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582,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh since late August: UN

Agency Press France



COX’S BAZAR — Around 582,000 Rohingya refugees have now fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since late August, the United Nations said Tuesday, warning that thousands more were still stranded at the border.

Expressing deep concern about newly arrived refugees including children and elderly people dehydrated and hungry from the long journey who are stranded near the border, the UN said between 10,000 and 15,000 new refugees have arrived at the border in the last 48 hours alone, fleeing violence in Myanmar, where Rohingya villages are being burned to the ground.

Spokesman Andrej Mahecic said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) was advocating with the Bangladesh authorities “to urgently admit these refugees fleeing violence and increasingly difficult conditions back home”.

He said UNHCR staff had spoken with people who described walking for a week to reach the Bangladesh border.

Most are still squatting in paddy fields in Bangladesh, and were waiting for permission to move away from the border, he said.

“Every minute counts given the fragile condition they`re arriving in,” said Mahecic.

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Mahecic said many had chosen to remain in their homes in Myanmar`s Rakhine state despite repeated threats to leave or be killed.

“They finally fled when their villages were set on fire,” he said.

Many of the new arrivals were from Rakhine`s Buthidaung district, which lies relatively far from the border with Bangladesh.

“The military killed my brother. We walked all the way to this land to save our lives,” said Mohammad Shoeb, who arrived at the border with his family on Monday evening.

The UN said a jump of 45,000 in its estimated number of newly arrived refugees to 582,000 was due partly to improved access to some areas where many had previously gone uncounted.

That figure does not include the thousands currently in no man`s land.

The Rohingya are fleeing violence in Myanmar`s Rakhine state, where the UN has accused troops of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against them.

The numbers have soared since August 25, when militant attacks on Myanmar`s security forces in Rakhine sparked a major military backlash.

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Hundreds more have drowned making the perilous journey. On Monday authorities said they had found the bodies of 10 Rohingya whose boat sank in the estuary of the Naf river that divides the two countries.

The UNHCR said it was working with the Bangladesh government to complete a new transit centre in Kutupalong, the largest of the refugee camps housing the Rohingya.

Bangladesh has announced plans to build a refugee camp that could accommodate around 800,000 Rohingya in Kutupalong.

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Former French leader Sarkozy held over Libyan funding inquiry

Thompson Reuters



PARIS — Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was held in custody on Tuesday and questioned by magistrates investigating whether late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi helped finance his 2007 election campaign, an official in the French judiciary said.

It is the second major judicial investigation to fall on the 63-year-old, who served as president from 2007-2012. He already faces trial on separate charges of illicit spending overruns during his failed re-election campaign in 2012.

A lawyer for Sarkozy could not immediately be reached for comment. The former president has dismissed the Libya allegations as “grotesque” and a ‘crude manipulation’.

France opened an inquiry into the Libya case in 2013, after reports by French website Mediapart based on claims by a Franco-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, who said he had transferred 5 million euros ($6 million) from Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi to Sarkozy’s campaign director.

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Months after he took office in 2007, the French leader came in for criticism for hosting a state visit by Gaddafi during which the Libyan leader pitched his trademark Bedouin-style tent next to the Elysee Palace.

Gaddafi’s first visit to a Western leader in decades, which was accompanied by the signing of several business deals, came after Sarkozy helped get five Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting children with HIV released from jail in Libya.

Sarkozy was later one of the chief advocates of a NATO-led military campaign that resulted in Gaddafi’s overthrow and killing at the hands of rebel forces in 2011.

French judicial procedure allows for investigators to hold a person for questioning for up to 48 hours, after which the magistrates must say whether they have grounds for turning a preliminary inquiry into a full investigation.

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