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Sudanese authorities ban Al-Jazeera office amidst pro-democracy protests

The news channel is funded by Doha, a close ally of former president Bashir

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Sudan permits re-opening of Al-Jazeera's Khartoum office
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Sudanese authorities on Thursday shut down news broadcaster Al Jazeera’s Khartoum office, as thousands of protesters gathered outside the country’s military headquarters to pressure the ruling generals to cede power.

The sprawling military complex has become the focal point of the weeks-long protest movement, which is calling for the country’s Transitional Military Council to hand over power to civilians, following the ousting of longtime autocrat, President Omar al-Bashir in April.

Late Thursday, the Qatari television channel said its bureau was abruptly shut down and its journalists banned from reporting in the country with immediate effect, without being given a reason. 

“They told us that the military council had decided to close the Al Jazeera network’s office and withdraw its license,” bureau director Al-Musallami Al-Kabbashi told AFP.

The news channel, which regularly broadcasts footage of the demonstrations in Sudan, is funded by Doha, a close ally of former president Bashir.

“The Network sees this as an attack on media freedom, professional journalism, and the basic tenets of the right for people to know and understand the reality of what is happening in Sudan,” Al Jazeera said in a statement published online. 

Meanwhile, the military council said incidents on the margins of the protest site were threatening public safety. 

“In the face of those developments that threaten public security and safety,” authorities would “work in accordance with the law to guarantee citizens’ safety and to resolve manifestations of insecurity and lawlessness,” it said in a statement. 

Chanting slogans in favour of a civilian government, singing and waving Sudanese flags, the mostly young protesters gathered after dusk on Thursday to join the demonstration. 

“We’re here to confirm our basic demand for a civilian authority in the transitional period until we can guarantee a real democratic transition,” said Mohamed Hasan, a young protester outside the military headquarters.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change protest movement had called for people to gather at the site on Thursday for a “million-strong march”.

“The goals of our revolution will be reached by peacefulness and not by violence,” Wajdi Saleh, a spokesman for the protest group, said as he addressed the crowd.

‘We want a civil state’ –

The latest demonstration came the day after a two-day general strike to pressure the military council to resume suspended talks on the future shape of a transitional authority.

The two sides had agreed on many aspects of a political transition, including its duration and the bodies to oversee it.

But negotiations broke down over the question of whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or military figure.

The army ousted Bashir on April 11 after months of protests against his autocratic, three-decade rule.

Thousands of protesters have remained camped outside the sprawling Khartoum military compound ever since.

The generals, backed by key Arab powers, have resisted calls from African and Western governments to hand over the reins of power.

Hundreds of women marched through central Khartoum earlier in the day calling for a civilian government.

As they made their way through the capital to the sit-in, they chanted: “Freedom, peace, justice, civil government is the people’s choice!”

“The Sudanese woman demands… justice, equality democracy, a civil government and fair government,” said Hoyam al-Taj, a journalist in her thirties taking part in the march.

Nada Hashem, a young mother in brightly coloured traditional Sudanese dress, agreed.

“We want a civil state that will guarantee our rights as women and guarantee us a dignified life,” she told AFP.

The head of the ruling military council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend summits with Arab and Muslim leaders.

A statement from the council said that “several bilateral meetings are planned”.

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Egypt’s renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry

Mnay have faulted repair works as being misrepresentative of the building’s history and materials to be of poor quality

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Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic "Le Palais Hindou" (also known as the "Baron Empain Palace") built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo's northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Egyptian authorities have defended renovation works at a historic Cairo palace after the site’s new look sparked mockery on social media.

The site, dubbed the Baron Palace, was built between 1907 and 1911 by wealthy Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain. 

The baron also spearheaded the development of the surrounding upmarket neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Built in a style reminiscent of the Cambodian Hindu temple of Angkor Wat, the striking building set amid lush gardens has long since fallen into disrepair.

READ: Biblio-art: How Polish artist adorns Egyptian monastery with Christian designs

But work to restore the building has sparked outcry.

Many have taken issue with white marble additions to the building’s rosy pink stone exterior, saying the materials are of poor quality and not in keeping with the original style.

One Twitter user asked:

“Who is the fool behind the restoration of Egypt’s palaces? Our heritage is being systematically destroyed.”

A Facebook page called Egyptian Historians chided officials for the “warped” restoration.

Egypt's renovation of Baron Palace sparks online outcry
Ongoing restoration works at the historic “Le Palais Hindou” (also known as the “Baron Empain Palace”) built by in the early 20th century by Belgian industrialist Edouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain, in the classical Khmer architectural style of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, in the Egyptian capital Cairo’s northeastern Heliopolis district. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

“Be honest with yourselves and admit that you ruined it… you are literally demolishing our monument”, a post on the group’s page said.

READ: Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

Antiquities Minister, Khaled El-Enany dismissed online criticisms as “fake news”.

“I didn’t hear one word of truth in all these social media comments,” he said in a statement.

His ministry said the colours of the palace had faded from weather damage over many years.

“The restoration is a real dream and we will breathe life into this abandoned landmark,” Enany added.

WATCH: Egypt begins restoration of Tutankhamun’s coffin

General Hisham Samir, who heads up the ministry’s engineering branch, said the colours were “correct and are backed up by historical sources.”

The works began in July 2017 in co-operation with the Belgian government and will cost 100 million Egyptian pounds (over $6 million), the statement added.

Samir told reporters that the work is expected to be completed by year’s end with plans to open the building to the public by early 2020.

Egypt’s multitude of historical monuments and buildings are a major draw for tourists, though the country has often faced accusations of neglecting these sites.

READ: Contents of two ancient pyramids unveiled in Egypt

The government has recently launched various restoration projects to stimulate tourism, a key sector that has suffered in recent years due to political insecurity and sporadic jihadist attacks.

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Lifestyle News

Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb

Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb.

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Two UN personnel killed in Benghazi by car bomb
Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire at the site of a car bomb attack in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi on August 10, 2019. - "Two members of the UN mission, one them a foreigner, were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb" in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said. (Photo by - / AFP)

A car bombing in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed two United Nations staff on Saturday, a security official said.

“Two members of the UN mission were killed and at least eight others wounded including a child, by a car bomb” in a shopping area of the Al-Hawari district, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which happened as a UN convoy was passing through the area.

Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was hit by years of violence targeting diplomatic offices and security forces after his fall.

An attack on the US consulate on September 11, 2012, killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In 2017, military strongman Khalifa Haftar drove hardline Islamists and jihadists out of Benghazi after a three-year battle.

Haftar, who backs an eastern-based administration that opposes the Tripoli-based unity government, went on to seize Derna, the last city in eastern Libya outside his control.

But bombings and kidnappings have continued.

A May 2018 attack left seven people dead and last month, a car bombing at the funeral of an ex-army commander killed at least four people and wounded more than 30 others.

A Libyan lawmaker is also feared to have been abducted by an armed group in the eastern city, the UN and lawmakers said in July.

Haftar controls most of eastern Libya, and early this year he ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to purge the south of what he called “terrorist groups and criminals”. 

On the heels of that campaign, his LNA launched in April an offensive to take the Libyan capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. 

The LNA on Saturday announced a truce around Tripoli for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, after the unity government conditionally accepted a ceasefire called for by the UN.

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Culture & Tourism

Tutankhamun gilded coffin receives restoration in Egypt

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year

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Egyptian archaeologists restore the coffin and mummy of King Tutankhamun

Egypt displayed on Sunday the gilded coffin of Tutankhamun, under restoration for the first time since the boy king’s tomb was discovered in 1922. The restoration process began in mid-July after the three-tiered coffin was transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, southern Egypt.

“We are showing you a unique historical artefact, not just for Egypt but for the world,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told a press conference at the new museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids.

The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year when Egypt’s new mega-museum is opened to the public. The restoration is expected to take around eight months.

The outer gilded wood coffin stands at 2.23 metres (7.3 feet) and is decorated with a depiction of the boy king holding the pharaonic symbols the flail and crook, according to the ministry. In the last century, the coffin has “developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster, especially those of the lid and base”.

Famed British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th dynasty king in Luxor in 1922. Sunday’s announcement comes after the controversy the Pharoah courted in early July when a 3,000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact was sold in London for $6 million.

Furious Egyptian officials condemned the sale and asked the international police agency Interpol to trace the artefact which it deems looted.

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