Category Archives: World

25 injured in building explosion in Germany, say police

BERLIN: Twenty-five people were injured, four of them severely, when an explosion destroyed an apartment building in the western German city of Wuppertal, police said Sunday.

Police said the explosion rocked the several-story building shortly before midnight Saturday with a large bang, scaring people in surrounding homes so much they ran out into the street in a panic. The detonation was so severe it destroyed the building’s attic and the top three floors, the German news agency dpa reported.

Fire then broke out in several different parts of the apartment building and firefighters had trouble dousing the flames because parts of the building kept collapsing. They were able to rescue four severely injured from inside the building and sent them to the hospital. Another 21 people were slightly injured and treated by emergency staff at the scene.

Police said they were in the dark about the cause of the explosion, dpa reported.

A car nearby was destroyed, buried under window frames that were blown onto it by the explosions’ impact. Emergency personnel on Sunday picked up bricks and furniture on the street.

Some of the building’s roof beams stood black and eerie in the smoke as police scoured accessible parts of the building for further people trapped inside before giving the all-clear.

Where the building stood is now a huge gap in a row of apartment buildings in the city’s Langerfeld neighbourhood.

Later Sunday, authorities brought in heavy equipment to tear down the remains of the ruin. They said it was too dangerous for investigators to search for evidence that might reveal the explosion’s cause because the destroyed building could collapse at any time.

UK's Prince William begins politically delicate Mideast trip

AMMAN: Britain’s Prince William has kicked off a politically delicate five-day tour of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, planning to meet with young people, refugees and political leaders in a tumultuous region once controlled by Britain.
In Jordan, he was welcomed Sunday by 23-year-old Crown Prince Hussein, a member of the Hashemite dynasty Britain helped install in then-Transjordan a century ago.

William will visit a technology lab for young Jordanians, tour a vocational training college with links to Britain’s Middlesex University and meet Syrian refugee children.

On Monday evening, the prince leaves for Jerusalem for the first-ever official visit by a member of the monarchy to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Though billed as non-political, it’s a high-profile foreign visit for the 36-year-old William, second in line to the throne.

Zimbabwe rules out delaying election after blast at rally

HARARE: Zimbabwe‘s presidential spokesman is ruling out an election delay or a state of emergency after an explosion at the president’s campaign rally on Saturday that state media called an assassination attempt.

George Charamba told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper that the historic July 30 vote will go ahead as planned despite the blast that occurred shortly after President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed a stadium crowd in Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold.

At least 49 people, including both of Zimbabwe’s vice presidents, were injured in the explosion that Mnangagwa said occurred just “inches” from him. Dramatic footage showed him walking off the stage and into a crowded tent where the blast occurred seconds later, sending up smoke as people screamed and ran for cover.

Mnangagwa was unscathed and later pointed out he’d had numerous attempts on his life in the past, saying he was used to them by now.

No arrests have been reported. Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told reporters on Sunday that investigations continued and a “substantial reward” was being offered for information. She gave no further details and did not take questions.

The president “will not be driven by vengefulness or a spirit of retribution,” his spokesman told The Sunday Mail. “Until the investigators pronounce themselves and present the evidence for arrest and prosecution, no one should ascribe motive or blame.”

Mnangagwa shortly after the attack told the state broadcaster, without elaborating, that those responsible must have come from “outside Bulawayo.” He added: “I can assure you these are my normal enemies.”

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, condemned the attack.

The president has vowed to hold a free and fair election, the first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure. Allegations of violence and fraud marked past votes.

Mnangagwa, a longtime ally whose firing as Mugabe’s deputy after a ruling party feud led to the transfer of power, is under pressure to deliver a credible election that western countries see as key to lifting international sanctions.

He has invited election observers from the United States, the European Union and elsewhere for the first time in 16 years. Mugabe rejected Western observers, accusing them of bias.

Police: 25 injured in building explosion in Germany

Police: 25 injured in building explosion in Germany – Times of India

AP | Jun 24, 2018, 15:18 IST

BERLIN: German police say that 25 people have been injured, four of them severely, when an explosion destroyed a building in the western city of Wuppertal.

Police say the explosion rocked the several-story building shortly before midnight Saturday with a large noise, scaring people in surrounding homes so much they ran out into the street in a panic.

Fire broke out in several different parts of the house and firefighters had trouble dousing the flames because parts of the building kept collapsing. They were able to rescue four severely injured from inside the building. Another 21 people were slightly injured and treated by emergency staff at the scene.

Police said Sunday they were still trying to get the fire under control. They are investigating the cause of the explosion.

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US-backed forces announce 3-day curfew in Raqqa city

AMMAN: US-backed forces in control of Syria’s Raqqa city imposed a three-day curfew on Sunday and declared a state of emergency saying Islamic State militants had infiltrated the city and planned a bombing campaign.
Witnesses say internal security forces affiliated to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had announced late last night the surprise curfew from dawn in the former Islamic State stronghold until Tuesday, set up checkpoints across the devastated city.

A statement said the state of emergency in the city were “protective measures”.

“Our intelligence apparatus has received information of the entry of terrorist groups tied to Daesh (acronym of IS) that are about to wage attacks to undermine secuity in the city,” the statement read.

The curfew prevents anyone from leaving or entering the city that was retaken by US-backed militias last October, after a four-month battle that left thousands of civilians dead and most of its neighborhoods flattened in devastating US led aerial strikes.

Islamic State declared a caliphate in 2014 and at the height of its power ruled over millions of people in parts of Syria and Iraq. The militant group had declared Raqqa the capital of its self-proclaimed state.

Two residents said the city has seen in recent weeks growing tensions between the majority Arab residents and SDF forces dominated by Kurdish personnel that spilled into sporadic protests last month. The protests, quelled by force, called for the SDF’s eviction from the city.

They said many of its over ,100,000 residents are angered by a policy of obligatory military conscription of youths and resentful of perceived discriminatory practices against the majority Arab population by senior Kurdish officials who effectively run the city.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, denies these accusations and says its local councils are run by the city’s residents and says it seeks to redress decades of ethnic discrimination against Kurds by the Syria’s ruling Baath party

Another resident in touch with local officials said the security operation aimed at arresting the leader of a disaffected Arab rebel group Thwar al Raqqa, affiliated with the SDF. A previous attempt last month to arrest him provoked violent demonstrations by his supporters.

Nawaz Sharif rules out returning to Pakistan while wife fighting for life in UK hospital

LONDON: Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif has ruled out returning to Pakistan for now to face corruption charges, while his wife is on a ventilator at a hospital here.

Kulsoom, 68, was admitted to hospital in London in August last year after doctors found she was suffering from throat cancer. She has been undergoing treatment since then.

On June 14, she was shifted to the hospital’s ICU after she suffered a cardiac arrest and has been on life support since.

“Can I think of going back to Pakistan under such circumstances when Kulsoom is on ventilator? Do you think I should return to Pakistan leaving behind my wife in such a condition?” the three-time prime minister asked reporters outside a hospital in London.

On June 14, Sharif and his daughter Maryam left for London after being granted a brief exemption from the ongoing corruption trial against them.

The Sharif family is facing trial at an accountability court in Islamabad on corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) following the Supreme Court’s July 28, 2017 verdict in the Panama Papers scandal, disqualifying Sharif and directing the anti-graft watchdog to launch an inquiry.

Expressing his regret over not being able to see her while she was conscious, Nawaz said he planned on a four-day visit but was unsure about returning to Pakistan due to Kulsoom’s health. He said that the matter will be further deliberated upon after consultations with the doctors, the Express Tribune reported.

The supremo of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), however, asserted his intent to return ahead of the July 25 general election.

Sharif declined to speak on political matters and requested for prayers for his wife. “I will do politics once I return to Pakistan.”

Protesters, Democrats want immigrant families reunited

MCALLEN, Texas: Demonstrators led rallies and protests Saturday to decry the separation of immigrant parents from their children by US border authorities, while Democratic lawmakers said they aren’t convinced the Trump administration has any real plan to reunite them.
Hundreds of people rallied near a Homestead, Florida, facility where immigrant children are being held. Demonstrators marched in San Diego carrying signs reading “Free the Kids” and “Keep Families Together” and in other California cities.

Outside a Border Patrol processing facility in McAllen, Texas, protesters carrying American flags temporarily blocked a bus carrying immigrants and shouted “Shame! Shame!” at border agents.

“Something has to be done,” said Gabriel Rosales, the League of United Latin American Citizens’ national vice president for the southwest. “This is not something that’s OK in America today. And ours is to show those kids that they have people here in the United States that care.”

The demonstrations came days after the Trump administration reversed course in the face of public and political outrage and had authorities stop separating immigrant families caught crossing the US-Mexico border.

In recent weeks, more than 2,300 children were taken from their families under a “zero-tolerance” policy in which people entering the US illegally face prosecution. While the family separations were ended, confusion has ensued, with parents left searching for their children.

The administration says it will now seek to detain immigrant families during their immigration proceedings, which has also stoked an outcry.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton issued a statement that criticized protests in Portland, Oregon, against immigration enforcement activities that closed federal immigration offices there this week, but did not address the other demonstrations occurring around the country Saturday.

Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said her agency is trying to help reunite families or place unaccompanied immigrant children with an appropriate sponsor.

In Florida, Argentine immigrant Maria Bilbao said she joined the protest because she came to the country 17 years ago with her then-9-year-old son and understands the fear of being separated from a child.

“What is happening in this country is disgusting,” said Bilbao, who worked as a cleaning woman before becoming a legal resident and now works for an immigrant rights group. “They should be letting people go to the outside so they can work and contribute to this country.”

More protests are planned for next weekend in states from Connecticut to California.

A group of 25 Democratic lawmakers who toured the border processing facility in McAllen, Texas, said they hadn’t seen a clear federal system for reuniting those who were split up. Everyone _ even infants _ is assigned “A” or alien numbers, only to be given different identification numbers by other federal agencies.

They described seeing children sleeping behind bars, on concrete floors and under emergency “mylar” heat-resistant blankets.

“There are still thousands of children who are out there right now untethered to their parents and no coherent system to fix that,” Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, told reporters after the tour.

Immigration lawyers are also trying to help facilitate reunions. At criminal court hearings in McAllen, one lawyer identified parents separated from their children, and immigration attorney Jodi Goodwin said she followed up with them at a detention facility in Port Isabel, Texas, to collect information about their cases and their children.

Goodwin said she has been inundated with requests from the parents, and the list is still growing.

“Once you end up talking with one parent they tell you that there are 70 other parents in their dorm that are also separated and can I help them,” she said, adding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had asked her to share the information so they could assist. “We haven’t tapped out on the number of adults that have been separated.”

Tens of thousands of immigrants traveling with their families have been caught on the US-Mexico border in recent years, many fleeing gang violence in Central America. About 9,000 such family units have been caught in each of the last three months, according to US border authorities.

The Trump administration announced plans in April to prosecute all immigrants caught along the southwest border with illegally entering the country. Parents were jailed and children were taken to government-contracted shelters.

The administration says it will continue with prosecutions and seek to detain families together during their immigration proceedings. Immigration officials have said they could seek up to 15,000 beds in family detention facilities, and the Pentagon is drawing up plans to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied immigrant children on military bases.

The administration also is seeking changes to a decades-old settlement governing the detention of immigrant children to try to be able to detain children with their parents in family detention centers for longer periods of time.

France, Belgium seek UNESCO recognition for World War I memorials

France, Belgium seek UNESCO recognition for World War I memorials – Times of India

AP | Jun 24, 2018, 12:45 IST

File photo of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. (AP photo)File photo of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. (AP photo)
BRUSSELS: France and Belgium are urging UNESCO to designate scores of their World War I memorials and cemeteries as World Heritage sites as the centennial remembrance of the 1914-1918 war nears its end.

The Franco-Belgian border, where much of the fiercest fighting of World War I took place, is dotted with monuments to the dead who fought on battlefields ranging from Verdun in France to Passchendaele in Belgium.

The war between a group led by Germany against France, the British Commonwealth and the United States saw some 3 million people die around the front line, which stretched from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. More than 2 million men are buried in the region.

A UNESCO panel will assess it and 29 other nominations at a meeting in Bahrain that starts Sunday.

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N Zealand PM hopes for new world for daughter Neve

AUCKLAND: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed her newborn daughter would be called Neve as she left an Auckland hospital Sunday, and expressed hope that one day a woman giving birth in office would no longer be a “novelty”.
Speaking publicly for the first time since her delivery on Thursday — which made waves around the world — Ardern said she and her partner Clarke Gayford had settled on the full name of Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford for their first child.

“We chose Neve because we just liked it, and when we met her we thought she looked like she suited the name,” the 37-year-old told reporters as she cradled her daughter in her arms.

Ardern, who said the couple kept a short list of names, added that Neve meant “bright and radiant and snow”, while Te Aroha was the name of a rural town some 140 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Auckland where her family is from.

The New Zealand leader said she was blown away by well-wishes locally and internationally, including from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

“We wanted to say thank you (to New Zealanders for their support) and we are all doing really well. Sleep deprived, but super well,” she said.

Ardern is only the second world leader to give birth while in office, after former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto, and said she hoped such experiences would not be unusual in the future.

“Hopefully, these things said in these moments now, I guess for want of a better word — novelty, they are still new — that one day they aren’t new anymore,” she said.

“And that it’s generally accepted, not just that women can make choices, but actually that men can too,” Ardern added, referring to Gayford, who was standing beside her.

Her partner, a 40-year-old television fishing personality, will be a stay-at-home dad while the prime minister will return to work after six weeks’ maternity leave.

“Clarke’s been as much of a role model here as I am, and that’s something that I think a lot of people talk about too and it’s true,” Ardern said.

“So I hope for little girls and boys that actually there’s a future where they can make choices about how they raise their family and what kind of career they have that is just based on what they want and it makes them happy.”

Former New Zealand PM Helen Clark had said the couple was sending sent a significant message to the world and were “inspirational” for younger men and women.

The birth capped an eventful year for Ardern, who became prime minister in October just three months after taking charge of the Labour Party as it languished in the polls.

Her deputy Winston Peters is now acting prime minister, although Ardern will continue to be consulted on significant issues.

Turkey's Erdogan faces resurgent opposition in twin election test

ISTANBUL: Turks began voting today in dual parliamentary and presidential polls seen as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s toughest election test, with the opposition revitalised and his popularity at risk from growing economic troubles.

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 displaying autocratic behaviour.

Polling stations opened at 0500 GMT (10.30 IST) and were due to close at 1400 GMT (7.30pm IST) , with the first results expected late in the evening.

Over 56 million eligible voters can for the first time cast ballots simultaneously in the parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

But both these goals are in doubt in the face of an energetic campaign by his rival from the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, who has mobilised hundreds of thousands in mega rallies, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative polls.

Erdogan remains the favourite to hold on to the presidency – even if he needs a second round on July 8 – but the outcome is likely to be much tighter than he expected when calling the snap polls one-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.

Analysts say the opposition’s performance is all the more troubling for the authorities given how the campaign has been slanted in favour of Erdogan, who has dominated media airtime.

“Even if the odds are on the incumbent’s side, the race is likely to be far tighter than many expected,” said Ilke Toygur, analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and adjunct professor at University Carlos III in Madrid.

“Ince has shown in a very short time that a serious alternative could be emerging.” The stakes in this election are particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in a April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.

Erdogan, whose mastery of political rhetoric is acknowledged even by critics, has won a dozen elections but is now fighting against the backdrop of increasing economic woes.

Inflation has zoomed well into double digits – with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions – while the Turkish lira has lost some 25 per cent in value against the US dollar this year.

Meanwhile, former physics teacher Ince built up a national following with lacerating attacks on Erdogan’s rule, bringing up near-taboos like the AKP’s past cooperation with the group of Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed coup. He mustered colossal numbers for rallies in the three largest cities of Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul on the final days of the campaign, promising a “different Turkey”

“Ince’s wit, audacity, ability to poke holes through Erdogan’s narrative and connect with Turks beyond the traditional base of his secularist CHP has flustered Erdogan and his team,” said Anthony Skinner, head of MENA at Verisk Maplecroft.

Erdogan has at times seemed on the back foot, making promises to lift the state of emergency imposed after the coup bid and ensuring the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey go home only after similar pledges by Ince.

The votes of Turkey’s Kurdish minority will be especially crucial in the parliamentary poll. If the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) wins seats by polling over the 10 per cent minimum threshold, the AKP will struggle to keep its overall majority.

But in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP’s presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

The opposition has also alleged heavy bias in favour of Erdogan by state media, with news channel TRT Haber not showing a single second of Ince’s giant final Istanbul rally live.

The vote will be closely watched by the European Union — which Erdogan says he still wants Turkey to join despite the accession process grinding to a halt — and the United States which has seen no improvement in ties with its NATO ally under Donald Trump.

Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are responding to calls from the opposition to monitor the polls for a clean election and a delegation of observers from the OSCE will also be in place.


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