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Britain suspends Syria aid scheme after funds ‘paid to extremists’

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LONDON — The British government has suspended a multi million-pound foreign aid project in Syria after an investigation by the BBC that revealed jihadist groups had co-opted some of the funds.

A BBC Panorama program set to air on Monday night shows how members of the British-funded Free Syrian Police (FSP) cooperated with unsanctioned courts accused of torture and executions.

The Foreign Office has been a major contributor to a $20 million project, Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS), which supports community police work in Syria.

Following the revelations, the Foreign Office halted its contribution to the AJACS initiative. “We are aware of serious allegations connected to this program and have suspended it upon further investigation,” the Foreign Office said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Britain is one of six countries supporting the community-led police force set up after the Syrian uprising and stationed in regions held by opposition rebels.

Documents leaked to the BBC reveal that at one point 20 percent of the cash distributions made to police officers in Aleppo province were being diverted to a group associated with a known terrorist, Nour Al-Din Al-Zinki. He has been linked to a range of atrocities during the Syria conflict, including the beheading of a young prisoner in 2016.

As per leaked report, Adam Smith International (ASI), the British company responsible for managing the AJACS program, was aware that police officers in the program had collaborated with Al-Zinki’s unsanctioned courts “by writing up warrants, delivering notices, and turning criminals over to the court.”

Two police officers receiving cash payments from the British-funded program were present when two women were stoned to death near Damascus in 2014, according to the leaked documents.

The AJACS program, established in 2014, was intended to support community policing in areas outside the Syrian regime’s control.

“These programs, also supported by international partners, are intended to make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services,” said the Foreign Office.

Aside from alleged complicity with extra-judicial killings and torture, the BBC program shows how the AJACS program was allegedly mired by corruption and poor management. The BBC report said that ASI documents showed it was aware that fictitious policemen were on the program payroll.

According to the BBC investigation, extremists associated with Al-Qaeda had handpicked police officers to serve at AJACS-funded stations in Idlib province.

Adam Smith International insists that the BBC’s portrayal of the Syria program is “untrue or entirely misleading.”
The company, which receives millions pounds from British taxpayers to execute government-backed programs abroad, has landed in hot water before.

With AFP Inputs

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Tenure of NA members determined though lucky draw

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KATHMANDU — Tenure of members of the National Assembly has been determined through a lucky draw method on Monday.

As per the lucky draw conducted at the Federal Parliament in New Baneshwor today, the term of opposition party Nepali Congress lawmaker Surendra Pandey has fixed for two years, while the term of Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Dinanath Sharma has been fixed for four years.

Similarly, Nainkala Ojha, Shashikala Dahal, Udaya Sharma Poudel, Shanti Kumari Adhikari, Komal Oli and Taradevi Bhatta would serve as NA members for four years.

Likewise, the tenure of members — Bina Pokharel, Pramila Kumari, Dil Kumari Rawal, Deepa Gurung, Anita Devkota, Nanda Chhapai and Indu Kadariya — was determined for six years.

The term of Sarita Prasain, Mukta Kumari Yadav, Dhan Kumari Khatiwada, Binda Devi Ale, Mina Budha, Yutal Tamang and Kamala Kumari Oli has been determined for two years.

Of the 59 NA members, 56 were elected from seven provinces—eight from each province, with three others being nominated by the President on the recommendation by the government.

All the clusters have been divided into three categories of two years, four years and six years and the lawmakers should pick one of the three categories.

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