Official rights body cites torture, violations

Egypt’s government-sanctioned human rights body said Sunday that it has received reports of torture and forced disappearances, reflecting the findings of local and international human rights groups.

In an assessment far less critical than that of more independent organizations, the head of the National Council for Human Rights, Mohamed Fayek, said his group has also received complaints about poor conditions in prisons.

“We’ve received many complaints about law enforcement concerning torture and [inmates’] poor living conditions. And, of course, law enforcement officials have denied such allegations,” he said.

He said his group has documented three cases in which authorities tortured detainees to death.

Authorities launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent after the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Thousands of people, mainly his Islamist supporters but also secular activists, have been jailed.

Rights activists say that police under President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who as defense minister led Morsi’s overthrow, are acting with near-total impunity, torturing suspects, abusing detainees and making random arrests.

The Nadeem Center, which provides counseling for the victims of torture, documented about 600 cases of police torture in 2015. It said 500 people were killed by security forces last year, including 100 who died in custody.

— Associated Press

Militants repel push by U.S.-allied forces

The Islamic State on Sunday repelled an advance by U.S.-backed forces on one of its main bastions in northern Syria, regaining territory it had lost, Syrian activists and the extremist group said.

The group said its fighters infiltrated villages and mountains near the Islamic State-held town of Manbij that were seized last month by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-dominated group aided by U.S. forces that includes Arab fighters.

Manbij, which lies on a key supply line from Turkey to the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, has been encircled by the SDF for weeks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the Islamic State counteroffensive. The Britain-based group reported heavy clashes accompanied by U.S.-led airstrikes and explosions.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said that its convoy came under fire on its way back from a mission to deliver humanitarian aid to a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital and that one of its staffers was “hit.” In a statement issued Sunday, it said one of the cars in the convoy was shot at, adding that the vehicle was clearly marked.

Also Sunday, President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree forming a new government in the wake of parliamentary elections held in April.

The elections were held in government-controlled parts of the country and were rejected by the opposition and its Western backers.

— Associated Press

Floods kill at least 30 in northern village

Heavy monsoon rains overnight triggered flash floods that killed at least 30 people in a remote village in northern Pakistan, close to the Afghan border, officials said Sunday.

Maghfirat Shah, the mayor of Chitral district, said heavy rains and flash floods washed away a mosque and several houses in Ursoon, an area of Chitral. He said four women and five children were among the 30 killed.

The flash flooding hit as people were offering up special Ramadan prayers at the mosque. Dozens of worshipers were swept away in the floodwaters, which destroyed the mosque and damaged several houses and a security post, Shah said.

The bad weather hampered rescue efforts, but by morning most of the bodies had been recovered and one person had been rescued, Shah said.

About 40 houses were destroyed and about 50 were partly damaged, according to an initial report by the disaster management authority.

The provincial chief minister, Pervez Khattak, announced that the families would receive compensation of $300 for each loss of life. He said he had given orders for disaster management officials to quickly provide the affected communities with tents, food, medicine and other relief.

Chitral is in the far north of Pakistan.

— Associated Press

Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza reaches Israeli port: Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said a ship carrying more than 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip reached the Israeli port of Ashdod. The delivery comes before the start of Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam’s major holidays. A six-year political fissure between Turkey and Israel ended last week when the two countries agreed to normalize relations.

Chinese man sentenced to death for bus blaze: A court in northern China sentenced a man to death for starting a bus fire in January that killed 18 people, the government said. Flames engulfed the bus in front of a furniture store in the northern region of Ningxia, state media has previously reported. Thirty-three people were injured.

— From news services