Macron in Mali for diplomatic push on Sahel anti-jihad force

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Mali on Sunday to boost Western backing for a regional anti-jihadist force, with France urging greater support for the Sahel region amid mounting insecurity.

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The so-called “G5 Sahel” countries south of the Sahara – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – have pledged to fight jihadists on their own soil with instability and Islamist attacks on the rise.

Macron is joining these nations’ heads of state in Bamako for a special summit where France’s backing for the force will be announced, with a likely focus on providing equipment.

Based in Sevare, central Mali, the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force aims to bolster 12,000 UN peacekeepers and France’s own 4,000-member Operation Barkhane, which is operating in the region.

Macron is also looking to extra backing from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States – which already has a drone base in Niger – beyond a pledge of 50 million euros ($57.2 million) made by the European Union.

Serge Michailof, a researcher at the Paris-based IRIS institute, described the EU contribution as “a joke” given the EU’s “very deep pockets” and the poverty of the Sahel countries.

“This force is going to cost $300-400 million (262-350 million euros) at the very least,” he told AFP.

Chadian President Idriss Deby has said his country cannot afford to mobilise large numbers of troops simultaneously for the UN peacekeeping mission and also in the new force.

Deby and Macron are due to meet on the margins of the Bamako summit to discuss the financial issue, according to the French presidency. Chad’s military is widely viewed as the strongest of the five Sahel nations.

Al-Qaeda’s Mali branch, meanwhile, offered a reminder of the jihadists’ threat, with the release of a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages.

The clip posted Saturday by Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, also known as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, includes elderly Australian surgeon Arthur Kenneth Elliott and Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin.

Elliott was abducted in January 2015 in Djibo, Burkina Faso, where he and his wife had run the district’s sole medical clinic since 1972. Petronin was abducted in late 2016 in the northern Malian town of Gao.

In the video, the hostages are separately introduced by a narrator, who says that so far there have been no negotiations for their release.

Phased rollout

Macron visited Gao in northern Mali in May, his first foreign visit as president outside Europe, and promised French troops would remain “until the day there is no more Islamic terrorism in the region”.

France intervened to chase out jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities in Mali in 2013.

That mission evolved into the current Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with an expanded mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel.

The new Sahel force will support national armies trying to catch jihadists across porous frontiers, and will work closely with Barkhane.

Operations across Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, all hit with frequent jihadist attacks, will be co-ordinated with French troops, a source in the French presidency told AFP earlier this week, while help would be given to set up command centres.

Multiple fronts

While weighing up the challenges of the G5 Sahel operation, analysts frequently compare it with the Multinational Joint Task Force battling Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, composed of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Despite heavy initial criticism, that force “has succeeded in a part of its mission, which is to reduce the territory controlled by Boko Haram and limit its actions,” said Rinaldo Depagne from the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organisation that works on conflict resolution.

However, the G5 Sahel force has supplementary challenges in the weak armed forces of Burkina Faso and Mali, while Chad and Niger are already engaged on multiple fronts, he added.

The three-nation border of Liptako-Gourma will become a “laboratory” for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger where French forces will aim to work in tandem with these nations, before bringing Chad and Mauritania into the mix, Depagne predicted. 

The G5 Sahel force’s top commander, Malian general Didier Dacko, has said that at first each country’s contingent would operate on its own soil, gradually becoming more focused on their mutual borders.

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Brisbane Lions stun Essendon in AFL upset

The tight AFL season is about the only thing going for Essendon’s finals hopes after their stunning eight-point loss to struggling Brisbane.

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The Lions had their best performance under first-year coach Chris Fagan on Sunday at Etihad Stadium, roaring back in the last quarter for a shock 13.12 (90) to 11.16 (82) win.

After leading by 27 points early in the last term, the Bombers again were found wanting in a tight finish.

Brisbane small forward Ryan Lester somehow took an uncontested mark deep in attack with two minutes left and kicked the goal that ensured the win.

It came a week after Essendon coughed up a 19-point lead in the last couple of minutes against Sydney.

Essendon have lost four of their past five games – but they remain two wins outside the top eight.

“At the moment, you would say maybe the only thing that’s keeping us in the mix is that no team is grabbing it and running away with it.,” Essendon coach John Worsfold said.

“I would much rather be saying we’re in the mix for the finals because of the good footy we’re playing.

“From today, I can’t say that. Previously I would have said that.

“Today, we’ve got to say ‘how do we bounce back from this? What sort of footy can we play over the next eight weeks?'”

Fagan said the main focus for his team was restricting Essendon’s uncontested marks.

He noted that when Essendon dominate that statistic, they beat good teams.

On Sunday, the young Lions won that category 93-63.

It did not matter that the Bombers won the inside 50s 61-48.

“For a team to say that they achieved what they wanted to achieve, by stopping us doing that, is an indictment on our ability to take that on,” Worsold said.

It is unfair to single out Essendon players – so many of them underperformed – but midfielder Zach Merrett was noticeably down.

He only had 19 disposals – his lowest return for nearly two seasons.

“I don’t know the answer to that – he didn’t indicate anything (wrong) at half-time,” Worsfold said.

“We were obviously looking at the impact he was having and we were concerned about that.

“But no, he was OK.”

First-year key forward Eric Hipwood starred for the Lions with four goals, while Dayne Zorko rebounded from a quiet match last weekend and had 30 disposals.

In his second senior game, teenager Alex Witherden was excellent across half-back.

Adding to the lustre of the win, the Lions lost key defender Darcy Gardiner in the first quarter.

His season could be over after he was taken to hospital with a dislocated elbow.

‘You need to lead for everybody’: Rhiannon slams Greens leader

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon has hit out at Richard Di Natale’s leadership as the party looks to reform the way it works with its NSW arm.

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Her remarks follow a decision by the party room to exclude her from discussion on contentious legislation after a rift emerged over her campaigning on schools funding.

“I have been disappointed in Richard’s leadership but you need to lead for everybody and it is not just me locked out of the party room, the Greens NSW members no longer have a voice in the party room,” she told ABC TV on Sunday.

“Isn’t it time to make the party more democratic for members so they can have a vote for the leader?”

0:00 Lee Rhiannon temporarily suspended amid schools row Share Lee Rhiannon temporarily suspended amid schools row

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Senator Di Natale told AAP he welcomed Lee’s support “for the proposition I put to our national conference last November”.

Senator Rhiannon, who was accused of undermining a potential deal with the government on the so-called Gonski 2.0 policy, continues to insist she did nothing wrong.

She says it was understandable members wanted to prosecute the case for the original Gonski package and it was a “bread and butter” issue she supported.

The NSW Greens are being asked to work with the national council on how to stop its MPs being bound to vote against a decision of the federal parliamentary party room.

But Senator Rhiannon says the party needs to be more member driven and focus on global issues, such as inequality and homelessness.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with young members who join the party who want to talk about socialism,” she said.

Her colleague Nick McKim is confident with goodwill the party can work through the structural issues it faces with the NSW Greens and there won’t be a split.

“Ultimately there is far, far more that unites us in the Greens than divides us,” he told Sky News.

Senator McKim said there was no time frame on changes, but he would like to see it addressed as soon as possible.

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Iraqi forces retake hospital near Mosul’s Old City

Iraqi forces have recaptured a hospital and other medical facilities in west Mosul, further isolating IS holdouts in the Old City, officers said.

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The country’s security forces are in the final stages of the gruelling battle to retake second city Mosul, which they launched more than eight months ago.

Interior ministry forces recaptured the Ibn Sina Teaching Hospital along with other medical facilities including a blood bank and a clinic, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement on Saturday.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the country’s federal police, said the area where the hospital is located, Al-Shifaa, had been completely retaken, limiting IS’s presence in Mosul to the Old City.

“Our forces are advancing from three sides and are pursuing the terrorist groups in the few remaining areas of the Old City,” Jawdat said in a statement.

Black smoke is seen around Mosul during fighting between IS and Iraqi forces.Yomiuri Shimbun

Iraqi forces have been fighting to retake the Old City for weeks, and launched a renewed assault on the area on June 18.

On Thursday, they recaptured the remains of the mosque where IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only known public appearance, a significant symbolic victory for security forces.

But IS made sure that the Nuri mosque was not captured intact, blowing it up along with its famed leaning minaret as Iraqi forces closed in.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

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Australia’s youngest CEO making her mark at 16

While school holidays are usually a time for students to relax or catch up on studies, 16-year-old Ali Kitinas also has a business to run.

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“It can be a little bit of a challenge at times to find the right balance,” she said. “But I think that happens with anything.”

“My work hours are kind of in the evening. Often I get really excited about something and I want to keep working but I know that I have to wake up for school the next day.”

At the age of 11, Ms Kitinas dabbled in social media marketing in an effort to make some money doing something she loved.

She then put those earnings towards her current venture, making and selling body-scrub powder with the help of two humanitarian groups.

The Freedom Hub provides recycled coffee grounds, sourced from a farm supporting rehabilitation services for women in Rwanda and child soldiers, for Ms Kitinas to use in her products.

Part of her earnings go towards The Hope Foundation Hospital, which provides medical services to a group of children in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Ms Kitinas began Freedom Scrub shortly after visiting the area two years ago.

“A lot of these girls were my age that needed the services of the hospital,” she said.

“I had already been making coffee scrubs and body scrubs as gifts for people, and I saw that as a great collaboration.”

The young entrepreneur participated in last year’s TedXYouth at Sydney’s Opera House.长沙桑拿,moeloco长沙桑拿按摩论坛,

Homelessness hits home

Ms Kitinas’ entrepreneurial skills recently led to her participate in an international mentoring program with socially-minded business leaders, including Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Upon returning home she approached St Vincent de Paul about taking part in its annual CEO Sleepout – an initiative where some of Australia’s most successful business people sleep on the streets to raise awareness about homelessness.

She was accepted, becoming the youngest person to ever participate in the initiative which has so far raised more than $5 million across the country.

Her participation was particularly special for her mother, Lynne Kitinas, who herself lived on the streets when she was around her daughter’s age.

“I was sleeping in a cardboard box, staying over with friends, sleeping in church halls,” she explained. “It was cold. It was scary. There was a lot of violence. There were a lot of incidents where kids were taken advantage of.

“They are human beings. They have an identity, and the longer that you’re in the despair situation, the harder it is to get out of that.”

Ali Kitinas started her first business when she was still in primary school.Freedom Scrub blog

‘We have a real crisis’

More than 105,000 Australians sleep rough every night, and more than 2.5 million live below the poverty line.

Saint Vincent de Paul’s New South Wales chief executive Jack de Groot said the numbers have been steadily rising in recent years, thanks in part to a lack of action by state governments to address Australia’s ongoing housing-affordability crisis.

“People still can spend in excess of five, and sometimes ten years on the public-housing wait lists,” he said.

“We have a real crisis.

“The Commonwealth can put funding arrangements forward to the states, but we know, in different states, there is not enough public, social or affordable housing being made available.”

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