As police wait to arrest him, ex-Peru president kills self
In this July 28, 2006 file photo, Peruvian
President Alan García waves to a crowd after his swearing-in ceremony while
he walks through the streets of Lima, Peru. (AP Photo/Ernesto Benavides)
Franklin Briceño and Christine Armario
Lima, Peru (AP) — Former
President Alan Garcia mortally wounded himself with a gunshot to his head
Wednesday as officers waited to arrest him in a big graft probe that has put
Peru's most prominent politicians behind bars and provoked a reckoning over
Authorities broke through a door at
Garcia's mansion in a leafy, upscale neighborhood of the Peruvian capital
after hearing gunfire. The 69-year-old former head of state was rushed to a
hospital, where a team of doctors performed emergency surgery but could not
"The president, upset over this
situation, knowing his absolute innocence ... had this terrible accident,"
said his lawyer, Erasmo Reyna.
It was a shocking end for a man who
twice governed Peru — once in the 1980s and then again more than two decades
later. In more recent years, he became ensnared in Latin America's biggest
corruption scandal, a sweeping investigation of politicians' dealings with
the giant Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.
No country outside Brazil has gone as
far as Peru in prosecuting politicians tied to Odebrecht, which admitted in
a 2016 plea agreement in the U.S. that it paid nearly $800 million
throughout Latin America in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.
Peruvian politicians have described the
investigation as a political witch hunt. Prosecutors and anti-corruption
advocates insist the arrests show the South American nation is finally
holding leaders accountable.
Several leaders called on Peruvians to
set aside politics as the nation mourns Garcia, a populist firebrand whose
second presidency helped usher in a commodities-led investment boom.
"It doesn't matter your political hue,
Peru is in mourning," politician Gilbert Violeta wrote on Twitter. "This is
a tragedy for our country."
Condolences poured in from throughout
Latin America as leaders recalled a man who at his peak was called the John
F. Kennedy of Latin America.
"With virtues and imperfections, he
realized great changes that allowed Peru's economy to become one of the
fastest-growing in Latin America and in the world," former Mexican President
Felipe Calderon said.
Garcia was born into a middle-class
family in the capital, the child of a politician father whose party became
Garcia's own. He went on to a career marked by epic triumphs and devastating
setbacks, a rollercoaster of a political life fueled by his charisma and
capacity for reinvention.
Ultimately, though, the former
president was an increasingly isolated figure. As investigators closed in,
he argued that he was the victim of false testimony about taking bribes from
Odebrecht during the construction of Lima's metro. He had not been formally
In December, Garcia sought asylum in
Uruguay's embassy, staying there for a little more than two weeks before his
request was denied. Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez said there was no
evidence to support Garcia's contention he was being political targeted.
He vowed to cooperate with any
investigation and defended himself up to the day before his death.
"I am not mentioned in any document and
in any evidence," he wrote Tuesday on Twitter. "They're left to SPECULATE or
invent intermediaries. I never sold out and it's proven."
When authorities arrived Wednesday at
Garcia's home, they met him on the staircase to the second floor. He asked
for a moment to call his attorney, entered another room and closed the door
behind him. Moments later, gunfire rang out. Police found him seated,
bleeding profusely, Interior Minister Carlos Moran said.
Supporters who had gathered outside the
hospital wept as word of his death spread. Some held each other in embrace.
Others cried out. A line of officers in helmets and riot shields stood
guard, keeping them at a distance.
His sudden death was sure to provoke
reflection both over one of the most storied careers in Peruvian politics
and the nation's battle against corruption.
Tall and handsome, Garcia was first
swept into office on a wave of optimism in 1985 as Latin America's youngest
president at age 36. He was hailed as "the president of hope."
Fed by state spending, wage increases
and price controls, Garcia's policies initially created an artificial
economic boom. But the state coffers were soon drained, credit dried up and
investors fled. Labor strikes demanding wage increases in line with soaring
inflation crippled production.
As Peru's economy collapsed, Maoist
Shining Path guerrillas surged.
At one point, Garcia was so depressed
by his plunging popularity that he did not appear in public for more than a
month and reportedly offered the presidency to his blind 88-year-old vice
president, Luis Alberto Sanchez.
Garcia backed the candidacy of an
independent political unknown, Alberto Fujimori, in the second-round runoff
of the 1990 presidential elections to prevent a win by novelist Mario Vargas
Llosa, a conservative rival.
Two years after leaving office, Garcia
fled the country as Fujimori's new government pursued corruption charges
He was accused, among other things, of
taking kickbacks for a Lima electric railway contract and of depositing
Peru's reserves in the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International,
or BCCI, which was later shut down worldwide amid fraud allegations.
On the night of April 5, 1992, Fujimori
dissolved Congress, suspended the Peruvian Constitution and sent troops to
the home of Garcia, who had been warned of a plot to kill him.
"That was perhaps the first time I felt
physical fear in my life, because I understood it was true there would be an
attack and that we would die," Garcia later recalled in an interview with
The Associated Press.
"I had two pistols with nine rounds
each," he said, "and I shot all 18 bullets into the air as they were
preparing to knock down the garage wall with a small tank and were coming
over the walls."
The soldiers briefly retreated, Garcia
said, and he fled by climbing over a neighbor's wall using a ladder. He was
later smuggled out of the neighborhood in the trunk of a car and eventually
made it to the Colombian Embassy, which granted him safe passage from Peru.
During his exile, he split time between
Colombia, which gave him asylum, and Paris, where his wife and four children
Garcia was reviled by most Peruvians,
who initially tolerated, even lauded, Fujimori's iron-fisted rule, grateful
to him for taming the rebel insurgencies and cleaning up an economic
But in 2000, Fujimori's autocratic
government crumbled amid mushrooming corruption scandals, creating an
opening for Garcia's political comeback. The charges were eventually dropped
for lack of evidence.
Garcia returned to his homeland in 2001
to seek re-election, casting himself as an elder statesman who had outgrown
leftist ideas. He lost narrowly in a second round of voting to U.S.-trained
economist Alejandro Toledo. Then he set his sights on the 2006 election.
He was widely viewed as the lesser of
two evils when he defeated radical nationalist Ollanta Humala in a runoff.
But he was determined to regain the trust of Peruvians, telling them, "I am
more mature, and I would be an idiot if I were to commit the same mistakes."
His popularity rose as he implemented
austerity measures in a nation beset by poverty. He slashed his own salary
by more than half and issued decrees forcing lawmakers to reduce their pay
by nearly 40 percent.
He also gained praise by launching
programs to bring potable water to poor shantytowns and pledged to build
roads, schools and health clinics in rural areas.
On Wednesday night, his body was taken
to a memorial service at his party's headquarters, known as the "House of
the People," a blue colonial-style building where Garcia once celebrated his
Several men carried his wooden casket
through a thick crowd of supporters chanting, "Alan! Alan!"
"He's still with the people!" they
Bus carrying Germans crashes, kills 29 on Portugal's Madeira
Rescue officials attend the scene after a tour
bus crashed in Canico on Portugal's Madeira Island, Wednesday, April 17. (Rui
Silva/Aspress/Global Imagens via AP)
Lisbon, Portugal (AP) — A tour bus carrying
German tourists crashed on Portugal's Madeira Island on Wednesday, killing
29 people and injuring 28 others, local authorities said.
The bus, which was carrying 55 people, rolled down a
steep hillside after veering off the road on a bend east of the capital,
Funchal, and struck at least one house, local mayor Filipe Sousa told cable
news channel SIC.
Local television showed bodies scattered over a rural
hillside next to the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira, off northwestern Africa, is a
popular vacation destination for Europeans due to its mild climate and lush,
The dead included 18 women and 11 men, one of whom died
later at a hospital, Sousa told public broadcaster RTP.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said
preliminary reports he had received indicated all the dead were German. But
Tomasia Alves, head of the Funchal hospital, said not all the victims had
been identified and refused to confirm the nationality of the dead.
Pedro Calado, vice president of Madeira's regional
government, said at a news conference that the injured, including the
Portuguese driver and a local tour guide, were taken to a hospital. He did
not say whether anyone who was not on the bus, including people on the
roadside at the time of the accident, were among the victims.
No children were among the dead and injured, Alves
said. She said at a news conference that two of the injured were Portuguese
and the rest were foreign, but she declined to give further details.
The mayor said the bus was carrying a group of German
The German foreign ministry, in a tweet, expressed
"great shock" at the accident. "We must unfortunately assume that victims
are from Germany," it said.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet
that he had sent condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I learned
of this tragic accident in Madeira with deep sorrow," he said.
Merkel's spokesman said "terrible news is reaching us
from Madeira." Steffen Seibert said on Twitter that "we are in deepest
sorrow over all those who lost their lives in the bus crash." He added: "Our
thoughts are with the injured."
Portugal's air force said it had three aircraft on
standby in case any injured needed to be taken to hospitals on the
Portuguese mainland, almost 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away. But Funchal
hospital's clinical director, Dr. Pedro Freitas, said transfers were not
Madeira's regional government announced three days of
mourning, when flags on public buildings are flown at half-staff.
Residents said the weather was fine at the time of the
accident, which happened in daylight in the early evening.
Calado, the regional government's vice president, said
the bus was five years old and had passed its mandatory inspections for
Authorities said they were investigating the cause of
Bells of French cathedrals ring in tribute to Notre Dame
This image taken on Tuesday April 16, 2019 shows
an aerial shot of the fire damage to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. (Gigarama.ru
Sylvie Corbet and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny
Paris (AP) — Bells of cathedrals
across France rang in a moving tribute Wednesday to Notre Dame as
firefighters and experts continued to keep the beloved but weakened landmark
under close surveillance.
From Sacre Coeur in Paris to the cities
of Strasbourg in the east and Rouen in the west, the architectural treasures
of France solemnly marked the inferno, two days after it ravaged the gothic
cathedral, widely regarded as the soul of France.
"I just arrived for the first ring of
the bells and immediately there was an emotion. Incredible, indescribable, I
just can't explain it," said Nadia Pascassio-Comte, in Strasbourg. "It was
beautiful and sad at the same time. I had tears in my eyes at one point, and
I think that this solidarity is magical, it really unites a lot of people."
At Saint Sulpice church, the
second-largest house of worship in Paris, French first lady Brigitte Macron
attended a special service for the annual blessing of the oils during Holy
Week, ahead of Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile, restoration specialists
questioned President Emmanuel Macron's ambitious five-year reconstruction
timeline for Notre Dame, with some suggesting it could take more than three
times that amount of time to rebuild the 850-year-old architectural
Even Prime Minister Edouard Philippe
acknowledged Wednesday that it would be difficult.
"This is obviously an immense
challenge, a historic responsibility," Philippe said after a Cabinet meeting
focused on the restoration.
Prominent French conservation architect
Pierluigi Pericolo told Inrocks magazine the restoration work could take "no
less than 15 years. ... It's a colossal task."
Pericolo, who worked on the restoration
of the 19th-century St.-Donatien Basilica, which was badly damaged in a 2015
blaze in the French city of Nantes, said it could take two to five years
just to check the stability of Notre Dame, which dominates the Paris
"It's a fundamental step, and very
complex, because it's difficult to send workers into a monument whose
vaulted ceilings are swollen with water," Pericolo told France-Info. "The
end of the fire doesn't mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can
deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral
composition and fracture inside."
Macron received some support for his
lofty five-year restoration goal from his presidential cultural heritage
envoy, Stephane Bern, who said it was realistic to reopen Notre Dame to the
public in time for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. However, he did not
indicate whether the reconstruction work would be completed by then.
Speaking after a meeting at the
presidential palace about the monument's reconstruction, Bern said Macron
didn't express his views regarding the rebuilding of the cathedral's lead
roof, or whether the frame should be restored in wood like the destroyed
one, or in metal or concrete. He also said France would hold an
international architecture competition to determine whether the collapsed
19th-century spire would be rebuilt to the same design or a new one.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's rector said he
would close the cathedral for up to "five to six years," acknowledging that
a segment of the structure may be gravely weakened.
According to a French government
official, the building would have burned to the ground in a "chain-reaction
collapse" had firefighters not moved as rapidly as they did to battle the
blaze racing through the building.
The firefighters acted aggressively to
protect wooden supports in the twin medieval bell towers from the flames,
averting a bigger catastrophe, said José Vaz de Matos, a fire expert with
France's Culture Ministry.
"If the fire reached this wooden
structure, the bell tower would have been lost," de Matos said at a news
conference. "From the moment we lose the war of the bell towers, we lose the
cathedral, because it's a chain-reaction collapse."
An initial fire alert was sounded at
6:20 p.m., as a Mass was underway in the cathedral, but no fire was found. A
second alarm went off at 6:43 p.m., and the blaze was discovered on the
roof. No one was killed in the fire, after firefighters and church officials
speedily evacuated those inside.
Firefighters acted as fast as they
could to save the cathedral, said senior fire official Philippe Demay,
denying that there was any delay in their response.
Despite extensive damage, many of the
cathedral's treasures were saved, including Notre Dame's famous rose
windows, although they are not out of danger.
Jean-Marc Fournier, chaplain of the
Paris fire brigade, told Catholic broadcaster KTO that the trickiest part
was reaching the person who held the security codes to open the safe
containing the Crown of Thorns, regarded as Notre Dame's most sacred relic.
Paris Firefighters' spokesman Lt.-Col.
Gabriel Plus said that even though they are in good condition, a "threat"
continues to the gables, or support walls, because of the heavy stone
statues perched on top of them.
"The roof no longer holds (the gables)
up. They are holding up all by themselves," he said, adding that some
statues must be removed to lessen the weight on the gables.
Scaffolding that had been erected for a
renovation of the spire and roof must also be properly removed because of
its weight and because it is now "crucially deformed," he added.
The Paris prosecutor's office said
investigators have been able to access some parts of the building, although
others remain too dangerous. No indication of a criminal act had been found
so far, it said.
More than 40 people have already been
questioned in the investigation, including workers at the five construction
companies who were involved in renovating the church spire and roof. Police
also took images of the destruction using drones, in case it is altered by
wind or rain.
Nearly $1 billion has been pledged for
the cathedral's restoration, coming from ordinary worshippers and wealthy
magnates, including those who own L'Oreal, Chanel and Dior. Bern told
broadcaster France-Info that 880 million euros ($995 million) has been
raised since the fire.
Criticism already has surfaced in
France from those who say the money could be better spent elsewhere, on
smaller, struggling churches or on workers. Others have criticized the
billionaires' donations because their pledges make them eligible for huge
deductions in taxes.
North Korea says it test-fired new tactical guided weapon
In this April 10, 2019 file photo, North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un attends the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 7th Central
Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang. (Korean Central News
Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Foster Klug and Kim Tong-Hyung
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
Korea said Thursday that it had test-fired a new type of "tactical guided
weapon," its first such test in nearly half a year, and a possible sign of
its displeasure with deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.
The test, which didn't appear to be of
a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle
negotiations, allows Pyongyang to show its people it is pushing ahead with
weapons development while also reassuring domestic military officials
worried that diplomacy with Washington signals weakness.
The North's leader, Kim Jong Un,
observed the unspecified weapon being fired Wednesday by the Academy of
Defense Science, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim
was reported to have said "the development of the weapon system serves as an
event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the
The Associated Press could not
independently verify North Korea's claim, and it wasn't immediately clear
what had been tested. A ballistic missile test would jeopardize the
diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for
disarmament. A South Korean analyst said that details in the North's media
report indicate it could have been a new type of cruise missile. Another
possible clue: one of the lower level officials mentioned in the North's
report on the test — Pak Jong Chon — is known as an artillery official.
The test comes during an apparent
deadlock in nuclear disarmament talks after the failed summit in Hanoi
between Kim and President Donald Trump earlier this year. Some in Seoul
worry that the North will turn back to actions seen as provocative by
outsiders as a way to force Washington to drop its hardline negotiating
stance and grant the North's demand for a removal of crushing international
sanctions. A string of increasingly powerful weapons tests in 2017 and
Trump's response of "fire and fury" had many fearing war before the North
shifted to diplomacy.
Trump said last month that he "would be
very disappointed if I saw testing."
As the diplomacy stalls, there have
been fresh reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research center
and long-range rocket site where Pyongyang is believed to build missiles
targeting the U.S. mainland. North Korean media said Wednesday that Kim
guided a flight drill of combat pilots from an air force and anti-aircraft
unit tasked with defending the capital Pyongyang from an attack.
During a speech at his rubber-stamp
parliament last week, Kim set the year's end as a deadline for Washington to
offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage diplomacy.
Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul's
Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said North Korea's descriptions of the
test show the weapon is possibly a newly developed cruise missile. The
North's report said the "tactical guided weapon" successfully tested in a
"peculiar mode of guiding flight" and demonstrated the ability to deliver a
The analyst said the test could also be
intended as a message to the North Korean people and military of a
commitment to maintaining a strong level of defense even as it continues
talks with Washington over nukes.
The North said Thursday that Kim Jong
Un mounted an observation post to learn about and guide the test-fire of the
This is the first known time Kim has
observed the testing of a newly developed weapon system since last November,
when North Korean media said he watched the successful test of an
unspecified "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon." Some observers
have been expecting North Korea to orchestrate "low-level provocations,"
like artillery or short-range missile tests, to register its anger over the
way nuclear negotiations were going.
The analyst in Seoul, Kim Dong-yub, who
is a former South Korean military official, said it wasn't yet clear whether
the North conducted an advanced test of the same weapon Kim Jong Un observed
in November or tested something different.
The White House said it was aware of
the report and had no comment. The Pentagon also said it was aware but had
no information to provide at this point. South Korea's presidential office
said it has no immediate comment. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said
it is analyzing the test but did not specifically say what the weapon
appeared to be.
A U.S. official familiar with
monitoring operations said that neither U.S. Strategic Command nor NORAD
observed any weapons test. That rules out tests that go high into the
atmosphere, such as a ballistic missile, but does not rule out tests at
After the animosity of 2017, last year
saw a stunning turn to diplomacy, culminating in the first-ever summit
between Washington and Pyongyang in Singapore, and then the Hanoi talks this
year. North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range rocket tests, and the
North and South Korean leaders have met three times. But there are growing
worries that the progress could be killed by mismatched demands between
Washington and Pyongyang over sanctions relief and disarmament.
Washington says it won't allow the
North's desired sanctions relief until the nation commits to verifiably
relinquishing his nuclear facilities, weapons and missiles. Kim has shown no
signs that he's willing to give away an arsenal he may see as his strongest
guarantee of survival.
WikiLeaks' Assange hauled from embassy, faces US charge
Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London,
after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan
Police and taken into custody Thursday April 11, 2019. (Victoria Jones/PA
London (AP) — British police on
Thursday hauled a bearded and shouting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian
Embassy where he was holed up for nearly seven years, and the U.S. charged
the WikiLeaks founder with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst
Chelsea Manning to get their hands on government secrets.
Police arrested Assange after the South
American nation revoked the political asylum that had protected him in the
embassy, and he was brought before a British court — the first step in an
extradition battle that he has vowed to fight.
Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno said
he decided to evict the 47-year-old Assange from the embassy after "repeated
violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols," and he
later lashed out at him during a speech in Quito, calling the Australian
native a "spoiled brat" who treated his hosts with disrespect.
In Washington, the U.S. Justice
Department accused Assange of conspiring with Manning to break into a
classified government computer at the Pentagon. The charge was announced
after Assange was taken into custody.
Assange took refuge in the embassy in
2012 after he was released on bail in Britain while facing extradition to
Sweden on sexual assault allegations that have since been dropped. He
refused to leave the embassy, fearing arrest and extradition to the U.S. for
publishing classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
Manning, who served several years in
prison for leaking troves of classified documents before her sentence was
commuted by then-President Barack Obama, is again in custody in Alexandria,
Virginia, for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating
WikiLeaks. Manning's legal team said the indictment against Assange showed
prosecutors didn't need her testimony and called for her to be released,
saying her continued detention would be "purely punitive."
Over the years, Assange used Ecuador's
embassy as a platform to keep his name before the public, frequently making
appearances on its tiny balcony, posing for pictures and reading statements.
Even his cat became famous.
But his presence was an embarrassment
to U.K. authorities, who for years kept a police presence around the clock
outside the embassy, costing taxpayers millions in police overtime. Such
surveillance was removed in 2015, but the embassy remained a focal point for
Video posted online by Ruptly, a news
service of Russia Today, showed several men in suits pulling a handcuffed
Assange out of the embassy and loading him into a police van while uniformed
British police formed a passageway. Assange, who shouted and gestured as he
was removed, sported a full beard and slicked-back gray hair.
He later appeared in Westminster
Magistrates' Court, where District Judge Michael Snow wasted no time in
finding him guilty of breaching his bail conditions, flatly rejecting his
assertion that he had not had a fair hearing and a reasonable excuse for not
"Mr. Assange's behavior is that of a
narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests," Snow said. "He
hasn't come close to establishing 'reasonable excuse.'"
Assange waved to the packed public
gallery as he was taken to the cells. His next appearance was set for May 2
via prison video-link in relation to the extradition case.
Assange's attorney, Jennifer Robinson,
said he will fight any extradition to the U.S.
"This sets a dangerous precedent for
all journalist and media organizations in Europe and around the world," she
said. "This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for
prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information
about the United States."
Asked at the White House about the
arrest, President Donald Trump declared , "It's not my thing," and "I know
nothing about WikiLeaks," despite praising the anti-secrecy organization
dozens of times during his 2016 campaign.
Assange has been under U.S. Justice
Department scrutiny for years for WikiLeaks' role in publishing government
secrets. He was an important figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's
Russia probe as investigators examined how WikiLeaks obtained emails that
were stolen from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and Democratic
"The bottom line is that he has to
answer for what he has done," Clinton said later Thursday, at a speaking
event with husband Bill Clinton.
WikiLeaks quickly drew attention to
U.S. interest in Assange and said that Ecuador had illegally terminated
Assange's political asylum "in violation of international law."
"Powerful actors, including CIA, are
engaged in a sophisticated effort to de-humanise, de-legitimize and imprison
him," the group said in a tweet over a photo of Assange's smiling face.
But in Assange's native Australia,
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australian Broadcasting Corp. he had no
plans to intervene in the case as the charge was a "matter for the United
States" and had nothing to do with Australia.
Ecuadorian officials suggested
Assange's own behavior was to blame.
Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said
Assange's mental and physical health worsened while he was holed up, and he
began to act aggressively toward his hosts, including smearing feces on the
walls of the embassy.
In a fiery speech in Ecuador, Moreno
called him an ungrateful and "miserable hacker" who treated embassy
"When you're given shelter, cared for
and provided food, you don't denounce the owner of the house," Moreno said
to applause at an event outside Quito.
"From now on we'll be more careful in
giving asylum to people who are really worth it and not miserable hackers
whose only goal is to destabilize governments," he added. "We are tolerant,
calm people, but we're not stupid."
Other Ecuadorian officials in Quito
accused supporters of WikiLeaks and two Russian hackers of trying to
destabilize the country as the standoff with Assange intensified recently.
Romo said a close collaborator of
WikiLeaks had traveled with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino this year
to several countries — including Peru, Spain and Venezuela — to try to
undermine the Ecuadorian government. She also said a person close to Assange
had been detained at Quito's airport trying to fly to Japan. The person, who
she did not identify, is accused of conspiring against the Ecuadorian
Later Thursday, a senior Ecuadorian
official said a Swedish software developer living in Quito had been arrested
at the airport as authorities attempt to dismantle a blackmail ring that in
recent days had threatened to retaliate against Moreno.
The official identified the person as
Ola Bini. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity and didn't
provide any additional details about Bini.
On a blog, a Swedish man of the same
name describes himself as a software developer working in Quito for the
Center for Digital Autonomy, a group based in Ecuador and Spain focused on
privacy, security and cryptography issues. It makes no mention of any
affiliation with Wikileaks.
On Twitter earlier Thursday, Bini
called claims by the Interior Minister that Russian hackers and someone
close to Wikileaks were working inside Ecuador "very worrisome" news and
said events looked like a "witch hunt."
But former Ecuadorian President Rafael
Correa called Moreno's decision "cowardly," accusing him of retaliating
against Assange for WikiLeaks spreading allegations about an offshore bank
account purportedly linked to Moreno's family and friends.
On Wednesday, WikiLeaks accused
Ecuador's government of an "extensive spying operation" against him. It
alleges that meetings with lawyers and a doctor in the embassy over the past
year were secretly filmed.
Speaking in the U.K. Parliament after
the arrest, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it showed that "no one
is above the law."
Moreno appeared to suggest a swift
extradition to the U.S. was unlikely.
"In line with our strong commitment to
human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain to guarantee
that Mr. Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face
torture or the death penalty," Moreno said. "The British government has
confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules."
Edward Snowden, the former security
contractor who leaked classified information about U.S. surveillance
programs, called Assange's arrest a blow to media freedom.
"Images of Ecuador's ambassador
inviting the U.K.'s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of —
like it or not — award-winning journalism out of the building are going to
end up in the history books," Snowden tweeted from Russia, which has granted
him permission to stay there while he is wanted by the U.S. "Assange's
critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom."
Sudan's military overthrows president amid bloody protests
celebrate after officials said the military had forced longtime autocratic
President Omar al-Bashir to step down after 30 years in power in Khartoum,
Sudan, Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP Photo)
Maggie Michael and Samy Magdy
Cairo (AP) — Sudan's military
overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday after months of bloody
protests against his repressive 30-year rule. But pro-democracy
demonstrators vowed to keep up their campaign in the streets after the
military said it would govern the country for the next two years.
Al-Bashir's fall came a week after
Algeria's long-ruling, military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was
driven from power. Together, the developments echoed the Arab Spring
uprisings eight years ago that brought down autocrats across the Mideast.
The announcement of the arrest and
removal of the 75-year-old al-Bashir was made by a veteran insider in his
government, Defense Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf, who is under U.S.
sanctions for links to atrocities in Sudan's Darfur conflict.
Ibn Ouf said a military council that
will be formed by the army, intelligence and security apparatus will rule
for two years, after which "free and fair elections" will take place.
Sudan's state-run media later said Ibn Ouf was being sworn in as head of the
The defense chief also announced that
the military had suspended the constitution, dissolved the government,
declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country's borders
and airspace and imposed a curfew.
Protesters who were initially jubilant
over word of the coup reacted by saying they will not end their nearly
week-long sit-in outside the military's headquarters in central Khartoum
until a civilian transition government is formed.
Well after nightfall, tens of thousands
beat drums, sang and chanted slogans against the armed forces and Ibn Ouf.
One of the organizations leading the protest said people were staying in
streets of defiance of the 10 p.m. curfew.
"The first one fell, the second will,
too!" protesters shouted. And: "They removed a thief and brought in a
"What is happening in Sudan is that the
old system is being rebuilt in new clothes," said activist Mohammed Hisham.
"I'm 30 years old, and my whole life we have suffered from lack of freedom
and continuous threats."
Al-Bashir's whereabouts were not
immediately known. Ibn Ouf said only that he was being held in "a safe
Human rights groups urged Sudanese
military authorities to hand al-Bashir over to the International Criminal
Court, where he faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and
genocide for his deadly campaign against insurgents in Darfur.
Amnesty International's secretary
general, Kumi Naidoo, said al-Bashir is wanted for "some of the most odious
human rights violations of our generation."
In Washington, the U.S. State
Department called on the Sudanese military to "follow the will of the
people" and "commit to the speedy handover to civilian rule."
Al-Bashir came to power in a coup of
his own in 1989, backed by the military and Islamist hard-liners. He kept an
iron grip on power and brutally suppressed any opposition, while
monopolizing the economy through allied businessmen.
Over his three decades in control, he
was forced to allow the secession of South Sudan after years of war, a huge
blow to the north's economy. He became an international pariah over the
bloodletting in Darfur. And the U.S. targeted his government repeatedly with
sanctions and airstrikes for his support of Islamic militants.
Throughout, he was a swaggering figure
known to break into dance and wave his cane in front of cheering crowds.
The protests — involving a mix of young
activists, students, professional-employee unions and opposition parties —
erupted in December and were initially fueled by anger over the
deteriorating economy but quickly turned to demands for the president's
Security forces came down hard on the
protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons, and
the clashes left dozens of people dead. Al-Bashir banned unauthorized public
gatherings, imposed a state of emergency and granted sweeping powers to the
After Bouteflika's resignation in
Algeria, the protests escalated and the clampdown grew bloodier, with at
least 22 people killed since Saturday.
Word of al-Bashir's overthrow initially
set off cheering, dancing and singing in the streets by thousands of
protesters, until they heard the official announcement from Ibn Ouf that the
military would remain in charge.
The defense chief denounced al-Bashir's
government for "bad administration, systemic corruption, absence of
justice," adding: "The poor became poorer and the rich became richer. Hope
in equality has been lost." He also said al-Bashir's crackdown against
protesters risked splitting the security establishment and "could cause
Mariam al-Mahdi, a leading member of
the opposition Umma, called the military's takeover "a dangerous move."
"Our demands are clear: We don't want
to replace a coup with a coup," al-Mahdi said.
Filipinos plan more diggings where new human species found
archeologist Armand Salvador Mijares shows a femur bone belonging to a new
specie called Homo luzonensis, during a press conference in metropolitan
Manila, Philippines on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Manila, Philippines (AP) —
Archaeologists who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown
human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern
Philippines said Thursday they plan more diggings and called for better
protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were
Filipino archaeologist Armand Salvador
Mijares said the discovery of the remains in Callao Cave in Cagayan province
made the Philippines an important research ground on human evolution. The
new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of
Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.
Beaming with pride, Mijares displayed
the six fragments of bones from the feet, hands and thigh and seven teeth of
three individuals from that bygone era in a news conference at the state-run
University of the Philippines. Tests showed two of the fossil fragments had
minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years, according to a study
published by the scientific journal Nature.
"This puts the Philippines, our
scientific community in the spotlight," Mijares said. "Before, we're just
peripheral in this debate of human evolution."
Mijares, who led a small team of
foreign and local archaeologists behind the rare discovery, said he plans to
resume the diggings next year and hopes to find larger fossil bones,
artifacts and possibly stone tools used by people in those times. Aside from
Callao Cave, human fossils have recently been found in another site in
Bulacan province just north of the capital, Manila, Mijares said without
Another veteran Filipino archaeologist,
Eusebio Dizon, said the human remains from Callao were the oldest to be
found in the Philippines, predating those discovered in Tabon Cave on the
western island of Palawan by thousands of years.
While the archaeological find could
attract more scientists, Dizon worried that it could also draw vandals and
treasure hunters who could threaten the seven-chamber cave complex, which is
a popular tourism destination. An open-air chapel with pews and an altar in
the cave complex has become a popular venue for weddings and filmmakers.
"Penablanca has been a treasure hunting
haven of many people," Dizon said, referring to the Cagayan provincial town
where the Callao caves are located. "Maybe it will reignite their kind of
activity so that's why it needs protection now more than ever."
The main exodus of modern man's own
species from Africa that all of today's non-African people are descended
from took place around 60,000 years ago.
Analysis of the bones from the Callao
caves led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously
unknown member of our "Homo" branch of the human family tree. One of the toe
bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what's
been seen before in the Homo family, the researchers said.
The fossil bones and teeth found about
3 meters (9.8 feet) below the ground in the cave show they belonged to
small-bodied people. Bones of deer and related animals were found in the
area, some with cut marks, suggesting they were butchered although there
were no stone tools or sharp implements found in the immediate area where
the human fossils were dug up, Mijares said.
Although the find contributes a new
insight into modern man's ancient beginnings, Dizon said it also raised new
questions and deepened the mystery behind the evolution of man.
4 killed in Indian election violence as voting kicks off
voters stand in queues at a polling booth for the first phase of general
elections, near Ghaziabad, India Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP
New Delhi (AP) — At least
four people were killed in clashes Thursday on the first day of polling
in India's general elections, a six-week process that's seen as a
referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party, officials said Thursday.
Police said two workers of Andhra
Pradesh state's ruling Telugu Desam party were killed in a confrontation
with supporters of a regional opposition party, YSR Congress. One
election official was killed in an alleged attack by suspected
insurgents in India's remote northeast, the Election Commission said.
Violent clashes were also reported
elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh state, where voters are casting ballots for
25 members of India's lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, and 175
state assembly seats. Another person was killed by government forces
during a protest in disputed Kashmir.
Outside of Andhra Pradesh, voting
was taking place Thursday in 17 other Indian states and two Union
Territories in the first of a seven-phase election staged over six
weeks. Turnout was estimated at more than 60% of voters.
At least 15 electronic voting
machines were damaged by some angry voters during the voting in several
states, Chandra Bhushan, an election commission official, told
With 900 million of India's 1.3
billion people registered to vote, it is the world's largest democratic
exercise. Over the course of the election, 543 Lok Sahba seats will be
decided from about a million polling stations across India.
With Modi as their frontman, the
BJP won a clear majority in 2014 elections. Under the leadership of
political dynasty scion Rahul Gandhi, India's National Congress party,
which ruled the country for more than half a century since the 1947
independence, has struggled to coalesce India's many opposition parties
into a coherent effort that could go head-to-head with the BJP.
Surveys show the ruling party
projected to come out first again in this year's polls, though with a
Supporters of Modi say the tea
seller's son from Gujarat state has improved the nation's standing in
the world. India's economy has continued to grow under Modi, jostling
with the United Kingdom for the fifth-largest in the world.
"I vote for the progress of my
country," said businessman Manish Kumar after casting his ballot for the
BJP in the Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh state.
Tapan Shome, an accountant, said he
and his wife voted "to make India a good, prosperous country."
But India's growth hasn't meant a
better employment outlook in the country, where an estimated 1 million
people join the labor pool each month. According to the Centre for
Monitoring the Indian Economy, employment contracted by 3.5 million jobs
in the year following a 2016 demonetization program to remove most of
India's banknotes from circulation.
And Modi's critics say his party's
Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions and violence against
Muslims and other minorities in constitutionally secular India.
Since a suicide bombing in disputed
Kashmir killed 40 Indian paramilitary forces in February, the BJP
campaign has played up the threat of Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Voting also began Thursday for two
parliamentary seats in Kashmir, a Himalayan region split between India
and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. The vote came amid
tight security and calls for a boycott by Muslim separatists who say the
polls are an illegitimate exercise. Armed police and paramilitary
soldiers in riot gear guarded polling stations and nearby roads.
After the polls closed, violence
broke out. Government forces fired at anti-India protesters killing a
teenage boy and wounding at least five others in northwestern Handwara
area, police and medics said.
The protesters were chanting
slogans demanding an end to Indian rule over the region and throwing
stones at troops, who fired bullets.
Anti-India protests and clashes
were also reported from northern Palhalan area as well.
In Kashmir's northern Baramulla
area voter turnout was estimated around 35%, compared to 38% in 2014.
Many people said they came out to vote only to express their disapproval
of the BJP, calling it an "anti-Muslim" and "anti-Kashmiri"
The BJP's election manifesto
promised to scrap decades-old special rights for Kashmiris under India's
constitution that prevent outsiders from buying property in the
"I didn't want to vote but then
there's an imminent threat by politicians like Modi who are up in arms
against Kashmiris," said Abdul Qayoom, a voter in Baramulla town.
"They've taken our rights; now they want to dispossess us from our land.
We want to stop people like Modi."
The voting follows a sweeping
crackdown with police arresting hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and
activists. Authorities also banned the movement of civilian vehicles on
a key highway to keep it open exclusively for military and paramilitary
convoys two days a week during the general election.
The first round Thursday could
prove important for the BJP, which won only 32 of 91 seats in the first
phase of the 2014 elections. It is seeking to improve its tally this
Voting concludes on May 19 and
counting is scheduled for May 23.