in peace and the terrorists,” he said at a news conference.

He said it was clearly an “Islamist” attack and said that the attackers were motivated by hatred of Austrian democracy and its way of life.

What do we know about the attack?

It began at just after 8 pm CET on Monday night in a street close to Vienna’s main synagogue and, speaking Monday, Kurz said the attackers may have had anti-semitic motives.

A witness to the attack, Eveline, told AP that she and others had taken refuge in a local hotel.

“Suddenly the shooting started, at first we did not know what it was … Then there was shooting again, but closer, so we started to run away,” she said.

Oskar Deutsch, a Jewish community leader, said it was too early to say whether the temple was one of the targets but confirmed there had been “a shooting in the immediate vicinity of the city temple.”

Deutsch said that both the synagogue in Seitenstettengasse and an office building at the same address were closed at the time of the attack.

Nehammer said that the army was guarding key locations in the city as hundreds of police hunted for the remaining gunmen.

The minister told people in Vienna to stay indoors and avoid the city centre and encouraged parents not to send their children to school on Tuesday.

The attack has echoes of those in London in 2017 and Paris in 2015 when attackers roamed the streets of the two cities armed with knives and guns, killing maiming civilians in restaurants and bars.

What have we heard from the scene?

Vienna’s Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told broadcaster LBC in a radio interview that he was in the Seitenstettengasse synagogue’s compound and saw multiple gunmen firing into bars and restaurants.

“The gunmen were running around, shooting at least 100 rounds or even more, in front of our building,” he added.

He said he “doubted it was an attack on the synagogue, adding: “At this time of night there is no activity taking place in the great synagogue, we don’t really know, however, what’s going on.”

Police asked social media users not to share photos or videos that purported to show the incident because it “endangers both emergency services and the civilian population”.

In videos shared on social media, people were pictured running as what appeared to be gunshots could be heard.

Czech police said Monday evening that they were “carrying out random checks on vehicles and passengers” at the country’s border with Austria after the attack.

“Police officers exercise increased supervision over the most important Jewish buildings in the Czech Republic,” the force added in a tweet. “We assure the public that the measures taken are exclusively preventive in nature.”

And Germany has put controls in place at the border too, which a German police spokesman said were a “tactical priority”.

“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” President of the European Council Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

“I am deeply shocked by the terrible attacks in Vienna tonight. The UKs thoughts are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Terrifying, disturbing reports reach us this evening. Even if the extent of the terror is not yet known, our thoughts are with the injured and victims in these difficult hours. We must not give way to the hatred that is intended to divide our societies,” the German foreign ministry said in a tweet.

“We the French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote. “After France, an ally country has been attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give up.”

France has been struck by two violent attacks in a matter of weeks; a knifeman killed three people last week at a church in Nice and on October 16 a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after showing cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet in a class on freedom of speech.

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Denmark asylum: Law passed to allow offshore asylum centres

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Denmark has passed legislation allowing it to relocate asylum seekers to third countries outside the European Union while their cases are reviewed.

The project, proposed by the Social Democrat-led government, would seek partner countries to run camps and fund agencies along migration routes.

But the European Commission said it had concerns about the law, and a leading NGO said it was irresponsible.

Denmark has repeatedly tightened its immigration policies in recent years.

This follows a peak of more than 21,000 asylum seekers arriving in Denmark in 2015.

MPs voted for the bill by 70 votes to 24.

“If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people will stop seeking asylum in Denmark,” said government spokesman Rasmus Stoklund, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The asylum cases would be reviewed in the third country and the applicant could potentially be given protection in that country.

 

But the European Commission was critical of the law.

“External processing of asylum claims raises fundamental questions about both the access to asylum procedures and effective access to protection,” said spokesman Adalbert Jahnz, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a leading NGO, said in a statement that MPs had “effectively voted in the blind”, as the model they had backed did not yet exist.

“The idea to externalise the responsibility of processing asylum seekers’ claims is both irresponsible and lacking in solidarity. We have repeatedly called on the Danish members of parliament to reject this bill,” it said.

The council added that there was now a risk of countries hosting larger numbers of refugees would also opt out.

Denmark recently signed a migration deal with Rwanda leading to speculation that it intends to open a facility there.

Two weeks ago it became the first European country to revoke residence status for more than 200 Syrian refugees.

Danish authorities say parts of Syria are safe enough to return to but the move has sparked protests from activists and community groups.

Last year the UK considered building an asylum processing centre on Ascension Island, a remote territory in the Atlantic Ocean, but decided not to proceed.

Australia has also caused controversy in recent years with its use of camps for processing asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57343572

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Russia to pull troops back from near Ukraine

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After weeks of tension over a build-up of Russian troops close to Ukraine’s border, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered a number of units in the area back to their bases.

The EU estimated that more than 100,000 Russian soldiers had amassed near the border as well as in Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Russia in 2014.

Speaking in Crimea, Mr Shoigu said units on exercise would return to base.

The aims of the “snap checks” had been achieved, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who earlier challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him in the conflict zone, welcomed the decision to “de-escalate” tensions at the border.

“The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defence for the country,” the Russian defence minister said, adding that he had instructed the commanders of units from the 58th and 41st armies as well as several airborne divisions to start returning to their permanent bases on Friday and to complete the operation by 1 May.

President Zelensky raised the troop build-up with European leaders last week. Ukraine’s armed forces chief said Russian military units had been moving into the Rostov, Bryansk and Voronezh regions as well as Crimea, while battalion tactical groups were stationed on the border.

Following Mr Shoigu’s announcement, Nato said that any move towards reversing the escalation would be “important and well overdue”. It added that the Western military alliance remained vigilant.

Nato leaders have called a summit in June when Russia will be high on the agenda.

Although Russia has shrugged off the build-up as training exercises in response to “threatening” actions from Nato, it is also said to be planning to cordon off areas of the Black Sea to foreign shipping. Ukraine fears its ports could be affected.

Russia said all along that these were nothing more than military exercises.

But Moscow knew very well that its troop movements close to Ukraine and in annexed Crimea were making a lot of people very nervous: in Ukraine, Europe and in America.

And that was the point.

Moscow may well have been using the build-up of troops to send a signal to Kyiv, Brussels and, especially, to Washington that Russia is a force to be reckoned with.

US President Joe Biden took notice. Last week, he telephoned President Putin and proposed a summit. True, he also imposed a new round of sanctions over Russia’s “malign activity”. But inside Russia these were perceived as not particularly tough.

A reduction in tension, however, does not mean the end of tension. Russia’s defence minister has made it clear that “Russia is taking measures in response to threats from Nato”.

For example, Moscow is planning to block areas of the Black Sea to foreign shipping for six months.

In a state-of-the-nation address on Wednesday, President Putin warned the West against “crossing a red line”.

Speaking to reporters after the order for troops to return to base, Mr Putin said as far as bilateral relations were concerned “we are ready to welcome the president of Ukraine at any time that is convenient for him”, but in Moscow.

However, he stressed if Mr Zelensky wanted to discuss eastern Ukraine, then he should first meet the leaders there.

Conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014, after the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. Russian-backed troops captured large areas of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and declared them both peoples’ republics.

There have been a number of breaches of a ceasefire in the east in recent weeks. A Ukrainian soldier was fatally wounded in shelling on Thursday, in what Ukrainian forces said was a deliberate violation of the ceasefire. Some 14,000 people have died since the conflict began.

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European Parliament meeting assess migrant workers conditions in Gulf region

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By Lailuma Sadid

Qatar is the first county that brings changes into it’s landmark reforms in the Gulf.

The first country in the gulf region is Qatar who introduces a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which is part of a series of landmark reforms to the country’s labour laws. Success in the GCC countries depend on having solid labour laws that are linked to international standards and convections and the implementation of these laws. If the law isn’t good enough then the implementation will be a non-starter.  Mr Houtan addedd.

He said that the collaboration of some international and national organisations brought up really solid laws. They are not being perfectly implemented at once since all revolutionary changes in the labour market takes time and if they happen overnight, it’s not sustainable he added.

In the mean time he also mentions how these labor laws benefit both employers and employees.

Indeed, these laws allow employers to find more local workers with the same skills at a lower cost and employees to be more satisfied because they benefit from a greater power to negotiate and discuss. It’s a win- win situation. The wage issue is a common issue acrosse the GCC region , he said.

According to Mr. Houtan  access to Justice variesfrom  country to country. It is very common to hear that an employee who has worked for the past six months is only paid for the last three months of his work and according to some this is fair and justice has been done. This is no rocket science, this is not justice.

He said: No worker should go a day without being paid or receive their salary a day late. This matter is serious and needs to be more focused on. To overcome this problem, we have the structures in place in the regions that are working, although they need to be improved. They work because everyone comes together, with the support of the European  Unions, trade union and employers etc.

According to Mr. Houtan, That’s is success model that we need to replicate across the GCC countries. In addition, it is obvious that we should not denigrate the importance of Labour inspection and occupational safety and health. It has to be considered as a priority.

Also, another very important point is engaging with the private sector which is key, the role is fundamentally important.

Of course the trade unions as well as the government, the ministry of Labour have been really keen pushing forward the agenda but if the employers don’t play ball again it will be a very slow progress.

The key word for him is coordination and cooperation between different organizations to achieve successful changes in the GCC countries.

Hassan AL-Thawadi is representing of Qatar Ambassador in this meeting, he said:Qatar’s commitment to improving labour related matters and improving lives is constant. The commitment is intrinsic to our national values.

The commitment is intrinsic to our national values enshrined in our constitution and ais the key tenants to our Islamic principles. He added

Mr. Hassan said, these reforms combined with bolstered enforcement mechanisms including electronic based wage protection system demonstrates a commitment to sustainable long-term change that I mentioned previously however we acknowledge that there is a long journey ahead of us and more needs to be done as of the case in every nation of the world. In some countries still not possible to change employers without permission in other countries, but in Qatar it is possible.

Mark from European Delegation, with the contribution for workers to the numbers is only 500,000 workers 50 years ago and 25 million demanded today for the whole Peninsula. However, much more needs to be done to ensure access to dignified living and working conditions of Migrant workers and their families.

In addition to the basic minimum monthly wage of 1000 Qatari riyals 275 $, the legislation ensures that employers must pay allowances of at least 300 and 500 QAR for food and accommodation respectively, if they do not provide them.

Legislation passed last year provided for a six-month transition period for employers to prepare for the new minimum thresholds. First country in the region is Qatar to introduce a non-discriminatory minimum wage, which is part of a series of landmark reforms to the country’s labor laws.

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