Category Archives: World
MOGADISHU: Somali police say a car bomb has been detonated near parliament headquarters in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least two people along with the driver and several others are injured.
A huge cloud of smoke can be seen billowing over the area dotted with security checkpoints erected along a road leading to the presidential palace.
The car bomb was detonated at a security checkpoint after soldiers intercepted and stopped a suspicious vehicle, senior police Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press.
The blast comes three days after at least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road.
Mogadishu is often a target of attacks by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people.
The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.
The US military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.
HERAT: Two suicide attackers struck a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least one person and wounding eight others, officials said, in the latest assault against the Muslim minority.
The men stormed the grounds of the mosque in the western city of Herat, but security guards shot dead one of them and the other blew himself up before reaching the hall where worshippers were praying, provincial governor spokesman Jilani Farhad told AFP.
At least one worshipper was killed and eight others were wounded in the attack on Nabi Akram mosque, Farhad said, adding all the victims were civilians.
The casualty toll was confirmed by deputy police chief Aminullah Amin.
The area around the mosque was cordoned off by police and ambulances were seen rushing victims to hospitals in the city, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but the Islamic State group regularly targets Shiites in an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the Sunni-majority country.
IS’s local franchise in Afghanistan claimed an attack in Kabul last Wednesday that killed at least 33 people and wounded dozens more, many of them teenagers.
A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of people celebrating Nawrooz, the Persian new year holiday, in a heavily Shiite neighbourhood.
BEIJING: China’s air force has held another round of drills in the disputed South China Sea and the Western Pacific after passing though Japan’s southern islands, the air force said on Sunday, calling such exercises the best preparation for war.
China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernisation programme overseen by President Xi Jinping with a heavy focus on its air force and navy, from building stealth fighters to adding aircraft carriers.
China insists it has no hostile intent, but its sabre-rattling in the busy South China Sea waterway, and around Taiwan, has touched a nerve in the region and in Washington.
In a statement, the air force said H-6K bombers and Su-30 and Su-35 fighters, among other aircraft, carried out combat patrols over the South China Sea and exercises in the Western Pacific after passing over the Miyako Strait, which lies between two southern Japanese islands.
It did not say when the exercises took place nor specify the parts of the South China Sea or the Western Pacific.
In a “freedom of navigation” operation on Friday, a U.S. Navy destroyer came within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island China has built in the South China Sea, provoking condemnation from China, which claims most of the strategic waterway.
Sending Su-35 fighters over the South China Sea aims to help increase the air force’s ability to fight far out at sea, the air force said in the statement on its microblog.
Flying across the Miyako Strait, which also sits to the northeast of the self-ruled island of Taiwan that China claims as its own, accorded with international law and practice, it added.
“Air Force exercises are rehearsals for future wars and are the most direct preparation for combat,” it said.
The more exercises China practices far from its shores the better it will be positioned as “an important force for managing and controlling crises, containing war and winning battles”, it added.
PARIS : France will pay a national tribute to a security officer who died from gunshot wounds after voluntarily taking the place of a female hostage during a supermarket siege by an Islamist militant, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.
Arnaud Beltrame, 44, a gendarme who once served in Iraq, had been raced to hospital fighting for his life after being shot by the gunman during the siege at the Super U store in the southwestern town of Trebes near the Pyrenees mountains.
His actions were described as heroic by politicians across the political spectrum.
“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist,” Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday.
Macron said France would organise a national tribute in Beltrame’s honour, the president’s office announced after he met with members of the government and officials involved in the attack investigation. It gave no further details.
The attacker was identified by authorities as Redouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old Moroccan-born French national from the city of Carcassonne, not far from Trebes, the tranquil town of about 5,000 people where he struck on Friday.
Lakdim was known to authorities for drug-dealing and other petty crimes, but had also been under surveillance by security services in 2016-2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Friday.
The attacker’s rampage began when he shot the occupant of a car he stole and fired on a group of police joggers, wounding one. He then headed to a supermarket where he killed two people, an employee and a client, bringing Friday’s toll to three dead and 16 injured, according to a government readout.
Beltrame’s death took the number killed to four.
He was part of a team of gendarmes who were among the first to arrive at the supermarket scene. Most of the people in the shop escaped after hiding in a cold storage room and then fleeing through an emergency exit.
He offered to trade places with a hostage the attacker was still holding, whereafter he took her place and left his mobile phone on a table, line open. When shots rang out, elite police stormed the building to kill the assailant. Police sources said Beltrame was shot three times.
Politicians from the left and right called Beltrame a “hero” on Twitter, including opposition leader Laurent Wauquiez, far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen and Olivier Faure, set to become the next Socialist party head.
#ArnaudBeltrame was a trending topic on the social network where people expressed their respect and gratitude for the officer, and thoughts for his wife. Several cities, the National Assembly and police stations lowered their flags in his honour.
The Grand Mosque of Paris, the largest in the country, said the Muslim community joined in mourning for a man who had “fallen heroically under the bullets of the terrorist Redouane Lakdim in the exercise of his mission”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed Beltrame’s courage and sacrifice on Twitter, saying they would never be forgotten.
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The Islamic State militant group on Friday claimed responsibility for the attack.
Several hundred investigators devoted to the inquiry were still checking the claim on Saturday and looking into possible complicity the “terrorist” could have benefited from to carry out his attacks, the president’s office said.
Police arrested two people as part of the investigation – on Friday a woman connected to Lakdim, and overnight a 17-year-old male said to be one of his friends, judicial sources said.
Searches at the attacker’s home showed notes referring to Islamic State that appeared to be a will, as well as a phone and a computer, judicial sources said.
Investigators also found three improvised explosive devices, a 7.65-millimetre handgun and a hunting knife in the supermarket, a source said.
U.S. President Donald Trump condemned “the violent actions of the attacker and anyone who would provide him support”.
“We are with you @EmmanuelMacron!” he added on Twitter.
More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since 2015 by assailants who either pledged allegiance to Islamic State or were inspired by the ultra-hardline group.
France is part of a group of countries whose warplanes have been bombing Islamic State strongholds in Iraq and Syria, where in recent months IS has lost much of a self-proclaimed “caliphate” of territory it seized in 2014.
One multiple attack by Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015 while another killed close to 90 when a man ran a truck into partying crowds in the Riviera seaside city of Nice in July 2016.
Beltrame was a qualified parachutist who served in Iraq in 2005. He also worked as part of the elite Republican Guard that protects the presidential Elysee Place offices and residence in Paris, Macron said.
Friday’s assault was the first deadly Islamist attack in France since October 2017, when a man stabbed two young women to death in the port city of Marseille before soldiers killed him.
Several attacks over the past year or more have targeted police and soldiers deployed in big numbers to protect civilians and patrol sensitive spots such as airports and train stations.
TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed today to press on with his controversial move to amend Japan‘s pacifist constitution, undeterred by a political scandal that has dented his popularity.
Abe’s political capital is dwindling due to a widening scandal over the cut-price sale of government land to one of his supporters, with the opposition suggesting his wife Akie may have played a role.
The scandal worsened when finance ministry bureaucrats admitted altering official records of the sales, erasing references to Abe and his wife as well as other political figures.
“I will thoroughly investigate and show the whole picture of what happened,” Abe told the annual meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
“And I will fulfil my duty by rebuilding the (government) organisation so that this will not happen again,” he said, reiterating his resolve to stay in power.
Abe has denied any involvement by him or his wife in the case but protesters have staged rallies across the nation.
His approval rating has fallen to its lowest level since his return to power at the end of 2012.
National attention is turning to parliamentary testimony scheduled for Tuesday by Nobuhisa Sagawa, formerly the head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the land deal.
Despite his fading popularity, Abe told the party gathering he was committed to changing the constitution, imposed by the United States on the defeated nation after World War II.
Abe said he wants to end the debate over the constitutionality of Japan’s military, officially known as the Self-Defence Forces (SDF). The constitution says Japan renounces war and will not maintain land, sea or air forces.
Scholars have long argued about whether the existence of the SDF is constitutional.
The military is well regarded by the general public, and there is widespread acceptance of the government’s traditional view that they should be used only for self-defence.
Abe, however, in 2015 expanded the role of the Japanese forces to include the defence of friendly nations, prompting protests from scholars and voters alike that the change violated the constitution.
“Now is the time to reform the constitution,” said Abe. “Let us end this unconstitutionality debate.”
His conservative coalition holds a two-thirds “super majority” in the 465-seat lower house, giving him the numbers to realise his long-held dream.
MELBOURNE: Australia’s first direct flight to Britain took off on Sunday from the western city of Perth, cutting flying time roughly three hours by skipping stopovers in Singapore or the Middle East, Qantas officials said.
The 17-hour flight, operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, will touch down in London at 5.05 a.m., having covered a distance of more than 9,000 miles (14,484 km).
It is the world’s second-longest flight after a Qatar Airways service between Doha and Auckland that covers 9,028 miles (14,529 km), or just 19 miles (31 km) more than the stretch from Perth to London.
The flight marked a “historic day for aviation”, said airline Chief Executive Alan Joyce.
“From today it will be the first link between Australia and Europe that has ever occurred non-stop in aviation,” he told reporters at a launch event. “We are so excited.”
About 730,000 British tourists visit Australia every year and the new service could boost interest in the state of Western Australia, often overlooked in favour of the country’s east coast, said Tourism Minister Steven Ciobo.
“There will be more opportunity than ever before for us to continue to showcase and highlight all the very best parts of Australia, including some of the most magnificent and iconic parts of Western Australia,” he said.
The service was a “game-changer”, said Mena Rawlings, Britain’s high commissioner to Australia.
“To have the opportunity to get on a plane at Heathrow and step out in Perth is just phenomenally exciting and I’m sure we are going to see lots and lots of people taking advantage of that.”
Before the new service, the longest flight to Britain was a journey of 7,275 miles (11,708 km) between Heathrow and Jakarta, operated by Garuda Indonesia, the national carrier.
Qantas plans to introduce non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast to Britain in the next few years.
WASHINGTON: In a historic groundswell of youth activism, hundreds of thousands of teenagers and their supporters rallied across the US against gun violence Saturday, vowing to transform fear and grief into a “vote-them-out” movement and tougher laws against weapons and ammo.
They took to the streets of the nation’s capital and such cities as Boston, New York, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Oakland, California, in the kind of numbers seen during the Vietnam era, sweeping up activists long frustrated by stalemate in the gun debate and bringing in lots of new, young voices.
They were called to action by a brand-new corps of leaders: student survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead Feb. 14.
“If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking,” Parkland survivor David Hogg said to roars from the protesters packing Pennsylvania Avenue from the stage near the Capitol many blocks back toward the White House. “We’re going to take this to every election, to every state and every city. We’re going to make sure the best people get in our elections to run, not as politicians but as Americans.
“Because this,” he said, pointing behind him to the Capitol dome, “this is not cutting it.”
Some of the young voices were very young. Yolanda Renee King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 9-year-old granddaughter, drew from the civil rights leader’s most famous words in declaring from the stage: “I have a dream that enough is enough. That this should be a gun-free world. Period.”
By all appearances — there were no official numbers — Washington’s March for Our Lives rally rivaled the women’s march last year that drew far more than the predicted 300,000.
The National Rifle Association went silent on Twitter as the protests unfolded, in contrast to its reaction to the nationwide school walkouts against gun violence March 14, when it tweeted a photo of an assault rifle and the message “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
President Donald Trump was in Florida for the weekend and did not weigh in on Twitter either.
White House spokesman Zach Parkinson said: “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today.” He pointed to Trump’s efforts to ban bump stocks and his support for school-safety measures and extended background checks for gun purchases.
Since the bloodshed in Florida, students have tapped into a current of gun control sentiment that has been building for years _ yet still faces a powerful foe in the NRA, its millions of supporters and lawmakers who have resisted any encroachment on gun rights.
Organizers are hoping the electricity of the crowds, their sheer numbers and the under-18 roster of speakers will create a tipping point, starting with the midterm congressional elections this fall. To that end, chants of “Vote them out!” rang through the Washington crowd.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the first students from Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to speak out after the tragedy there, implored those of voting age to vote.
In her speech, she recited the names of the Parkland dead, then held the crowd in rapt, tearful silence for more than six minutes, the time it took the gunman to kill them.
“We will continue to fight for our dead friends,” Delaney Tarr, another Parkland survivor, declared from the stage. The crowd roared with approval as she laid down the students’ central demand: a ban on “weapons of war” for all but warriors.
Student protesters called for a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-type weapons like the one used by the killer in Parkland, comprehensive background checks, and a higher minimum age to buy guns.
Gun violence was fresh for some who watched the speakers in Washington: Ayanne Johnson of Great Mills High School in Maryland held a sign declaring, “I March for Jaelynn,” honoring Jaelynn Willey, who died Thursday two days after being shot by a classmate at the school. The gunman also died.
About 30 gun-rights supporters staged a counter-demonstration in front of FBI headquarters, standing quietly with signs such as “Armed Victims Live Longer” and “Stop Violating Civil Rights.” Other gun-control protests around the country were also met with small counter-demonstrations.
The president’s call to arm certain teachers fell flat at the protest, and from critics as young as Zoe Tate, 11, from Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“I think guns are dumb. It’s scary enough with the security guards we have in school,” she said. “We don’t need teachers carrying guns now. I find it amazing that I have to explain that idea to adults.”
Parkland itself was home to a rally as more than 20,000 people filled a park near the Florida school, chanting slogans such as “Enough is enough” and carrying signs that read “Why do your guns matter more than our lives?” and “Our ballots will stop bullets.”
Around the country, protesters complained that they are scared of getting shot in school and tired of inaction by grown-ups after one mass shooting after another.
“People have been dying since 1999 in Columbine and nothing has changed. People are still dying,” said Ben Stewart, a 17-year-old senior at Shiloh Hills Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia, who took part in a march in Atlanta.
Callie Cavanaugh, a 14-year-old at a march in Omaha, Nebraska, said: “This just needs to stop. It’s been going on my entire life.”
WASHINGTON: The political action committee founded by John R Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents.
Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014. In the two years that followed, Bolton’s super PAC spent nearly $1.2 million primarily for “survey research,” which is a term that campaigns use for polling, according to campaign finance records. But the contract between the political action committee and Cambridge offers more detail on just what Bolton was buying. The contract broadly describes the services to be delivered by Cambridge as “behavioural microtargeting with psychographic messaging.”
“The data and modelling Bolton’s PAC received was derived from the Facebook data,” said Christopher Wylie, a data expert who was part of the team that founded Cambridge Analytica. “We definitely told them about how we were doing it.”
WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to rally nationwide on Saturday for tighter gun laws in “March For Our Lives” protests led by survivors of the Florida school massacre, which reiginited public anger over mass shootings.
Students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 students and staff were killed on Feb. 14 will be among the 500,000 people organizers say could rally on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Capitol in Washington.
The protests orchestrated by survivors of the rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are aimed at breaking through a legislative gridlock that has long stymied efforts to tighten firearms controls. Mass shootings at American schools and colleges have become a regular occurrence.
“This issue is going to turn into the No. 1 issue in this country. I know that’s not only what I want, but I know it’s what you guys want,” Alfonso Calderon, a junior at the Florida school, told Washington students at a pre-march event on Thursday.
The Washington rally is among more than 800 events scheduled worldwide, with US demonstrations set from San Clemente, California, to New York and Parkland, according to gun-control group Everytown For Gun Safety.
The teenage organizers have won kudos and cash from dozens of celebrities, with singer Ariana Grande and “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda among those performing in Washington.
“Trainwreck” star Amy Schumer is set to appear at the Los Angeles rally. Actor George Clooney and his human rights attorney wife have donated $500,000 and said they would be at the Washington rally.
Organizers want Congress, many of whose members are up for re-election this year, to ban the sale of assault weapons like the one used in the Florida rampage and to tighten background checks for gun buyers. On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates cite constitutional guarantees of the right to bear arms.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes modest improvements to background checks for gun sales and grants to help schools prevent gun violence.
David Hogg, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, said the protests were a way for young Americans to show their opposition to the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby.
“We’re asking people (to) put the USA over the NRA,” he said at the Thursday event in Washington.
An NRA spokeswoman said it had not taken a position on the protests.
Democrats and nonpartisan groups hope to register at least 25,000 first-time voters at the rallies, potentially a boost for Democrats, who generally favor stricter gun controls.
SEOUL: The rival Koreas have agreed to hold high-level talks this coming week to prepare for an April summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korea said Saturday.
The summit aims to improve relations and resolve the standoff over the North’s nuclear program.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will lead the South’s delegation at the meeting Thursday at the border village of Panmunjom, where officials will discuss the date and specific agendas of the summit, according to the Unification Ministry. The North’s delegation will be led by Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
The rivals agreed to a summit when Moon’s envoys visited Kim in Pyongyang earlier this month. South Korean officials also brokered a potential meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump by the end of May.
The leaders of the two Koreas have held talks only twice since the 1950-53 Korean War.
It’s unclear whether the leaders’ meetings between Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington, if they take place, could lead to any meaningful breakthrough after an unusually provocative year. North Korea in 2017 tested its most powerful nuclear weapon to date and test-launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles theoretically capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
There are also concerns in South Korea over whether the appointment of John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish replacement for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, could potentially complicate efforts to set up talks between Trump and Kim, given his past bellicose rhetoric about North Korea.
A South Korean presidential official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules, downplayed such worries on Friday, saying that Trump remains firmly committed to the summit and is leading the drive to set it up.
The planned summit between Moon and Kim will be preceded by performances of South Korean pop singers in North Korea.
Tak Hyun-min, a South Korean presidential aide who completed a three-day trip to North Korea to arrange the events, told reporters in Beijing on Saturday that it was agreed that the South Korean artists will hold a concert in Pyongyang on April 1 and follow with a joint performance with North Korean artists on April 3.
The South Korean artists will include some of the country’s most popular pop singers, including Cho Yong-pil, who performed in Pyongyang during a previous era of detente, and girl band Red Velvet.