Category Archives: World
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, ALASKA: The United States will soon present a timeline to North Korea with “specific asks” of Pyongyang after a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a senior US defense official said.
The official, who spoke to a small group of reporters ahead of a trip to Asia this week by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, did not specify details but suggested that the timeline would be rapid enough to make clear Pyongyang’s level of commitment.
“We’ll know pretty soon if they’re going to operate in good faith or not,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There will be specific asks and there will be a specific timeline when we present the North Koreans with our concept of what implementation of the summit agreement looks like.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week he would likely travel back to North Korea “before too terribly long” to try to flesh out commitments made at the June 12 summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim.
At the Singapore summit, the first meeting between a serving US president and a North Korean leader, Kim reaffirmed a commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Trump said he would halt joint US-South Korean “war games.”
Mattis, at the start of a week-long trip that includes stops in China, South Korea and Japan, said Trump’s guidance on suspending military drills applied not just to the major Freedom Guardian exercise in August but also to two smaller Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises.
“The large, joint, combined exercises have been suspended. … We’ll see if the continuing negotiations keep them that way,” Mattis said.
Mattis arrived on Sunday in Alaska, where he will visit Fort Greely and Eielson Air Force Base, before continuing to China.
His trip there from June 26-28 will be the first by a US defense secretary since 2014, and comes as Sino-US tensions have heightened over trade and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea.
North Korea is expected to be among the top items on Mattis’ agenda during his talks with senior Chinese officials. He will then travel to South Korea and end his trip with talks in Japan on June 29.
Last week, China hosted North Korea’s Kim. North Korean media said Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim reached an understanding on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula after discussing the outcome of the US-North Korea summit.
Pompeo told reporters on a visit to Seoul earlier this month he would take the lead role in driving the North Korea negotiation process forward following the summit.
He said Washington hoped to achieve major disarmament by North Korea within the next 2-1/2 years, within Trump’s current presidential term, which ends on January 20, 2021.
CLEARLAKE OAKS: Wind-driven wildfires destroyed buildings and threatened hundreds of others Sunday as they raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.
The Pawnee Fire that broke out Saturday near the community of Clearlake Oaks has destroyed 12 buildings and threatened an additional 600 as it burned out of control across about 12 square miles (31 sq. kilometers). Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the Spring Valley area, where about 3,000 people live.
“What we’re stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return,” state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said. “This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It’s a good reminder that fire season is upon us.”
Erratic wind and heat gripping a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border drove the flames, which were north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.
Farther north, a fire spanning about three-quarters of a mile in Tehama County destroyed “multiple residential and commercial buildings,” Cal Fire said. But firefighters appeared to be making good progress — the Stoll Fire was halfway contained and some evacuees were allowed to return home, authorities said.
A second fire in Tehama County consumed 5.5 square miles (14 square kilometers), but no buildings were reported burned. The so-called Lane Fire threatened 200 structures and some homes had been evacuated, Cox said. It was 10 percent contained.
A fire in neighboring Shasta County grew to 1.6 square miles (4.14 sq. kilometers) and was 20 percent contained. The so-called Creek Fire had damaged no structures but did prompt evacuations.
The cause of each blaze was under investigation Sunday. No one was reported hurt.
More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the Pawnee Fire in a rugged area that made it difficult to get equipment up close.
“It’s kind of the worst possible combination,” Cox said.
Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back.
JOS, NIGERIA: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday called for calm after 86 people were killed in an attack by suspected nomadic herders against farming communities in the restive centre of the country.
The grim discovery in the Barikin Ladi area of Plateau state came after days of violence apparently sparked by an attack by ethnic Berom farmers on Fulani herders on Thursday.
State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of Berom villages in the area following clashes on Saturday found “86 persons altogether were killed”.
Adie told reporters six people were also injured and 50 houses were razed. Bodies of those who died have been released to their families, he added.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that is putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
The violence fuelled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances has killed thousands over several decades.
Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram‘s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
Buhari’s office said he “appeals for calm and assures that no efforts will be spared” to bring those responsible to justice and prevent further attacks.
“The grievous loss of lives and property arising from the killings in Plateau today is painful and regrettable,” he added.
The Plateau state government said it had imposed restrictions on movements in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order”.
“The curfew takes effect immediately… and movement is restricted from 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) to 6:00 am, except (for) those on essential duties,” spokesman Rufus Bature said.
On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked “Fulani and Muslim”, according to those who escaped the violence.
Plateau state police spokesman Tyopev Terna and Major Adam Umar, from the military taskforce in the state capital, Jos, confirmed the blockade and vandalism to several cars.
There were no official reports of deaths but Baba Bala, who escaped the violence on the road, said at least six people were killed.
“I escaped with a smashed windscreen and dents on my car. I saw six dead bodies and several damaged cars,” he added.
Plateau state governor Simon Lalong promised that “operational plans are currently being put in place to secure the affected communities and fish out perpetrators of these crimes.
“While we pray for God’s guidance through this difficult time, we will do everything humanly possible to secure our state immediately.”
But the violence in Plateau followed a pattern that has become familiar in the state and elsewhere and which the authorities appear unable to stop.
On Thursday, Berom farmers attacked five ethnic Fulani herders travelling with their cattle in a truck at Heipang, in Barikin Ladi.
On Friday, two Berom children were killed in Arangai and Mangu Halle villages in what appeared to be reprisal attacks.
Police spokesman Terna said there were more reprisals on Berom villages in the Gashish area of Barikin Ladi which were “believed to have been carried out by Fulani herdsmen”.
“This led to today’s violence,” he added.
Lamwakers earlier this month demanded that Buhari address worsening security across the country, accusing police of failing to prevent the violence.
On Sunday, Senate leader Bukola Saraki said the killings gave the impression that Nigeria was “not safe”.
It was “important for Nigerians to start having the assurances that the government is decisively responding to the current threat to lives and property”, he said.
Separately, clashes erupted on Friday between Fulani herders and ethnic Bachama farmers in Dowayan village, in the Demsa area of Adamawa state, in northeast Nigeria.
Adamawa police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP: “Six people were killed and seven others injured.
“The violence started when Bachama farmers prevented Fulani herdsmen from grazing in a field outside the village. Clashes erupted as a result.
“The Bachama mobilised and burnt some Fulani settlements and the Fulani went into Dowayan and burnt houses.”
Demsa and the nearby Numan area of Adamawa were the scene of deadly clashes between herders and farmers that left scores dead last December.
Buhari has been accused of failing to act as he is also Muslim and Fulani. His government has proposed setting up cattle ranches to prevent tensions over grazing land.
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won tightly-contested presidential polls, the election authority said Monday, extending his 15-year grip on power as the opposition complained bitterly about the conduct of the vote count.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The stakes were particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers, without even a prime minister, under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan but which opponents say grants autocratic powers.
Erdogan defeated his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with an “absolute majority” of more than half the vote without needing a second round, said the chief of Turkey’s election authority, Sadi Guven.
“I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said in a victory address at his Istanbul residence.
“Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world,” he added, pointing to an 88 percent turnout.
Erdogan won 52.5 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31.5 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 99 percent vote count.
If confirmed, the figures would show Erdogan polling on a similar rating or even stronger than his 2014 election victory where he won his first mandate after over a decade as prime minister.
Celebrations erupted outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said.
The usually loquacious Ince however remained silent, tweeting only that he would make a statement at 0900 GMT on Monday.
Trailing were Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with over eight percent in third and Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent.
Erdogan also declared victory in the parliamentary election saying that the alliance led by the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had won the majority in parliament.
A count of 99 percent of the votes showed that Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP would win 293 and 50 seats respectively, enough for an easy majority in the 600-member chamber.
The HDP was polling 11.5 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed, to win 67 seats which would make the party the second largest opposition faction in the new chamber.
Celebrations erupted in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, with people letting off fireworks into the sky, AFP correspondents said.
Its success is all the more remarkable given the HDP’s Demirtas has campaigned from a jail cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
Erdogan had faced an energetic campaign by Ince, who has rivalled the incumbent’s charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, as well as a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll.
But the CHP expressed unease over the conduct of the count, accusing Anadolu of being over hasty in publishing results that favoured Erdogan.
Its spokesman Bulent Tezcan said Anadolu was publishing a count of over 90 percent of votes while in fact short of 40 percent had been counted.
Several world leaders supportive of Erdogan, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, called to congratulate him on his “victory”, the presidency said.
Erdogan also warned anyone against casting doubt on the results: “I hope nobody will harm our country’s democracy by casting a shadow on the election system and its results in order to disguise their failure.”
Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behaviour.
The president has for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown which cranked up tensions with the West.
Erdogan has also campaigned against the backdrop of increasing economic woes including high inflation and a currency that has sometimes been in freefall.
And although Erdogan dominated airtime on a pliant mainstream media, Ince finished his campaign with eye-catching mass rallies, including a mega meeting in Istanbul on Saturday, that gave hope to the opposition.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it intercepted two missiles launched by Yemen‘s Houthi militia over the capital Riyadh, as a Saudi-led coalition moved to wrest control of Yemen’s main port city from the Iran-aligned group.
At least six loud blasts were heard and bright flashes were seen in the sky over the Saudi capital, a Reuters witness said. Shrapnel was spotted on a street in the diplomatic quarter where most embassies are located and many foreigners live.
“Saudi Royal Air Defence Forces intercepted and destroyed the missiles. Some of the debris of the intercepted missiles landed on residential areas, thankfully without causing any casualties,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said in a statement.
Houthi-run al-Masirah television said Burkan missiles were fired at the Saudi defence ministry and other targets.
The attack was the first to target Riyadh since the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on June 12 to capture Yemen’s Hodeidah port city, in the biggest battle of the war aimed at weakening the Houthis by cutting their main supply line.
The Houthis, who control most of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, have fired a series of missiles into the kingdom in recent months, part of a three-year-old conflict widely seen as a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
There was a heightened security presence and fire trucks in the diplomatic quarter following Sunday’s missile attack, which was the sixth on Riyadh since December.
“The longer the aggression and war continue, the greater our ballistic missile capabilities,” Al Mayadeen TV quoted Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam as saying.
The Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to unseat the Houthis and restore the internationally-recognised government in exile.
Riyadh has accused the Houthis of using the port to smuggle Iranian-made weapons, including missiles — accusations denied by the group and Tehran.
CLEARLAKE: A wind-driven wildfire destroyed a dozen buildings and threatened hundreds of others Sunday as it raced across dry brush in rural Northern California.
The Pawnee Fire, which broke out Saturday near the small community of Clearlake Oaks, was one of four wildfires burning in largely rural areas as wind and heat gripped a swath of California from San Jose to the Oregon border.
The blaze destroyed 12 buildings and threatened an additional 600 as it burned out of control across about 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers). It is north of the wine country region where devastating wildfires killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses last October.
Authorities ordered people to evacuate all homes in the residential area of Spring Valley and surrounding areas. Evacuation centers for residents and animals were being opened. No injuries were reported.
“What we’re stressing is that people, when they get the evacuation order, they heed it immediately and get out and stay out until it is safe to return,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Jonathan Cox said.
“This is one of four large fires burning in Northern California. It’s a good reminder that fire season is upon us,” he said.
Another blaze consumed 5.5 square miles in nearby Tehama County but did not burn any buildings. Some homes were threatened and some had been evacuated, Cox said, although he did not have specific numbers. It was partially contained.
Another smaller fire, also in Tehama County, was nearly halfway contained after consuming less than a mile of brush. The fourth fire, in neighboring Shasta County, smaller still, was three-fourths contained.
The Pawnee Fire was being driven by erratic winds, low humidity and high temperatures. Firefighters battled it in a rugged area that made it difficult to get engines and other equipment up close.
“It’s kind of the worst possible combination,” Cox said.
Fire officials had no estimate on when it might be contained and didn’t yet know what caused it.
Matthew Henderson, who was in the area taking photographs, said he saw the fire jump a road at one point, briefly cutting off access to part of Spring Valley until firefighters pushed it back.
More than 230 firefighters using helicopters, bulldozers and other equipment were battling the blaze.
ADDIS ABABA: Thirty people have now been arrested over alleged involvement in a grenade attack that killed two people at a rally in the Ethiopian capital attended by new prime minister Abiy Ahmed, police said on Sunday.
The rally, attended by tens of thousands, was in support of Abiy’s push for radical political and economic reforms, including a peace deal with regional arch-enemy Eritrea.
Security officials have not said publicly who might be responsible for the attack.
Health Minister Amir Aman said on Twitter that as of 2.30pm local time on Sunday, two people had died and there were 156 wounded, with six in critical condition.
“I’m so sorry to learn that we have lost another Ethiopian victim of yesterday’s attack,” he said.
Nine police officials, including the deputy head of Addis Ababa’s police commission, have been arrested for what authorities said were security lapses.
“The number of suspects in custody for involvement in the attack in Meskel Square has now reached 30,” Zeinu Jemal, head of the Federal Police Commission, told the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. Zeinu did not give further details.
BRUSSELS: The leaders of France and Germany said Sunday they were prepared to side-step anti-migrant EU members and do deals with individual countries on how to respond to a migrant influx that has caused deep splits in the bloc.
The talks among 16 of the European Union‘s 28 leaders began after Italy’s new populist government turned away another ship packed with migrants.
The meeting, which began amid a flurry of mutual fingerpointing by France and Italy, is seen as crucial for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces her own political crisis at home.
“The European Council will not yet provide an overall solution to the migration problem,” Merkel said conceding a lack of consensus among EU members.
“That is why it is also about bilateral or trilateral agreements for mutual benefit,” she added.
Officials warn that a new surge of migrants could trigger the collapse of free travel within the EU, its signature achievement.
Sunday’s meeting was aimed at clearing the air before a full EU summit on Thursday and Friday.
But several countries with anti-migrant governments, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, did not attend.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged his counterparts to take advantage of the sharp drop in migrant arrivals since a 2015 peak — Europe’s worst such crisis since World War II — to find solutions.
Echoing ally Merkel, he urged a European solution, “whether that is cooperation among 28 or among several countries that decide to move forward together.”
At stake, Macron warned, was Europe’s values of human rights and solidarity.
But he has angered the new government of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte who accuses him of playing down the scale of the problem in Italy, the main European landing point for African migrants.
“The immigration emergency continues in Italy, partly because France keeps pushing back people at the border,” Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio shot back on his Facebook page, warning Macron risked turning France into “Italy’s number one enemy” on the issue.
Macron said France would “take lessons from no-one” and that the main problem was the movement of migrants across EU borders.
He has called for the establishment of closed centres to keep asylum seekers in countries of arrival until their claims are processed — a proposal that Italy furiously rejected, saying it did not want to be turned into “a refugee camp for all of Europe.”
Under the EU’s so-called Dublin rules, asylum-seekers must be processed in the country where they first arrive, usually Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain.
EU leaders last December had set the end of June as a deadline to reform the rules by establishing a permanent mechanism to distribute asylum-seekers throughout the bloc — but an agreement has proved elusive.
Reflecting the mounting anger over the lack of assistance from its partners, Italy’s new government has refused to admit foreign-flagged rescue ships, accusing them of abetting traffickers.
After turning away the Aquarius, which later docked in Spain, Rome on Saturday vowed to block the Lifeline, a boat run by a German charity carrying 239 people, including pregnant women and children.
Italy’s stance has also raised tension both with Germany and within Merkel’s coalition government, with EU diplomats billing the mini-summit as designed to help “save” the chancellor.
A populist backlash over her liberal asylum policy left Merkel weakened in elections last year.
Her hardline interior minister Horst Seehofer has given her until the end of June to find a European deal to curb new arrivals.
If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.
In a counter-proposal, Italy on Sunday called for migrant “protection centres” to be set up in several EU countries to relieve overcrowding in its facilities and also demanded more aid for African countries that fight human trafficking.
EU leaders are also due to discuss further measures to strenghten the external borders — an issue on which there is consensus.
Cooperation deals with Turkey and Libya, the main transit countries, have sharply cut, at least for now, the flow of migrants to Europe since a 2015 peak of over one million.
The leaders are also to discuss proposals for centres in countries outside the bloc to separate genuine war refugees from economic migrants, who can then be sent home.
CAIRO: Egypt has extended its state of emergency for another three months.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s decision was published in the official gazette on Sunday. It should be approved by parliament within seven days and go into effect on July 14.
Egypt has been under a state of emergency, after an Islamic State affiliate bombed two Coptic churches in April last year killing at least 44 people.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants for years, but the insurgency gained strength after the 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president. The militants have mainly targeted security forces and Christians.
In February, Egypt launched a massive security operation against militants in Sinai, parts of Egypt’s Nile Delta and the Western Desert.
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Sunday that people who enter the United States illegally should be sent back to where they came from immediately without any judicial process.
Facing a public outcry and pressure even from within his Republican Party, Trump last week reversed his policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border so the adults could be detained and prosecuted, a process that typically takes months.
Since buckling on the issue on Wednesday, Trump has redoubled his criticism of US immigration laws on Twitter and in speeches where he likened illegal immigrants to invaders trying to “break into” the country.
….Our Immigration policy, laughed at all over the world, is very unfair to all of those people who have gone thro… https://t.co/NnqUpbRHLp
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1529852913000
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came. Our system is a mockery to good immigration policy and Law and Order. Most children come without parents,” Trump said Sunday on Twitter.
We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Jud… https://t.co/X8GwD9vA5p
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1529852522000
“Cannot accept all of the people trying to break into our Country. Strong Borders, No Crime!”
Trump did not differentiate between people who entered the United States to seek asylum and illegal immigrants.
US immigration law provides certain rights for undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In most cases, they are allowed a full hearing before an immigration judge before being deported.