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Rwanda shuts down 714 churches over noise pollution, safety issues

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Local government authorities in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, have suspended activities in 714 churches over noise pollution and failing to meet minimum safety operating standards.

The New Times, a local newspaper, reports that the action is being carried out by respective urban district authorities in partnership with the Rwanda governance board.

Justus Kangwagye, head of political parties and civil society department at the Rwanda governance board, said most of the affected places of worship were asked to halt operations until they meet the expected standards.

“Worshiping should be done in an organised way and meet minimum standards,” he said .

“Exercising your freedom of worship should not encroach on other people’s rights. They have been asked to halt operations until they meet the requirements.”

He said some premises exposed worshippers to risks, adding that some may not be able to resume operations anytime soon.

“For instance, if the infrastructure is deemed likely to cause danger to those worshiping, it is obvious that it fails to meet the requirements,” Kangwagye said.

“Others were found to have inadequacies such as lack of parking lots which would lead to their members parking by the roadsides and causing traffic jam.

“Churches that are hosted in tents were also asked to review their premises before they can continue their operations.

“As for hygiene and sanitation, you cannot have a gathering where there is no water for washing hands, no toilets among other issues”.

The country’s government has also issued a warning to churches that make noise and disturb the peace in residential areas.

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FOREIGN

Police arrest suspected terrorist after UK parliament car crash

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Police arrest suspected terrorist after UK parliament car crash

A man has been arrested on grounds of terrorism after ramming his vehicle into barriers outside the UK houses of parliament in London.

BBC reports that the suspect, a young man in his late 20s, was arrested by police officers shortly after the crash in the early hours of Tuesday.

Two people who may have been hit during the crash were treated at the scene for non-life threatening injuries.

Scotland Yard, London’s Metropolitan Police Service, said the incident would be treated as an act of terrorism, with its counterterrorism command leading the investigation.

After the incident, parliament did not sit and streets around Parliament Square, Millbank and Victoria Tower Gardens were cordoned off to restrict civilian movement.

Westminster tube station and the UK supreme court have also been closed as investigations are in full swing.

Recounting the incident, an eyewitness said the suspect deliberately swerved from his lane and drove against traffic, driving full speed towards a group of cyclists waiting for signals from the traffic light.

Commenting, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “My thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response.”

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said he is in close contact with police as enquiries into the incident are ongoing.

June Kelly, a BBC home affairs correspondent, said the suspect’s arrest was a “significant development”.

“The police will be looking at this man’s background, his identity – they’ll either know it or they will be working towards it,” she said.

“They will be looking at his beliefs his associates, also his mental state.

“Also, crucially, is he on their radar – is he somebody who was known to them?”

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Mali election witnesses low turnout due to security fears, others

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Mali election witnesses low turnout due to security fears, others

Voters stayed away in droves from Mali’s run-off presidential election due to fears over security and simple apathy, but the voting process was generally fair in spite a number of incidents, election monitors said on Monday.

The vote pitted President Ibrahim Keita against opposition leader Soumaila Cisse after an inconclusive first round in July, when Mr Keita won about 41 per cent of the vote.

Official second-round results are not expected for a few days but Mr Keita – known as IBK – is predicted to seal a second term in office.

Mr Cisse, who had accused the government camp of cheating in the first round, on Monday again alleged fraud and said he had won.

“We have a large lead. We do not accept that our voice is stolen,” he told a news conference in the capital Bamako.

Threats by jihadist militants forced nearly 500 polling stations – about two per cent of the total – to stay closed during Sunday’s run-off, the government said.

One election official was killed in northern Niafunke, in Timbuktu region.

Security fears severely dampened the turnout, which a civil society group, the Mali Citizen Observation Pool (POCIM) estimated at just over 27 per cent of the eight million registered voters.

Turnout is usually about 40 per cent in Malian elections.

Mali is high on the list of Western powers’ security concerns due to the presence of militant groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

A successful election is seen as vital in the effort to restore stability as the government tackles the resurgent Islamist threat and outbreaks of ethnic strife.

The vast nation is also a main transit route for illegal migrants trying to reach Europe, a concern in EU capitals.

As votes were being counted on Monday, Cisse, who heads the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party, called on his supporters to challenge Mr Keita’s expected victory.

“We will not accept that a president wins through fraud. And we will show that there is fraud. This fight is in your hands, dear supporters… Let’s get engaged to save Mali,’’ he said.

But Mohamed Dileita, Head of an Observation Mission from the Paris-based OIF, a federation of French-speaking nations, said: “Everyone has more or less accepted the verdict… the vote took place.”

“At the time I speak, at least, it is a calm election, credible. At the moment we do not see any reason why it changes,” Mr Dileita told Radio France Internationale.

Mali’s constitutional court rejected Mr Cisse’s claims of fraud in the first round, held on July 29.

Most of the shuttered polling stations were in the Timbuktu region and the conflict-hit central region of Mopti, Security Minister, Salif Traore, said.

In 2013, French troops pushed Islamist militants out of areas they had seized in the desert north, but they have since regrouped and routinely attack civilians, Malian soldiers and UN peacekeepers.

Thousands of troops had been deployed across Mali to protect voters on Sunday after widespread violence in the first round.

POCIM said in its report: “Voters did not mobilise much to fulfill their civic duty.”

“The reasons given relate to the security problem and the lack of enthusiasm following the publication of the results of the first round.”

POCIM estimated turnout in the capital Bamako at just 26 per cent, while in northern Timbuktu, which was in the hands of jihadists just five years ago, it was 40 per cent. Turnout in Mopti was 24 per cent.

It reported isolated incidents of ballot stealing and attacks on polling stations, including two which were torched.

A report by an EU observer mission will be important for the credibility of the election, though it was not clear on Monday when it would be published.

On Sunday, the EU mission said the voting had passed peacefully for the most part, although it had no monitors in Mopti, Kidal and Timbuktu regions due to the security threat.

(Reuters/NAN)

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137 Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon

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137 Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon

Eight buses carrying 137 Syrian refugees, who had fled across the border to Lebanon, went back to Syria on Monday, the National News Agency reported.

The returnees, who had been living in the Lebanese border villages of Shebaa and al-Arqoub, will mainly go back to areas surrounding the capital Damascus, according to a Lebanese security source.

The Lebanese Security General Department said that they had secured the “voluntary return’’ of the Syrians towards the Syrian border in coordination with the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

In recent months, hundreds of Syrian refugees have been repatriated from Lebanon as the war winds down in their homeland.

Lebanon is currently hosting some one million Syrians.

Lebanese officials have repeatedly said the influx of refugees from Syria has placed a massive burden on the country’s economy.

Russia, a major military ally of the Syrian Government, announced it is coordinating with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to facilitate the return of refugees to Syria.

More than five million Syrians have fled the country since the conflict began more than seven years ago, according to estimates by the UN.

(dpa/NAN)

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