U.N. identifies 38 more potential mass graves

An additional 38 probable mass graves have been found in central Congo, where violence between troops and militia members has killed thousands since August, the United Nations announced Wednesday.

This would mean that at least 80 mass graves have been identified so far, the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the Central African nation said.

The international community has expressed alarm over the violence in the Kasai region. Some have suggested that the tensions are also tied to Congo’s presidential election, which has been delayed since last year.

The Catholic Church estimates that more than 3,300 Congolese have died in the fighting.

The United Nations says that more than a million people have been displaced, making Congo the African country with the most internally displaced people — an estimated 3.8 million.

The latest mass graves were found this month in the Diboko and Sumbula areas of Kamonia territory by an investigative team from the local U.N. human rights office and Congo’s military justice authorities, the United Nations said.

— Associated Press

Talks with U.S. frozen over sanctions decision

Sudan announced Wednesday that it was freezing negotiations with the United States in retaliation for the Trump administration’s move to postpone permanently lifting U.S. sanctions on the African country.

Earlier, Washington said it wanted more time to determine whether the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had made enough progress after decades of isolation, war and abuses.

After the U.S. announcement, Bashir decided “to suspend the work of the negotiating committee with the U.S. until Oct. 12,” according to a brief announcement carried by the official Sudan News Agency. Bashir and his government had previously said the country had met all requirements and expected the sanctions to be lifted.

Just before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama issued an executive order lifting decades-old Sudan sanctions on a probationary basis. Temporary sanctions relief took effect immediately, and it was to become permanent on Wednesday unless the Trump administration acted to stop it.

President Trump, in an executive order issued Tuesday, moved that deadline back by three months while keeping the temporary sanctions relief in place.

The Obama administration had cited improved counterterrorism efforts and other progress in Sudan as justification for lifting the sanctions. But human rights activists and opposition groups have said the sanctions should stay in place.

Sudan has been under U.S. financial sanctions since the 1990s.

— Associated Press

Presidential decree targets radical groups

Indonesia’s president has signed a decree giving the government the power to ban radical organizations, in a move aimed at outlawing groups behind an apparent rise in the political clout of hard-line Islam.

The measure follows months of sectarian tensions in the world’s most populous Muslim nation that have undermined its reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.

The decree amends an existing law regulating mass organizations, allowing the government to sidestep a potentially lengthy court process to implement a ban. It is likely that Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that campaigns for Indonesia to adopt sharia law and become a caliphate, is among the targets of the decree.

Wiranto, the coordinating minister for politics, security and law, said Wednesday that the decree is aimed at protecting the unity and existence of Indonesia as a nation and not at discrediting Islamist groups.

Hizb ut-Tahrir and groups such as the violent Islamic Defenders Front were behind months of massive protests in Jakarta, the capital, against the city’s minority Christian governor, who was accused of blaspheming Islam. He subsequently lost a bid for reelection to a Muslim candidate and was sentenced to prison for two years for blasphemy.

— Associated Press

Predominantly Catholic Malta legalizes same-sex marriage: Lawmakers in predominantly Roman Catholic Malta have voted to legalize same-sex marriage, replacing the traditional “you are now husband and wife” declaration in civil ceremonies with “you are now spouses.” Only one out of 67 lawmakers voted against the legislation, signaling its broad support on the island nation despite opposition from the Catholic Church.

Boko Haram kills 19 in Nigeria: Four Boko Haram suicide bombers killed 19 people in attacks that targeted a civilian self-defense force and the people who gathered to mourn members’ deaths, police in Nigeria said. It was the deadliest violence in months in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram’s insurgency. The government declared last year that the Islamist extremist group had been “crushed,” but deadly attacks continue.

— From news services