Malaysia, Mar 2 (AP/UNB) — More than 30 Muslim Rohingya women and children were found stranded along a beach in Malaysia's northernmost state, and are believed to have been dropped off by human traffickers, authorities said.
A police official in Kangar, the capital of northern Perlis state, said villagers early Friday found the 34 people, including nine children, weak, hungry and covered in mud as they made their way through the coast. A Myanmar welfare group said the group is believed to have been trafficked into Thailand from Bangladesh, before heading to Malaysia, whose dominant Malay Muslim population makes it a sympathetic destination.
More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, when a group of militants attacked security forces, triggering a massive retaliation by Myanmar's army. The exodus came after hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya escaped previous bouts of violence and persecution.
The police official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said they have been fed and handed over to immigration officials.
Nur Aziah Mohamad Shariff, an official with the National Security Council, said his office was aware of the illegal entry and is investigating.
Zafar Ahmad Ghani, who heads the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization of Malaysia, said he obtained information that many more Rohingya are being tricked by traffickers into leaving Bangladesh after being warned they may face death if repatriated to Myanmar.
Pictures and videos obtained by members of the group showed a long rope placed across the shore at low tide to help the Rohingya walk through the mud.
Chris Lewa, founder of the Arakan Project, which works to improve conditions for Rohingya, said the women and children may be part of a large group that sailed from Bangladesh in two boats in mid-February. She said the total number of passengers was unclear, with estimates of about 150, and that it was unclear what happened to the others.
She said the Arakan Project spoke to a Rohingya man who landed in northern Malaysia in late February on a boat that had arrived undetected with 85 aboard.
Lewa said it was unclear why the women and children were stranded, and that the two boats were the only ones they knew had sailed from Bangladesh this year.
Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar don't accept Rohingya Muslims as a native ethnic group. They are, instead, viewed as having migrated illegally from Bangladesh, though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar.
Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982 and lack access to education and hospitals.
The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution in December condemning "gross human rights violations and abuses" against Myanmar's Rohingya.
Myanmar's government denies claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The country rejects the U.N. investigators' work and the General Assembly resolution as biased.
Dubai, Mar 1 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia announced Friday it had revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the terror network.
Saudi Arabia revoked his citizenship via a royal decree in November, a notice published Friday by the kingdom's official gazette said.
There was no explanation why the order was only becoming public now. However, the announcement comes after the U.S. government offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture as part of its "Rewards for Justice" program.
Bin Laden's son has emerged as a leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group. His father was killed in a U.S. military raid in Pakistan in May 2011.
Hamza bin Laden was named a "specially designated global terrorist" in January 2017. He has released audio and video messages calling for attacks against the U.S. and its allies.
Al-Qaida was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and a host of other assaults against Western interests.
Islamabad, Mar 1 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan has handed over an Indian pilot captured after his plane was shot down by the Pakistani military this week amid a dramatic confrontation between the two nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed Kashmir region.
Pakistani officials brought the pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to the border crossing with India at Wagah and handed him back to India on Friday.
On the Indian side of the border, Indian officials greeted the pilot who was in a dark blue suit, accompanied by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Islamabad has said that the handover was a gesture of peace that could defuse tensions and avoid another war between India and Pakistan.
Varthaman was shot down on Wednesday in Pakistani-held Kashmir.
India's prime minister says a tough response by his country's armed forces to recent attacks in Indian controlled Kashmir have curtailed the influence of terror groups in the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to curtail acts of terrorism further.
Modi, who faces elections this spring, spoke at a public rally on Friday in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile, Pakistani officials were preparing to hand over a captured Indian pilot from a plane downed by Pakistani forces amid the worst escalation between the archrivals in two decades. Modi made no mention of the pilot.
Modi cited the Feb.14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and set in motion the latest escalation and said Indoan soldiers now have full "freedom to do what they want."
Pakistani officials have brought the Indian pilot captured from a downed plane to a border crossing with India for handover.
The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was taken in a convoy that set out from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore to the border crossing at Wagah on Friday, escorted by military vehicles with soldiers, their weapons drawn.
On the Indian side of the border, turbaned Indian policemen lined the road as a group of cheering Indian residents from the area waved India's national flag and held up a huge garland of flowers to welcome him back.
Islamabad has said the handover is a gesture of peace that could defuse tensions and avoid another war between India and Pakistan.
India has banned a largest political and religious group in Indian-held Kashmir in an ongoing crackdown against rebels seeking the end of Indian rule in the disputed region.
The ban comes against the backdrop of the most serious confrontation between India and Pakistan in two decades.
India also imposed a security lockdown in several parts of the region on Friday, including in downtown areas of the main city of Srinagar, in anticipation of protests and clashes against Indian rule.
India's home ministry issued a notification against Jama'at-e-Islami on Thursday night, accusing the group as "unlawful association" and supporting militancy in the region.
Police have already arrested at least 400 leaders and activists, mainly from the Jama'at-e-Islami, which seeks self-determination for the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety.
China welcomes Pakistan's decision to "express kindness" and hand over a captured Indian pilot after four straight days of cross-border attacks in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular news briefing on Friday that "the alleviation of tensions between the two countries serves their fundamental interests."
Pakistan said it shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot on Wednesday.
A close Pakistani ally, China has blocked India's attempts to have the U.N. list as a terrorist the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based group that claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing on Indian troops earlier in February in Indian-Controlled Kashmir.
In 2017, however, China joined several nations in declaring Jaish-e-Mohammad and another group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, as terrorist organizations.
Pakistan's civil aviation authority has partially re-opened the country's airspace, allowing travel to four major cities, another sign that tensions with archrival India are de-escalating.
The agency issued a statement on Friday saying all domestic and international flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.
It says other airports, including the one located in the eastern city of Lahore that borders India, will remain closed until March 4.
Islamabad closed its air space on Wednesday after saying that Pakistan's military shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot, escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. The closures snarled air traffic.
The pilot is expected to be handed back to India later in the day, a move Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said was a gesture of peace.
Pakistan's parliament is reiterating praise for the country's military in responding to India's incursion this week by downing two Indian aircraft and capturing a pilot in Pakistani-held Kashmir.
The lawmakers in both the 342-seat Assembly and the 104-seat Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Friday, concluding a joint session that began the previous day over the latest escalation between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
The resolution also endorses Prime Minister Imran Khan's offer of talks to New Delhi, saying this is the only way to solve all outstanding issues, including the issue of Kashmir, which is split between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both in its entirety.
Pakistani Defense Minister Perfez Khattak told the parliament Islamabad would give a "memorable response" to India if it attacks Pakistan again.
Pakistan's top diplomat says he is skipping a meeting of foreign ministers from the world's leading Islamic organization in the United Arab Emirates to protest the host's decision to invite India, a non-member.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's announcement that he won't be attending the inaugural session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi amid soaring tensions this week with archrival India.
The escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed region of Kashmir has brought them close to the brink of an all-out conflict.
Qureshi told Parliament on Friday he decided to stay away from the OIC gathering after UAE's Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan refused to withdraw the invitation to India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Qureshi says India is neither a member of the 57-nation organization nor has observer status.
Pakistan's civil aviation authority says the country's air space remains closed for all domestic and international flights because of continuing tensions with neighboring India.
In a statement, the agency said the government decision about the closure of the air space will remain effective until 1 p.m. on Friday, after which authorities will announce whether they are reopening it or keeping the airspace closed.
Islamabad closed its air space on Wednesday after saying that Pakistan's military had shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot, escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. The pilot is expected to be handed back to India later in the day, a move that could de-escalate the crisis.
The closing of Pakistan's airspace forced may airlines to reshuffle their flights, causing problems for passengers.
Pakistan is preparing to hand over a captured Indian pilot as shelling continued for a third night across the disputed Kashmir border even as the two nuclear-armed neighbors seek to defuse the most serious confrontation in two decades.
Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off against each other along the disputed Himalayan border known as the Line of Control in one of the world most volatile regions.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft and capturing a pilot.
World leaders have scrambled to head off an all-out war on the Asian subcontinent.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister is expected in Islamabad later Friday.
Wagah, Mar 1 (AP/UNB) — Pakistani officials brought a captured Indian pilot to a border crossing with India for handover on Friday, a "gesture of peace" promised by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan amid a dramatic escalation with the country's archrival over the disputed region of Kashmir.
The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was taken in a convoy that set out from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore to the border crossing at Wagah earlier in the day, escorted by military vehicles with soldiers, their weapons drawn.
The Pakistani military has said his plane was downed on the Pakistani-held side of Kashmir on Wednesday.
On the Indian side of the border, turbaned Indian policemen were lined up along the road as a group of cheering Indian residents from the area waved India's national flag and held up a huge garland of flowers to welcome the pilot back.
The expected handover comes against the backdrop of blistering cross-border attacks across the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that continued for a fourth straight day, even as the two nuclear-armed neighbors sought to defuse their most serious confrontation in two decades.
Tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off along the Kashmir boundary known as the Line of Control, in one of the world's most volatile regions.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. Pakistan retaliated, shooting down two Indian aircraft Wednesday and capturing the pilot.
Since the escalation, world leaders have scrambled to head off an all-out war on the Asian subcontinent. President Donald Trump in Hanoi on Thursday said he had been involved in seeking to de-escalate the conflict.
Khan, the Pakistani premier, told lawmakers on Thursday, "We are releasing the Indian pilot as a goodwill gesture tomorrow."
But India made it clear that the latest escalation has changed its strategy and that going forward, it will strike, including inside Pakistan, if they get information of an attack in the planning. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier Thursday warned "India's enemies are conspiring to create instability in the country through terror attacks."
Also Friday, Pakistan's civil aviation authority partially re-opened the country's airspace, allowing travel to four major cities, another sign tensions with archrival India were de-escalating.
The agency issued a statement saying all domestic and international flights will be allowed to and from the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta. It said other airports, including the one located in the eastern city of Lahore that borders India, will remain closed until March 4.
Islamabad closed its air space on Wednesday after saying that Pakistan's military shot down two Indian warplanes and captured the Indian pilot. The closures snarled air traffic.
Residents of the Pakistani border town of Chikhoti reported heavy shelling overnight and Friday morning. More than 200 people had fled to a military organized camp about 20 kilometers (16 miles) away from the border.
Police in the Indian-controlled Kashmir said one man was wounded and at least two civilian homes were damaged in the cross-border shelling.
Kashmir has been divided but claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan since almost immediately after the two countries' creation in 1947. They have fought three wars, two directly over the disputed region.
New York, Mar 1 (AP/UNB) — Gap Inc. is splitting into two. The retailer said Thursday that it's creating two independent publicly traded companies — low-priced juggernaut Old Navy and a yet-to-be named company, which will consist of the iconic Gap brand, Athleta, Banana Republic as well as the lesser known names Athleta, Intermix and Hill City.
The San Francisco-based company said the spin-off will enable each company to focus on flexibility and pare down costs.
The company also said that it will be shuttering 230 Gap brand stores over the next two years. A year ago, the Gap brand had 725 stores worldwide. After the closures, which also include the 68 stores it shuttered this year, the chain will be down to roughly 427 stores. It expects to have more than 40 percent of Gap's business coming from online after the restructuring.
Gap's stock surged 25 percent in after-market trading.
The split up, which followed a comprehensive board review, comes as Old Navy has been thriving, while Gap still hasn't been able to regain its footing despite numerous attempts to fix the business. Once the go-to place for casual clothing, Gap has been mired in a sales funk for years, hurt by increasing competition from the likes of Target and Amazon.
Analysts applauded the move.
"This is great news for Old Navy, no longer having its success consistently outweighed by sluggish performance by Gap," said Tiffany Hogan, senior analyst at Kantar Consulting. "But for the Gap, this seems like potentially a last significant effort to help the brand find its place in a market where it has lost relevance."
She noted that in order for Gap to succeed, it needs to find the right mix of style and basics for its stores, while getting a better grasp of who its customer is.
Separately, Gap Inc. reported that Gap's overall sales at stores opened at least year were down 1 percent during the fiscal fourth quarter. By division, the Gap brand posted a 5 percent drop, while that figure at Banana Republic was down 1 percent. Old Navy posted sales that were unchanged from a year ago. But that was on top of a 9 percent gain in the year-ago period.
"It's clear that Old Navy's business model and customers have increasingly diverged from our specialty brands over time, and each company now requires a different strategy to thrive moving forward," said Robert Fisher, Gap Inc.'s chairman.
Gap's current CEO, Art Peck, will hold the same position at the new company after the separation. Sonia Syngal, current CEO of Old Navy, will continue to lead the brand as a stand-alone company, which has about $8 billion in annual revenue. The new company that Peck will run has about $9 billion in annual revenue.
During a conference call with investors on Thursday, Peck called the separation a "unique and catalyzing moment to simplify what we are doing and how we're doing it."
Upon separation, Gap Inc. shareholders are expected to receive a pro-rata stock distribution and as a result will own shares in both the new company and Old Navy in equal proportion. The deal is expected to close in 2020.
The new company will be based in Gap Inc.'s current headquarters and Old Navy will remain at its current headquarters, both located in San Francisco.
Gap's shares rose $6.50 to $31.90 in extended trading after the split-up was announced.