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Qatar economic outlook downgraded hours before crunch Gulf meeting

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Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Qatar’s economic outlook as political uncertainty swirled ahead of a crunch meeting between Arab nations on Wednesday in Cairo.

A quartet of Arab nations said early on Wednesday it had received Qatar’s response to its demands for ending a diplomatic crisis gripping the Persian Gulf. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said only that they would respond “in a timely manner”.
Ratings agency Moody’s changed Qatar’s outlook to negative, saying this was largely due to the ongoing diplomatic dispute engulfing the tiny, energy-rich nation. Early on Wednesday it said “the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months”. The turmoil “carries the risk that Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals could be negatively affected”, it added.

So far, Qatar’s exports of natural gas have yet to be affected, the agency said. Those exports make the small country’s citizens have the biggest per capita incomes in the world.

The quartet cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host early last month over its alleged support for extremist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran; the two countries share a massive undersea natural gas field.

The nations issued a 13-point list of demands on 22 June, giving Qatar 10 days to comply. They later extended the deadline by another 48 hours at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator to resolve the crisis. That deadline expired early Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, foreign ministers from the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo to discuss their next move. Late Tuesday, Egypt’s state-run Mena news agency reported intelligence agency chiefs from those countries had met in Cairo, likely discussing the crisis.
What Qatar said in response to the demands remains unclear. It already had called the demands, which include shutting down its al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution, as an affront to its sovereignty.

The crisis has become a global concern because neither side appears to be backing down. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hosts some 10,000 American troops at its sprawling al-Udeid air base. US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has been trying to ease tensions, while President Donald Trump’s comments on Qatar funding extremist groups back the Saudi-led countries’ position.

The nations could impose financial sanctions or force Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional body known as the GCC that serves as a counterbalance to Iran.

Some Arab media outlets have suggested a military confrontation or a change of leadership in Qatar could be in the offing, but officials have said those options are not on the table.

On Tuesday, German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, visited officials in both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. He said Germany supported the UAE’s efforts at confronting those who funded extremists.

“We now have this opportunity to reach good results for the benefit of the whole region. The matter is not related only to the sovereignty of Qatar,” Gabriel said. “We have to come back to common work at the GCC and for the Europeans this is a very important matter. For us, the GCC is the guarantor of stability and security in the region.”

Emirati foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan kept up the pressure on Qatar in his own remarks to journalists. “To defeat terrorism, we must confront extremism, we must confront hate speech, we must confront the harbouring and sheltering of extremists and terrorists, and funding them,” he said. “Unfortunately, we in this region see that our sister nation of Qatar has allowed and harboured and encouraged all of this.”

“Enough is enough,” he added.

Qatar’s foreign minister meanwhile criticised the four Arab nations for trying to isolate Qatar “under the banner of fighting terrorism”.

“When measures are clothed in this context, it is because they think they will be met with international sympathy because they are ‘anti-terrorism’ measures,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

Though Qatar Airways’ routes over its neighbours have been cut, along with the country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia, the country has been able to source food from other countries. Its economy, fuelled by its natural gas exports, continues to hum along though there has been pressure on its stock market and currency.

Somali News

Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants

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WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.

“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.

The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.

Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.

“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”

The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.

“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.

The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.

The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.

“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.

Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.

“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.

“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.

A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.

Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.

The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.

Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.

Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.

“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”

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Somali News

What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story

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Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.

But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.

So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?

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Somali News

AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia

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DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.

The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.

The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.

“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.

Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.

Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.

Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.

Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.

Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.

Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.

The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.

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