Update October 27 - 31 , 2017
Explosion, inferno at Indonesia fireworks factory kills 47
Residents watch as thick
black smoke billows from the site of an explosion at a firecracker
factory in Tangerang, on the outskirt of Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday,
Oct. 26. (AP Photo)
Tangerang, Indonesia (AP) —
An explosion and inferno at a fireworks factory near the Indonesian
capital on Thursday killed at least 47 people, most of them female
workers who were apparently locked inside, and injured dozens.
Witnesses said a huge explosion was
heard from the factory at about 10 a.m. and then smaller blasts echoed
across the neighborhood as orange flames jumped from the building and
columns of black smoke billowed from it.
The death toll could rise as many
of those who escaped suffered extensive burns, said Nico Afinta, general
crimes director at Jakarta police. He said bodies were found piled at
the rear of the building.
Police said 103 people were working
at the factory and 10 are still unaccounted for. It's possible some or
all of those 10 had not come to work or suffered only minor injuries and
didn't seek medical attention, said Jakarta police spokesman Argo
A local resident told Indonesia's
MetroTV he saw police and residents smash through a wall of the factory
so trapped workers could escape. Some of the victims were burning as
they ran out, he said.
"The fire began with a strong
explosion like a bomb," Benny, who goes by one name, told the TV
A worker who escaped the fire said
the factory's staff was mostly women employed on a casual basis.
Mumum, who goes by one name, told
Indonesia's TVOne she started working at the factory a few weeks ago and
was paid 40,000 rupiah ($3) a day.
"I lost so many friends. I couldn't
help. Everybody just ran for safety," she said, weeping.
The factory is located next to a
residential area in Tangerang, a city in Banten province on the western
outskirts of Jakarta. A police report said the fire spread after an
explosion that caused the roof to collapse.
Video showed flames shooting meters
above the structure and billowing clouds of black smoke spreading across
the neighborhood as residents looked on in horror.
Tangerang police chief Hary
Kurniawan said 46 injured people were being treated at three hospitals.
The factory had been operating for
less than two months, he said.
"We are still investigating the
cause of the fire and questioning witnesses," Kurniawan told reporters.
"Factory owners or anyone who neglects and violates safety rules should
be held legally responsible."
Minister of Manpower Hanif Dhakiri
said his department would investigate the factory for allegedly
employing underaged workers.
MetroTV, quoting a local official,
said although the factory had a permit, its proximity to a residential
area was against regulations.
Safety laws are inconsistently
enforced or even completely ignored in Indonesia, a poor and sprawling
archipelago nation where worker rights are often treated as a lower
priority than economic growth and jobs.
New screenings begin for passengers on US-bound flights
Long-haul carrier Emirates is one of many
airlines starting new screening procedures for U.S.-bound passengers
following "new security guidelines" from American authorities. (AP
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) —
New security screenings for all passengers on U.S.-bound flights began on
Thursday, with airlines worldwide questioning flyers about their trip and
their luggage in the latest Trump administration decision affecting global
However, confusion still remains about
the new regulations, which come at the end of a 120-day period following the
United States lifting a ban on laptops in airplane cabins affecting 10
Mideast cities. The new regulations cover all the 2,100 flights from around
the world entering the U.S. on any given day.
Some airlines said they had received
permission to delay implementing the new rules until January.
At Dubai International Airport, the
world's busiest for international travel, long-haul carrier Emirates began
questioning passengers about their luggage, liquids they were carrying and
where they were coming from. Passengers also had to have their carry-on bags
searched, along with their electronics.
Emirates declined to discuss the new
procedures in detail on Thursday. On Wednesday, it said it would conduct
"passenger pre-screening interviews" for those traveling on U.S.-bound
flights in concert with other checks on electronics.
Elsewhere, things did not appear to be
going so smoothly. In China, an official in the Xiamen Airlines press
office, who would only give his surname as Qiu, said that the airlines
received a "demand" about the new U.S. regulations and planned "to take some
security measures, including security safety interviews from today on."
"We're not going to interview all
passengers, but focus on those with a certain degree of risk when checking
the passengers' documents on the ground," he said, without elaborating.
An official with the Eastern Airlines
publicity department said that she saw media reports about security safety
interviews but didn't have immediate details on what her company was doing.
An official at the Beijing Airport press center would only say: "We always
strictly follow relevant regulations of the Civil Aviation Administration
when conducting security checks." Both officials spoke on condition of
anonymity under regulations.
At Air China, the country's flag
carrier, an official who only gave his surname, Zhang, said it would comply.
"We will meet the demands from the U.S.
side, but as for the detailed measures (we will take), it is inconvenient
for us to release," he said.
South Korea's Transport Ministry said
that the United States agreed to delay implementing the new screening for
the country's two biggest carriers, Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines
Inc., until next year on condition they deploy staff at boarding gates to
Royal Jordanian, based in Amman, also
has said it would introduce the new procedures in mid-January.
Other airlines with U.S.-bound flights
at Seoul's Incheon International Airport brought in as many as seven extra
staff Thursday to question passengers under the new rules but there were no
major delays, airport spokesman Lee Jung-hoon said.
Singapore Airlines passengers may be
required to "undergo enhanced security measures" including inspection of
personal electronic devices "as well as security questioning during check-in
and boarding," the carrier said on its website.
Other carriers who announced the new
regulations on Wednesday included Air France, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific
Airways Ltd., the airlines of Germany's Lufthansa Group and EgyptAir.
In Hong Kong, passengers described some
of the questions they were asked.
"They asked me if I packed my own bag,
where I packed it from, where I came from, they looked at my itinerary,
verify where I was, who I was, from where I came from," said Fran Young, who
was travelling to Los Angeles.
Some showed displeasure.
"It's a little inconvenient, I kind of
just want to get my printed ticket and then just go inside," passenger Gavin
Lai said. "I don't want to wait on people to interview me like that. So it's
a little annoying."
U.S. carriers also will be affected by
the new rules. Delta Air Lines said it was telling passengers traveling to
the U.S. to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight
and allow extra time to get through security. United declined to comment,
while American did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In March, U.S. officials introduced the
laptop ban in the cabins of some Mideast airlines over concerns Islamic
State fighters and other extremists could hide bombs inside of them. The ban
was lifted after those airlines began using devices like CT scanners to
examine electronics before passengers boarded planes heading to the U.S.
Some also increasingly swab passengers' hands to check for explosive
The laptop ban as well as travel bans
affecting predominantly Muslim countries have hurt Mideast airlines.
Emirates, the region's biggest, said it slashed 20 percent of its flights to
the U.S. in the wake of the restrictions.
Malaysia airport video shows 4 men accused in Kim's killing
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted
by police as she arrives for court hearing at Shah Alam court house in Shah
Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Thursday, Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Sadiq
Eileen Ng and Eric Talmadge
Shah Alam, Malaysia (AP) —
Prosecutors showed a Malaysian court airport security videos on Thursday
that detail the movements of four North Korean suspects who allegedly
planned and helped two women — now facing possible death sentences — kill
Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother.
Police chief investigating officer Wan
Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz told the court that one of the suspects, known
only as "Hanamori," was believed to be the mastermind of Kim Jong Nam's
death. He said security footage from the Kuala Lumpur airport showed the
four men before and after the Feb. 13 attack.
Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong and
Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah are the only two people in custody. They
pleaded not guilty to murder charges when their trial began Oct. 2.
Wan Azirul testified earlier that the
four male suspects at large were known only by pseudonyms. Prosecutors have
said outside court that the four are believe to be North Koreans.
"My investigation showed that Hanamori
played the role as the mastermind of this incident," he said. Hanamori was
also known as "Grandpa" or "Uncle."
Wan Azirul said Hanamori arrived at the
airport in the same vehicle with two others known as "Mr. Chang" and "Mr. Y"
about 90 minutes before the attack. Security videos then showed Hanamori
meeting separately with each of the men as well as a third person known only
as "James" at an airport cafe before the attack on Kim.
Chang later met up with Aisyah at the
same cafe, while Mr. Y was seen walking around the airport with Huong near
the area where Kim was attacked. The two men wore baseball caps and had
backpacks. Mr. Y was seen holding a water bottle, while Chang was also
carrying a white plastic bag.
After the two women rubbed Kim's face
with a liquid later identified as VX nerve agent, video footage showed that
Chang and Mr. Y had changed their shirts and ditched their caps and
backpacks. Wan Azirul said Hanamori also changed his shirt and Chang shaved
off his goatee.
He said the two men then left the
budget terminal in the same vehicle with Hanamori heading to the main
Meanwhile, James was seen heading to
the Sama-Sama airport hotel after the attack. The police official said
security videos showed James entering the hotel room before checking out and
he later was seen at the departure hall of the main airport terminal
together with the other three men.
Wan Azirul previously testified Mr. Y
and Chang were believed to have put liquid on the women's hands before they
smeared it on Kim's face, and that James was the recruiter of Aisyah.
Defense attorneys have said the women believed they were participating in a
prank for a TV show but prosecutors have said the women knew they were
The trial was cut short after the judge
said he wanted to review the videos and will resume on Nov. 6.
Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told
reporters before the trial that she was recruited in early January by a
North Korean man known to her only as James to star in what he said were
video prank shows. The lawyer said James and Aisyah went to malls, hotels
and airports, where she would rub oil or pepper sauce on strangers' faces.
James recorded the encounters on his phone and paid Aisyah between $100 and
$200 for each prank.
James later introduced Aisyah to a man
he allegedly called Chang, who introduced himself as a producer of Chinese
video prank shows, Gooi said. On the day of Kim's death, Chang had pointed
Kim out to Aisyah as the next target and put the substance in her hand, Gooi
Malaysia has never directly accused
North Korea, but South Korea's spy agency has claimed the attack was part of
a plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly
never met. Kim Jong Nam was a virtual exile not known to have actively been
seeking influence over his younger brother, but had years earlier spoken out
publicly against his family's dynastic rule.
Jacinda Ardern is sworn in as New Zealand prime minister
Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to several hundred
well-wishers in front of the parliament on Thursday, Oct. 26, in Wellington,
New Zealand. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) —
Jacinda Ardern was sworn in as New Zealand prime minister on Thursday and
said she will lead a government that's active, focused, empathetic and
Ardern and other senior lawmakers
attended the ceremony in Wellington and took their oaths before Patsy Reddy,
the governor-general. They then greeted several hundred well-wishers in
front of the parliament.
"I want to start by saying it is an
enormous privilege and an honor to stand with these wonderful people here in
front of you today, in front of your house with your government," Ardern
told the crowd. "I want to put emphasis on the word 'your' government."
At 37 years old, Ardern is the South
Pacific nation's youngest leader in more than 150 years. She is the nation's
third female prime minister and 40th leader overall.
Her liberal Labour Party did not win
the most votes in the September election but managed to find enough common
ground with two smaller parties to form a government.
The conservative National Party won the
previous three elections and finished with the most votes but now finds
itself on the opposition benches.
Ardern told the crowd she understood
that not everyone voted for her but vowed to be a leader for everyone.
"This will be a government for all New
Zealanders," she said.
Ardern has promised to make significant
changes in the nation of nearly 5 million people, including banning foreign
buyers from purchasing homes, holding a referendum to legalize recreational
marijuana, and reducing immigration.
She has also outlined an ambitious
environmental agenda. It includes planting 100 million trees each year,
ensuring the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy, and
reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2050.
Ardern's Labour Party formed a
coalition with the small, nationalist New Zealand First party. New Zealand
First leader Winston Peters, 72, will serve as deputy prime minister and
foreign minister. The coalition will also get support from the liberal Green
Ardern has been compared to other
young, charismatic leaders such as President Emmanuel Macron in France and
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada.
Kenya police, protesters clash during election as 3 killed
stand guard as opposition supporters throw rocks during demonstrations in
Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Oct. 26. (AP Photo)
Christopher Torchia and Tom Odula
Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan
police on Thursday fired bullets and tear gas at stone-throwing protesters
in some opposition areas during the repeat of the disputed presidential
election, reflecting bitter divisions in a country whose main opposition
leader urged followers to boycott the vote.
Three people were killed in protests, a
police source said: one in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu County,
another in Homa Bay in the west and the third in Athi River town outside the
capital, Nairobi. The police source spoke on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
Protesters set fires and blocked roads
in Kisumu, where 25 were injured during clashes with police, said Aloyce
Kidiwa, a county medical officer. The injuries included many gunshot wounds,
Kidiwa said. Violence also erupted in Nairobi's Kibera slum.
Not a single ballot box was delivered
to central Kisumu's 190 polling stations, said a senior election official,
John Ngutai Muyekho. He sat with the uncollected boxes in a school guarded
by security forces.
"If anyone comes to collect, I'm ready.
But so far no one has," Muyekho said.
One Kisumu school that saw huge lines
of voters in the Aug. 8 election was closed, its gates locked.
"We are not going to vote and we are
not going to allow it," said Olga Onyanga, an opposition supporter.
Voting proceeded in areas where
President Uhuru Kenyatta has support, but fewer voters were turning out in
comparison to the August election that the Supreme Court nullified because
it found illegalities and irregularities in the election process.
Kenyatta said 90 percent of the country
was calm and said Kenya must remove ethnic loyalties from its politics in
order to succeed. The president, who was declared the winner in August with
54 percent of the vote, had said security forces would be deployed
nationwide to ensure order on Thursday, and he urged Kenyans to vote while
respecting the rights of those who didn't.
Voters lined up before dawn at a
polling station in Kenyatta's hometown of Gatundu and electoral workers
prepared ballot papers by flashlight after heavy rains knocked out power to
"Our hope for the country is that
whoever emerges the winner will be able to unite the country, which is
already torn apart by politicians and politics of the day," said Simon
Wambirio, a Gatundu resident.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who got
nearly 45 percent of the vote in August, has said the new election won't be
credible because of a lack of electoral reform and accused Kenyatta of
moving a country known for relative stability and openness toward
Odinga's call for a boycott resonated
strongly in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city. He has urged followers to
stay away from polling stations because of concerns about a crackdown by
security forces. Human rights groups said police killed at least 67 people
during protests after the August vote; authorities confirmed a smaller
number of deaths and said they had to take action against rioters.
Odinga has said the opposition
coalition, National Super Alliance, will become a resistance movement. On
Thursday, he said the movement will constitute a "People's Assembly to guide
the country to a fresh free and fair presidential election" as part of a
peaceful resistance that will include boycotting goods and services by those
who have supported Kenyatta's "lawless grab of the presidency."
Odinga and Kenyatta, who seeks a second
term, also faced off in a 2013 election similarly marred by opposition
allegations of vote-rigging. The opposition leader also ran unsuccessfully
in 2007 — ethnic-fueled animosity after that vote killed more than 1,000
people and forced 600,000 from their homes.
Many observers say Kenya's ethnic-based
politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Kenyatta is a Kikuyu,
while Odinga is a Luo.
Update October 25 - 26 , 2017
Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to halt the outflow of Rohingya
Home Secretary Mostafa Kamal Uddin, right, and Tin Myint, permanent
secretary of Myanmar's Ministry of Home Affairs, left, talk to journalists
during their press conference at a hotel in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday,
Oct. 24. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Naypyitaw, Myanmar (AP) —
Government officials from Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed Tuesday to halt the
outflow of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh and enable the refugees to return
The two sides met in Myanmar's capital,
Naypyitaw, to discuss a crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of
Rohingya flee to Bangladesh over the past two months to escape violence in
Myanmar's Rakhine state.
"Myanmar affirms its commitment to
immediately halt the outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh, to restore
normalcy in Rakhine to enable displaced Myanmar residents to return from
Bangladesh at the earliest" possible time, the sides said in a joint
More than 600,000 Rohingya from
northern Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar
security forces began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages.
Myanmar's government has said it was responding to attacks on police
outposts by insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, but
the United Nations and others have said the response was disproportionate.
Tuesday's joint statement said that
Myanmar declared ARSA "a terrorist organization" after Aug. 25 and asked
Bangladesh to hand over any suspects who may have fled there. Bangladesh
said it would "continue to cooperate with Myanmar against insurgents,
militants and terrorists."
Earlier this month, the two sides
agreed to set up a working group on the repatriation process.
Myanmar's Buddhist majority denies that
Rohingya Muslims are a separate ethnic group and regards them as having
migrated illegally from Bangladesh, although many families have lived in
Myanmar for generations.
The exodus of the Rohingya has become a
major humanitarian crisis and sparked international condemnation of
Indonesia parliament endorses draconian law on groups
shout slogans during a rally outside the parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Tuesday, Oct. 24. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —
Indonesia's parliament on Tuesday endorsed a presidential decree that gives
officials sweeping powers to ban organizations deemed as threats to national
The decree, signed in July by President
Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, has already been used to ban Hizbut Tahrir, an Islamic
organization that advocates for a global caliphate. It required
parliamentary approval to become permanent law.
Lawmakers from 10 parties, including
Widodo's governing coalition, voted 314-131 to amend a law regulating mass
organizations in line with the decree. More than three quarters of lawmakers
in the 560-seat legislature were present for the vote.
Rights activists have condemned the
decree, which is supported by moderate groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia's largest Muslim organization. They called it a "troubling
violation" of the rights to freedom of association and expression.
Minister of Home Affairs Tjahjo Kumolo
said the government was open to criticism of the law and revision if needed.
The decree allows officials to sidestep
the courts when banning organizations it deems contrary to the country's
It was issued following months of
sectarian tensions in the world's most populous Muslim nation that shook the
government and undermined its reputation for practicing a moderate form of
Several thousand people from Muslim
groups including the banned Hizbut Tahrir, a group that campaigned for
Indonesia to adopt Shariah law and become a caliphate, protested outside
Teen kayaker says shark attack was like everything in 'Jaws'
Sarah Williams, 15, stands over a kayak in Mount
Compass, Australia, on Monday, Oct. 23, after she was attacked by a great
white shark off the coast near Normanville, in South Australia. (Channel 9
Adelaide, Australia (AP) — A massive great white shark was thrashing
in the water on top of an upended kayak. But an Australian dad couldn't see
In a matter of seconds, 15-year-old
Sarah Williams surfaced and was rescued by her father and brother from the
shark attack she says was "everything you picture in the 'Jaws' movie."
The 4.5-meter (15-foot) shark struck
from beneath the kayak, tossing Sarah into the water Sunday off the coast
near Normanville in South Australia state.
"I saw it when I was in the water with
it. I saw what it was and I saw its fin," she told Nine Network television
She survived the ordeal with scratches
Her father Chris Williams said on
Tuesday he powered toward her in a 14-foot motor boat as she clambered back
on to the kayak.
The shark was between the boat and the
kayak thrashing, he said.
Williams said his son Mitch dragged his
sister across the shark's back somewhere between its nose and dorsal fin to
get her into the boat.
"I am having trouble coming to terms
with how my son and I were able to get her off that kayak and over the shark
and into the boat without her getting seriously hurt," Williams said.
"I have this vision all the time of
this massive shark that was just thrashing in the water and ripping into
this kayak which my daughter had been knocked off but was back on — I just
don't know how we got her off," he said.
Williams said the boat was about 25
meters from the kayak when the shark attacked. He estimated his daughter was
rescued 30 seconds later, and doubted she would have survived for another 10
seconds in the water.
"This thing came in and hit the kayak
from underneath, catapulted my daughter and the kayak into the air and when
I turned around ... all I could see was the shark had launched itself on top
of the kayak and thrashing its tail around and it was all white water and no
daughter," Williams said.
"Then she popped up out of the water
and climbed back on to the kayak and just screamed like you don't ever, ever
want to hear," he added.
State Premier Jay Weatherill said the
question of a shark cull in response to the attack was complex and the
government would take advice from experts on the issue.
Italy anti-mafia panel asks Malta's help, cites car bombing
president of the Italian Anti Mafia Commission Rosy Bindi, right, attends a
commemorative mass for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in the
small chapel of Bidnija, Malta, Monday, Oct. 23. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)
Valletta, Malta (AP) — The head
of Italy's anti-mafia parliamentary commission called Tuesday for greater
cooperation from Malta in the fight against organized crime, which she said
has found a "hospitable" home on the Mediterranean island thanks to its
shady financial regulations.
Rosy Bindi led an Italian parliamentary
visit to Malta this week that was planned before the Oct. 16 car bomb
slaying of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose reports on
organized crime and suspicious activities of Malta's political leaders made
her a leading anti-corruption campaigner.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Bindi
urged Malta to use Caruana Galizia's killing as an impetus to reform the
laws that allowed organized crime to proliferate.
"The fact that they hit a woman who did
investigative journalism is proof that sometimes they're more afraid of a
pen than a pistol," Bindi said.
Recalling the popular movement that
arose against mob violence in Italy, she said Malta could be at a similar
"We believe this is an extraordinary
opportunity to come to grips with how dangerous this criminal phenomenon is,
where they kill people when they are prevented from doing business and
making money," Bindi said.
Police haven't given any clues about
the leads they are pursuing in the 53-year-old Caruana Galizia's slaying.
Her investigations targeted some of Malta's leading politicians, as well as
Maltese links to foreigners as far afield as Azerbaijan.
Bindi said Italian representatives are
visiting Malta to encourage greater cooperation from Maltese police and
prosecutors in fighting the mafia. She said there was evidence that Italy's
major organized crime syndicates — Cosa Nostra, the 'ndrangheta and the the
Camorra — had found fertile ground to base operations in Malta.
Bindi cited drug trafficking, petroleum
trafficking, immigration and online gambling as sectors where organized
crime already had insinuated itself. Online gambling accounts for an
estimated one-third of Malta's GDP, she estimated.
"Those who run this sector often base
their organizations in Malta, taking advantage of the Maltese fiscal system
and the opacity in the registration of businesses," she said.
The Italians met with Malta Archbishop
Charles Scicluna, a well-known figure to them from his years of service as a
prosecutor in the Vatican's sex crimes office. Bindi said he urged them to
be courageous in pressing for greater cooperation in the fight against
organized crime, and to not abandon Malta.
"If we join forces to fight the mafia,
we're all a bit less alone and a bit stronger," Bindi said.
Mystery attacks chopping women's hair raise panic in Kashmir
Sept. 18, 2017 photo, Tasleema Bilal, right, and her teenage niece Kousain
Ajaz, show their chopped braids inside their home in Srinagar, India. (AP
Srinagar, India (AP) — Hundreds
of young men — armed with knives, cricket bats and iron rods — patrol the
nighttime streets of India-controlled Kashmir these days, hoping their
ad-hoc vigilante groups will deter the mysterious bandits reportedly
chopping off women's long, woven hair.
In more than 100 cases confounding
police over the past month, women said they were attacked by masked men who
sliced off their braids.
The attacks — most reportedly occurring
inside people's homes — are so strange that police initially suggested women
were suffering from hallucinations, until the government-run Women's
Commission warned them against making dismissive comments.
The region's top elected official,
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, tweeted recently that the braid-chopping was
an attempt "to create mass hysteria and undermine the dignity of the women
in the state."
Still, police have no suspects and no
leads, and no clue about the motives for the attacks.
"We're frightened," said Tasleema
Bilal, a 40-year-old woman whose hair was hacked off last week while she was
in her home in Srinagar, the region's main city. She said she tried to
remove the man's mask, but "he was very strong, and like a commando almost
snapped my neck" before escaping, leaving her hair behind.
Just days earlier, Bilal's 16-year-old
niece had also been knocked out by a blow to the head with a brick, only to
wake up later in a hospital to find her hair also gone. Other women have
said they were knocked unconscious with a mysterious chemical spray that
authorities have yet to identify.
The mysterious braid thefts have spread
fear and panic in the heavily militarized and disputed Himalayan region,
where many among the mostly Muslim population already feel traumatized after
decades of conflict between separatist rebels and India soldiers.
Similar incidents of hair banditry were
reported earlier this year elsewhere in India, including in the northern
states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. But nowhere have the attacks sparked
such panic and vigilantism as in Kashmir.
While Kashmiri Muslim women
traditionally wear their hair long like women in other parts of India, most
cover it with headscarves out of cultural modesty.
Separatist leaders, angry at the
initial reactions by police, said the attacks were the "handiwork of Indian
agencies" trying to cower Kashmir's rebellious population, which is widely
opposed to Indian rule.
Residents are also suspicious of the
Indian authorities, and some have accused soldiers and police of staging the
attacks or protecting those responsible.
"We want to know who the culprit is:
police, army or civilians?" Bilal said.
Police Inspector-General Muneer Ahmed
Khan said it was ludicrous to think authorities were involved. Authorities
said they would pay about $9,000 for clues leading to any of the culprits.
"It's important to first know the
motive behind such acts rather than who the culprit is," Khan said. "Once
the motive is established, it would be easy for us to solve such cases."
This is not the first time bizarre
reports have spread fear in Kashmir, which has known little else but
conflict since India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947 and each
claimed the region as its own. The rival countries have since fought two
wars over the mountain territory, and each administers a part of it. On the
Indian side, an ongoing rebellion has left at least 70,000 people dead in
rebel attacks and subsequent Indian military crackdowns since 1989.
Amid massive anti-India demonstrations
in the early 1990s, some began reporting ghosts haunting neighborhoods
across the region at night. Eventually, many blamed Indian paramilitary
commandos for dressing up as ghosts to spook the local population.
When the braid-hacking incidents were
first reported in July across northern India, officials brought
psychiatrists into the investigation to determine whether the women
reporting the cases were suffering mental illness.
The suspicion that women could be
imagining the attacks grew stronger once the attacks spread to Kashmir,
where the territorial conflict had caused widespread psychological trauma
and other issues such as suicidal tendencies. Patient numbers at Srinagar's
lone psychiatric hospital jumped from 1,700 a year to more than 100,000
annually after the conflict heated up in 1989.
One-third of Kashmiris questioned in a
2006 Doctors Without Borders survey said they had thought of killing
themselves in the previous month.
While health experts dismissed the idea
that women were imagining the attacks, pending scientific verification, they
warned that the braid banditry could push an already edgy population further
to the brink.
"These instances will further
complicate psychiatric problems present here," said Dr. Mohammed Maqbool,
who heads the psychiatry department at Srinagar's Government Medical
Another scholar who studied psychiatric
issues in Kashmir said it was not hard to believe women's bodies would be
targeted in this way.
"Hair has historically symbolized
sexuality and a certain excessive feminine energy, which is a direct threat,
not just a target of militarized masculine forces," said Saiba Varma of the
University of California, San Diego. "The braid-chopping seems to be a clear
example of someone trying to curtail these feminine energies."
With the mystery unsolved, many
Kashmiris have stopped traveling outside their neighborhoods after dusk,
dealing a blow to local businesses.
"Our business has shrunk to 10 percent
of what we had before this braid-chopping started," cafe owner Syed Mukhtar
said in Srinagar.
Meanwhile, men take turns on nighttime
vigilante patrols, and some have beaten up so-called suspects only to find
later that they were innocent, police said. One 70-year-old man died after
vigilantes in a southern village mistook him for a suspect and smashed his
head with a brick.
Several soldiers and police officials
also have been thrashed by vigilantes. Police have arrested nearly two dozen
people so far on charges of spreading rumors and beating people.
The hair-chopping attackers "are
behaving like a typical Bollywood film villain who tries to harm female
family members of the hero after failing to pin him down," said Srinagar
university student Basharat Ahmed. "And through these (braid) choppers, the
government is trying to convey to us that we can't protect our women. But
they'll fail in this scheme, too, God willing."
Russian presidential hopeful says Crimea belongs to Ukraine
celebrity Ksenia Sobchak, who announced her presidential bid last week,
gestures while speaking to the media in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
(Sergey Vedyashkin/ Moscow News Agency photo via AP)
Moscow (AP) — A 35-year-old
Russian celebrity TV host who aspires to run for president in next March's
election said Tuesday that Crimea belongs to Ukraine despite its 2014
annexation by Moscow — a bold statement that has drawn angry responses from
Russian officials and lawmakers.
Ksenia Sobchak also emphasized her
critical stance by issuing a call for the release of the nation's political
prisoners and denouncing official corruption at her first news conference
since declaring her presidential ambitions.
Sobchak, who first became known as a
fashionable socialite before launching her successful TV hosting career,
denied getting the Kremlin's blessing for her bid. Still, she acknowledged
that she had warned President Vladimir Putin before publicly declaring it.
Putin hasn't yet said whether he will
seek re-election in the March 18 presidential vote, but he's widely expected
to run. His approval ratings — now topping 80 percent — guarantee a
landslide victory against a pack of stolid veterans of past campaigns, but
the government has been worried about growing voter apathy.
To make Putin's victory as impressive
as ever, the Kremlin needs to boost the voter turnout. Pundits said
Sobchak's involvement in the race could help draw young voters to the polls
without really challenging Putin's lead.
Some opposition figures say, by joining
the presidential race, Sobchak will further fragment the Russian opposition.
Sobchak is the daughter of former
reformist mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin's boss in
the 1990s. Her mother is a member of the upper house of the Russian
Sobchak angrily rejected the claims of
collusion with the Kremlin. She said she had recently met with Putin to
interview him about a documentary about her late father and informed him
about her intention to become a presidential candidate.
"I haven't asked for any sort of
permission, I don't need it," she said. "I'm an independent person."
Sobchak joined anti-Kremlin protests in
Moscow in the winter of 2011-2012, and has been often critical of the
government, but she has avoided criticizing Putin.
She noted Tuesday that she remains
grateful to the president for helping her father, but emphasized that Russia
needs political change.
"I'm against a corrupt system that has
been built in our country," she said. "I'm against any person, including
Vladimir Putin, staying at the helm for 18 years."
She spoke strongly against Russia's
2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, emphasizing that it should
be a top goal for Russia to normalize relations with Ukraine.
"From the point of view of
international law, Crimea belongs to Ukraine," she said.
Sobchak has cast herself as a
"candidate against all," appealing to those who have grown tired of Russia's
tightly-controlled political system and want new names on the ballot. She
promised that she would push for the release of Russia's political
Speaking to a packed hall, Sobchak also
reaffirmed her readiness to withdraw her candidacy in favor of Alexei
Navalny, Russia's most popular opposition leader, in case he gets registered
for the race. Her campaign chief quickly contradicted that, however, saying
he sees no point in doing so.
Navalny has declared his intention to
run for president, even though a criminal conviction that he calls
politically motivated bars him from joining the race. The 41-year-old
anti-corruption crusader has organized a grassroots campaign in support of
his presidential bid and staged waves of protests this year in the hope of
forcing the Kremlin to let him join the campaign.
Navalny had warned Sobchak earlier on
YouTube that she would only serve the Kremlin's goals by running for
president. He later toned down his rhetoric, avoiding direct criticism of
Sobchak has named Igor Malashenko, the
man behind the 1996 re-election of President Boris Yeltsin, as her campaign
chief. Sobchak would not say how much she expects the campaign to cost,
saying only that she planned to receive funding help from anonymous
Philippines declares end to 5-month militant siege in Marawi
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, left, together with Armed Forces Chief
Gen. Eduardo Ano, right, reads a statement announcing that Philippine troops
had successfully captured a building where pro-Islamic State group militants
made their final stand in southern Marawi city, Monday, Oct. 23. (AP
Clark, Philippines (AP) — The
Philippine government declared the end Monday to the militant siege of a
southern city that lasted five months, left more than 1,100 people dead and
sparked fears of the Islamic State group gaining a foothold in Southeast
Speaking at an annual meeting of the
region's defense ministers, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told
reporters that combat operations in Marawi were ending after troops
recovered 42 bodies of the last group of militants.
"Those are the last group of stragglers
of Mautes and they were caught in one building so there was a firefight, so
they were finished," he said. "There are no more militants inside Marawi
The siege had sparked fears the Islamic
State group would influence, fund and strengthen local militant groups as it
was losing ground in Syria and Iraq. The defeat of the IS-linked uprising
and the deaths of its leaders have been a relief to the region.
Still, the length of the siege and the
difficulty the military had in stamping it out has raised questions about
the preparedness of the Philippines armed forces at a time when President
Rodrigo Duterte has been suggesting his country could ditch its longtime
ally the United States.
The timing of the uprising was also
disastrous, coming as the Philippines plays host this year to the annual
summit meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with
the 10-nation bloc's Asian and Western counterparts, including the United
States and Australia. The two governments deployed surveillance aircraft and
drones to help Filipino troops rout the Marawi militants.
Lorenzana focused on the final success
in his comments Monday.
"The Philippine security forces, aided
by its government and the massive support of the Filipino people, have
nipped the budding infrastructure and defeated terrorism in the
Philippines," Lorenzana said.
He said the achievement shows how
regional cooperation can contain the spread of terrorism. "In crushing thus
far the most serious attempt to export violent extremism and radicalism in
the Philippines and the region, we have contributed to preventing its spread
Fighting terrorism is high on the
agenda of the Southeast Asian defense ministers' meeting at the Clark
freeport north of Manila. As the meetings opened, the head of the Brunei
delegation expressed condolences for the loss of lives in Marawi but
congratulated the Philippines for being able to liberate the city.
Malaysia's minister said the siege was
a wakeup call for the region. "We have to be very careful. What happened in
Marawi can happen anywhere," Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.
Hundreds of militants, many waving
Islamic State group-style black flags, launched the siege on May 23 in
Marawi, a bastion of Islamic faith in the south of the largely Roman
Catholic Philippines, by seizing the lakeside city's central business
district and outlying communities. They ransacked banks and shops, including
gun stores, looted houses and smashed statues in a Roman Catholic cathedral,
according to the military.
The fighting has left at least 1,131
people dead, including 919 militants and 165 soldiers and police, and
displaced hundreds of thousands of Marawi residents. At least 1,780 of the
hostages seized by the militants, including a Roman Catholic priest, were
rescued. The final group of 20 captives were freed over the weekend, Army
Col. Romeo Brawner said at a news conference Sunday. That left the gunmen
with none of the hostages they had used as human shields to slow the
military advance for months.
Last week, troops killed the final two
surviving leaders of the siege, including Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed
among the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects in the world, and Omarkhayam
Maute. Following their deaths, Duterte traveled near the main scene of
battle and declared Marawi had been essentially liberated.
DNA tests done in the United States
requested by the Philippine military have confirmed the death of Hapilon,
according to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Washington has offered a bounty of
up to $5 million for Hapilon, who had been blamed for kidnappings for ransom
of American nationals and other terrorist attacks.
Among the foreign militants believed to
be with the remaining gunmen in Marawi were Malaysian militant Amin Baco and
an Indonesian known only as Qayyim. Both have plotted attacks and provided
combat training to local militants for years but have eluded capture in the
Lorenzana said Monday the identities of
the final 42 bodies had not been determined and some were beyond
Japanese defense minister sounds alarm on North Korea
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Clark, Philippines (AP) —
Japan's defense minister asserted Monday that North Korea's nuclear and
ballistic missile capabilities have grown to an "unprecedented, critical and
imminent" level, requiring "different responses" to the threat.
The minister, Itsunori Odonera, said
that this rising threat compels his country to endorse the U.S. view that
"all options" must be considered, which President Donald Trump says includes
possible military action. Japan was alarmed by North Korea twice launching
missiles over Japanese territory, in August and in September.
Odonera's comments, made through an
interpreter, came at the outset of a so-called trilateral meeting in the
Philippines with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korea's defense
minister, Song Young-moo. Each made statements about North Korea before a
group of reporters and news cameras, but none took questions.
Mattis was in the Philippines to attend
portions of a two-day meeting of defense ministers from the 10 Association
of Southeast Asian Nations. He used the occasion to hold a three-way meeting
with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea. He is scheduled later in
the week to travel to Seoul to attend annual consultative talks with the
South Korean government, which is expected to focus mostly on North Korea.
In remarks that were notably explicit
about the North Korean threat, Odonera said North Korea's most recent
underground nuclear test could have been a hydrogen bomb, which is vastly
more powerful than an atomic bomb.
"The country has steadfastly improved
it nuclear and missiles capability," said Onodera. He added: "The threat
posed by North Korea has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent
"Therefore, we have to take calibrated
and different responses to meet that level of threat," he said, without
elaborating on what "different" responses Japan favors.
Trump has said he will resolve the
North Korea problem alone if necessary, to prevent the North from gaining
the capability to attack the United States with a nuclear-armed missile.
Mattis was somewhat more reserved in
his remarks than Onodera, although he did slam Pyongyang for defying U.N.
Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and ballistic missile
programs. But the U.S. defense secretary did not mention any potential
military action. Mattis instead emphasized a unified U.S.-Japan-South Korea
position in pressuring the North to give up its nuclear program.
"North Korea's provocations threaten
regional and global security," he said.
Earlier in the day, Mattis used the
opportunity to personally apologize to his Indonesia counterpart for an
unexplained move by the U.S. government to prevent the top Indonesian
general traveling to Washington over the weekend.
Erin McKee, the deputy U.S. ambassador
to Indonesia, did not explain why Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo was prevented from
boarding a flight to the U.S. to attend a conference of military chiefs but
said the matter had been resolved.
South Korea's defense minister, Song,
said that North Korea's behavior is "becoming worse and worse."
Earlier Monday, in brief remarks to
reporters, Song was asked about the risk of war against North Korea. He said
defense ministers bring a special perspective that cautions against an early
use of force.
"I want to emphasize that war is not as
easy as the journalists make it sound in the press and the media," he said.
"As defense ministers who are in charge of national defense and other high
tech weapons such as ballistic missiles, we understand the very weight of
engaging in a war and as such we will make all the efforts necessary to
resolve the issue in a diplomatic and economic way as possible."
He added: "However, if we are attacked
then we will have to take firm actions."
UK's May says Brexit talks making progress; EU denies leak
British Prime Minister Theresa May waits for the
arrival of European Council President Donald Tusk prior to a bilateral
meeting during an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20. (AP Photo/Geert
Vanden Wijngaert, Pool)
Jill Lawless and Raf Casert
London (AP) — Giving an upbeat
verdict on an inconclusive European Union summit, British Prime Minister
Theresa May said Monday she has "a degree of confidence" that Brexit talks
will be able to move to their decisive second phase by December.
She told lawmakers that the talks on
Britain's divorce from the EU had made "important progress," despite a
judgment by the 27 other EU leaders that more needs to be done before the
two sides can discuss trade and their future relations.
May said she had "a degree of
confidence we are going to get to a point of sufficient progress by
December," allowing talks to move on.
With Britain's March 2019 departure
from the EU moving closer, Britain is eager to start discussing trade and
future relations with the bloc. But EU leaders say there has not yet been
"sufficient progress" on divorce terms, including the size of the bill
Britain must pay to settle its commitments to the bloc.
Britain's initial offer to cover its
previous EU commitments of around 20 billion euros ($24 billion) falls far
short of the EU estimate of 60 billion euros ($70 billion) or more.
May refused to commit to a figure,
saying "we are going through our potential commitments line by line."
May has been in need of a boost from
the 27 other EU leaders as she tries to hold together a government, a
Conservative Party and a country deeply divided over Brexit. At the EU
meeting in Brussels last week, she told fellow leaders that both sides
needed "an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people."
An EU official said, after last week's
dinner, all the leaders were aware of the difficulties May is facing at
home. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks
were confidential, said there was a sense among EU leaders that they didn't
want to make life more difficult for May.
But May's life was not made any easier
by a German newspaper report claiming that EU Commission President
Jean-Claude Juncker, who dined with May last week, saw her as "despondent"
and "begging" the EU to help her make progress.
Juncker denied saying any such thing,
insisting that his dinner with May in Brussels had not gone nearly as badly
as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung suggested.
"She was neither tired nor beaten. She
did her thing, and I did mine too," Juncker said, speaking at the Institute
of Political Studies in Strasbourg, France.
Juncker and his chief aide denied
leaking the account of the meeting to the newspaper, and May's spokesman
declined to comment on it.
Meanwhile, Britain's biggest business
groups urged May's Conservative government to quickly agree to a transition
period of at least two years after Brexit to provide certainty about trade
as companies make critical decisions about jobs and investment.
The letter sent to U.K. Brexit
Secretary David Davis said an "agreement (on a transition) is needed as soon
as possible, as companies are preparing to make serious decisions at the
start of 2018, which will have consequences for jobs and investment in the
May has requested a two-year transition
period in which the two sides would trade on terms largely similar to
current arrangements. But Britain and the EU have yet to discuss details of
any such transition.
Britain to give Canada the shipwrecks of explorer Franklin
released by Parks Canada shows a side-scan sonar image of a ship from the
Franklin expedition on the seafloor in northern Canada. (Photo: AP)
London (AP) — Britain announced
Monday it will give Canada the shipwrecks of British explorer John Franklin,
who perished with his crew while trying to chart the Northwest Passage
through the Arctic in the 1840s.
The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror were
found in 2014 and 2016 about 30 miles (48 kilometers) apart near King
William Island in the Canadian Arctic, some 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers)
northwest of Toronto.
Under an agreement between the two
countries, the wrecks were the property of Britain although Canada had
custody and control of them. The U.K. Ministry of Defense said Monday it
would transfer ownership to Parks Canada, but retain a small sample of
British Defense Secretary Michael
Fallon said the arrangement "will ensure that these wrecks and artifacts are
conserved for future generations."
Franklin and 128 hand-picked men set
out in 1845 to find the passage — a shortcut to Asia that supposedly ran
from the Atlantic to the Pacific by way of the Arctic. All of them died,
making the voyage the worst tragedy in the history of Arctic exploration.
Historians believe the ships got
trapped in thick ice in 1846, and Franklin and some other crew members died
in the ensuing months. The survivors apparently abandoned the two ships in
April 1848 in a hopeless bid to reach safety overland. Inuit lore tells of
"white men who were starving" in the area as late as the winter of 1850.
Dozens of searches by the British and
Americans in the 1800s failed to locate the wrecks, and some of those
expeditions ended in tragedy, too. The ships were among the most
sought-after prizes in marine archaeology.
Canada announced in 2008 that it would
look for the ships and poured millions of dollars into the ultimately
The Terror was discovered in 24 meters
of water in Terror Bay, west of the community of Gjoa Haven, right where an
Inuit hunter said it was.
Canada's government said Monday it
recognizes the invaluable contributions of Inuit in helping find the wrecks.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the ships would be co-owned with
the local indigenous. There are no plans to raise the ships.
"We will continue to work with our
Inuit partners on the protection and presentation of the two wreck sites and
artifacts for generations to come," McKenna said in a statement.
Kenya president says polls must be this week, despite doubts
Supporters of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta ride around and cheer as they await his arrival in Githurai on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Oct. 23. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the re-run of the presidential election must
go ahead as planned on Thursday, despite the chief electoral officer's
recent statement that he cannot guarantee that the polls would be credible.
Kenyatta met Monday with electoral
commission chief Wafula Chebukati and said the commission has a
responsibility to conduct the election, Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper
"We have made funds available for the
IEBC (the electoral commission) to do its job. Now they really should
deliver," Kenyatta said following the meeting, according to the newspaper.
Kenyatta also addressed campaign supporters, saying that the elections must
go ahead despite a boycott by the main opposition candidate, divisions
within the country and disagreements within the electoral commission.
Kenyatta's firm insistence the
elections must be held Thursday added to a crisis atmosphere in Kenya, which
is embarking on one of the most perilous weeks in its political history,
with the criticisms of the elections a blow to a country once heralded as a
beacon of regional stability.
In addition to the electoral chairman's
doubt that free and fair elections can be held this week, another electoral
commissioner, Roselyn Akombe, resigned, saying credible elections are not
possible. She fled to the United States, saying she feared for her safety.
Shortly before the Aug. 8 vote,
Christopher Msando, an election official who was in charge of the electronic
voting system and technology to prevent voter fraud, was murdered in an
unsolved case that fueled theories about alleged attempts to tamper with the
The tension building ahead of the
planned vote on Thursday has alarmed world leaders who are appealing for
calm in Kenya, a linchpin of East African economic development that has
played a key role in the fight against the al-Shabab Islamic extremist group
in neighboring Somalia, where a massive truck bombing killed at least 358
people on Oct. 14.
Pope Francis, U.N. Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union
Commission, have called for restraint in a nation that endured deadly
ethnic-based violence after a disputed 2007 election as well as the killing
of dozens of protesters, some of whom were rioting, by security forces after
an August vote. Kenyatta was declared the winner of the recent election, but
in a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court nullified the vote because of what
it said were illegalities and irregularities and ordered a new one within 60
"Unfortunately, the deteriorating
political environment is undermining preparations for the new presidential
election. Inflammatory rhetoric, attacks on institutions, and growing
insecurity all make holding a credible and fair poll more difficult," U.S.
Ambassador Robert F. Godec said in a statement that he read out on Monday on
behalf of a group of top diplomatic envoys to Kenya.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga's group,
the National Super Alliance, said its leadership met the diplomats and
reiterated its belief that Kenya's electoral commission is not ready "to
conduct free, fair and credible elections."
The opposition group said it won't
participate in the new vote "because it doesn't serve the country's
Odinga has said his concerns about the
transparency of the electoral process have not been adequately addressed and
wants his supporters to protest in the days ahead, raising the prospect of
more clashes with police as well as the disruption of polling stations.
Also Monday, Kenyan prosecutors asked
police to charge Ruth Odinga, a sister of the opposition leader, and
opposition legislator Fred Outa for allegedly disrupting the preparations of
electoral officials ahead of this week's planned election. Mobs attacked
electoral commission centers in parts of western Kenya last week, disrupting
training for electoral officials.
Older vehicles in London to be charged more for polluting
wears an anti-pollution mask in central London, Monday, Oct. 23. (AP
London (AP) — Drivers of older,
more polluting cars will face an additional charge when entering central
London as the city battles air pollution blamed for thousands of premature
deaths each year.
Starting Monday, cars registered before
vehicles were forced to meet new European emissions standards now face a
toxicity charge of 10 pounds ($13.50) a day in addition to the congestion
charge of 11.50 pounds every time they enter central London. The new rules
apply primarily to cars registered before 2006 and may include some
registered before 2008.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he plans
to clean up the capital's air and the so-called T-Charge will "encourage
motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles."
The city says almost 95 percent of
Londoners live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds World Health
India says Myanmar must take back Rohingya Muslims
Muslim woman hangs clothes outside her shelter in Kutupalong refugee camp,
Bangladesh, Sunday, Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP) — India's
foreign minister told Bangladesh's government that Myanmar must take back
Rohingya Muslims to resolve one of Asia's largest refugee crises in decades,
the government said.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj
conveyed her message Sunday during a meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina, who ordered border guards and her administration to allow the
Rohingya to cross the border and shelter in makeshift camps in the coastal
district of Cox's Bazar.
Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have
fled Myanmar's Rakhine state since Aug. 25 to escape persecution that the
United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
The United News of Bangladesh agency
reported that Swaraj said, "Myanmar must take back their nationals ... this
is a big burden for Bangladesh. How long will Bangladesh bear it? There
should be a permanent solution to this crisis."
She met earlier with her Bangladeshi
counterpart A.H. Mahmood Ali and said India was worried about the violence.
Human rights groups have interviewed refugees who said Myanmar security
forces killed indiscriminately, committed rapes and burned villages to force
Rohingya to leave.
"We've urged the situation be handled
with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population," Swaraj said
in a statement.
Swaraj also said India supported the
implementation of recommendations suggesting recognition of the Rohingya
ethnic group within Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and are
In the statement, she also said
creating economic opportunity in the troubled Rakhine state could help
resolve the situation.
"In our view, the only long-term
solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and
infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the
communities living in the state," she was quoted as saying in the statement.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister urged
India to play a greater role by "exerting sustained pressure" on Myanmar to
find a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis.
India's shift toward resolving the
Rohinga crisis would mean a lot to China's policy to support Myanmar.
An official with China's ruling
Communist Party said Saturday the country supports Myanmar in "safeguarding
peace and stability" and won't join other nations in condemning the
government's actions. Beijing condemns "violence and terror acts" and backs
measures to restore order, said the vice minister of the party's
International Department, Guo Yezhou, apparently referring to attacks by
Rohingya rebels on Myanmar security forces.
Japanese Prime Minister Abe heads to impressive election win
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, answers a
question during a TV interview at the party headquarters in Tokyo, Sunday,
Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Tokyo (AP) — Japan's ruling
coalition appeared headed to an impressive win in national elections in what
would represent an endorsement for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's nearly
A victory would boost Abe's chances of
winning another three-year term next September as leader of the Liberal
Democratic Party. That could extend his premiership to 2021, giving him more
time to try to win a reluctant public over to his longtime goal of revising
Japan's pacifist constitution.
In the immediate term, a victory likely
means a continuation of the policies Abe has pursued since he took office in
December 2012 — a hard line on North Korea, close ties with Washington,
including defense, as well as a super-loose monetary policy and push for
Japanese media projected shortly after
polls closed Sunday that Abe's LDP and its junior partner Komeito might even
retain their two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament.
In unofficial results in the early
hours of Monday, the ruling coalition had won 312 seats in the 465-seat
lower house, exceeding a two-thirds majority at 310, and other parties had
143 seats, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Final results may not be
tallied until Monday.
Abe's ruling coalition already has a
two-thirds majority in the less powerful upper house. Having the
supermajority in both houses virtually gives them a free hand in pushing
even divisive policies and legislation.
Abe said the results indicate that
voters support his policies and want to see his political leadership
"I think the results reflected the
voters' preference for a solid political foundation and their expectations
for us to push polices forward and achieve results," Abe told NHK.
Abe's support ratings had fallen to
around 30 percent in the summer after accusations of government favoritism
to people connected to him, sparking talk that he might be vulnerable as
leader of his party and prime minister.
"I will humbly face the victory and
continue to work humbly and sincerely," he told NHK, noting lingering public
distrust over the scandals.
Abe dissolved the lower house less than
a month ago, forcing the snap election. The lower house chooses the prime
minister and is the more powerful of the two chambers of parliament.
Analysts saw Abe's move as an attempt
to solidify his political standing at a time when the opposition was in
disarray and his support ratings had improved somewhat.
His plan was briefly upstaged by the
launch of a new opposition party by populist Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike. But
initial excitement faded and Koike herself decided not to run for
NHK projected that her Party of Hope so
far has won just 49 seats.
Koike called the results "very severe"
in a televised interview from Paris, where she is attending a conference of
mayors. She said some of her remarks might have been taken negatively by
voters, and that she would take the blame.
Projections indicated that another new
party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, could outpoll the Party
of Hope and become the biggest opposition grouping. The Constitutional
Democrats are liberal-leaning, while both the Party of Hope and Abe's
Liberal Democratic Party are more conservative.
Abe's party and its nationalist
supporters have advocated constitutional revisions for years. They view the
1947 constitution as the legacy of Japan's defeat in World War II and an
imposition of the victor's world order and values. The charter renounces the
use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan's troops to
self-defense, although Japan has a well-equipped modern military that works
closely with the U.S.
Any change to Japan's constitution,
which has never been amended, requires approval first by two-thirds of
parliament, and then in a public referendum. Polls indicate that the
Japanese public remains opposed to amendment.
Egypt's el-Sissi vows to quash terrorism after police ambush
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, chairs a meeting attended by the
country’s top security officials, Sunday, Oct. 22, in Cairo, Egypt. (MENA
Cairo (AP) — In his first
remarks after a deadly attack on the country's police force, Egypt's
president vowed on Sunday to press ahead with the country's war against
terrorism, secure its borders and hunt down militants.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi
El-Sissi's remarks came nearly 48 hours after authorities officially
announced that at least 16 policemen were killed in a brazen ambush by
militants southwest of Cairo. Security officials told The Associated Press
and other media outlets that the death toll reached 54, making it one of the
worst attacks against Egypt's police in years. However, it wasn't
immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports.
Chairing a meeting attended by the
country's top security officials, including defense and interior ministry
representatives, el-Sissi said: "Egypt will continue its confrontation
against terrorism and those financing and standing behind it, with strength,
decisiveness and efficiency, until it's curbed."
His comments come as a cloud of
ambiguity still hovers over the police raid gone wrong; a lack of
information, charges of incompetence and conflicting accounts by officials
to media outlets mark the incident.
The ambush began when security forces
acting on intelligence moved against a purported militant hideout some 135
kilometers outside Cairo. Backed by armored personnel carriers and led by
senior counterterrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire and
rocket-propelled grenades, according to the security officials. What
happened next has not been clarified, but many officers were killed and
The confusion around the incident
sparked a debate on social media, with Egyptians divided over who to blame.
Many suggested that the police force had been infiltrated by Islamists given
that some security officials said the ambush was carefully planned.
Along with conflicting reports of the
death toll, authorities have also denied the authenticity of audio
recordings, aired by pro-government media outlets, allegedly of policemen
who took part in the operation. The speakers on the recordings can be heard
pleading for help.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry
said that the sources of the audio recordings are not known and that they
carried "unrealistic details that have nothing to do with the reality." It
also warned against circulating such recordings and sowing confusion.
No militant group immediately claimed
responsibility for the attack which took place near Egypt's vast western
desert, where a previous series of attacks were blamed on Islamic militants
pouring in from Libya. Meanwhile, a local affiliate of the Islamic State
group is spearheading an insurgency across the country and in the Sinai
Rights advocates argue that the
authorities' heavy crackdown on Islamists in the aftermath of the 2013
military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi has fueled an
insurgency. Hundreds of Islamists were killed in mass demonstrations
demanding Morsi's return after his ouster, while thousands were jailed.
In one of the latest trials involving
Islamists, an Egyptian criminal court on Sunday confirmed death sentences
for 11 men and handed down life sentences to 14 others over charges
including the attempted murder of policemen. The court ruling by Judge
Mohammed Nagi Shehata — known for his severity — can be appealed. Five of
those sentenced to death were tried in absentia.
The suspects were referred to court in
2015, more than a year after the ouster of Morsi, whose group, the Muslim
Brotherhood, was outlawed and thousands of its members referred to courts
over numerous charges.
Teen attacks, wounds several people with ax in Switzerland
Police stand near the scene where several people
were injured in an ax attack in Flums, Switzerland, Sunday, Oct. 22. (Eddy
Risch/Keystone via AP)
Berlin (AP) — A 17-year-old boy apparently attacked and wounded
several people with an ax in a small town in northeastern Switzerland on
Sunday evening, police said.
The teenager, a Latvian national who lived locally, was
arrested by officers who used firearms and injured him in the process, St.
Gallen canton (state) police said.
The incident in the town of Flums started shortly after
8 p.m. Police believe the suspect attacked several people in a town square,
then fled with a stolen car, which later was involved in an accident. The
suspect continued on foot before attacking more people at a gas station
shop, where he was arrested, police said.
Police didn't specify exactly how many people were hurt
and said they were working to determine how serious the injuries were.
The suspect appeared to have been a lone assailant and
there was no indication of any terrorist background, police said.
There was no other information on a possible motive.
Letter penned a day before Titanic sank sold at UK auction
photo shows a letter by Titanic passenger Alexander Holversson, written a
day before the ship sank. (Henry Aldridge and Son Actioneers via AP)
London (AP) — A letter written
by one of the Titanic's passengers a day before the ocean liner sank has
sold for 126,000 pounds (US$166,000) at an auction in England.
The handwritten note, on embossed
Titanic stationery, was penned by first-class passenger Alexander Oskar
Holverson on April 13, 1912 — the day before the ship hit an iceberg and
sank in the North Atlantic, killing more than 1,500 onboard.
Holverson, a salesman, was on the
Titanic with his wife, Mary. He had intended to post it to his mother when
they arrived in New York.
Auction house Henry Aldridge & Son,
which specializes in Titanic memorabilia, said Saturday the letter was "the
most important Titanic letter we have ever auctioned" because of its
content, historical context and rarity.
In the letter, addressed to "My dear
Mother" and stained with saltwater marks, Holverson described the Titanic as
"a giant in size and fitted up like a palatial hotel." He added: "The food
and drink is excellent."
In a poignant line, he also wrote: "If
all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday AM."
The letter, one of the last known to
have been written on board by the disaster's victims, was found in
Holverson's pocket notebook when his body was recovered. It was later sent
to his family.
His wife survived the disaster,
Italy's 2 richest regions claim victory in autonomy votes
Region President Roberto Maroni, center, answers reporter's questions at the
Lombardy Region headquarters in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 22. (AP
Milan (AP) — The presidents of
Italy's wealthy northern regions of Veneto and Lombardy on Sunday claimed
victory in autonomy referendums that seek to grab additional powers and tax
revenue from Rome, riding a global tide of self-determination that has
swamped Spain's Catalonia region.
The votes were nonbinding, but the
leaders of the neighboring regions hope to leverage strong turnout in talks
with Italy's center-left government. As leading members of the anti-migrant,
anti-EU Northern League, they want to keep more tax revenue and have
autonomy over such policy areas as immigration, security, education and
"This is the big bang of institutional
reform," Veneto President Luca Zaia said in Venice. "We are convinced, and I
hope Rome understands, that this is not the wish of a political party. These
are the wishes of the people."
In Milan, his counterpart in Lombardy,
Roberto Maroni, said that with the votes, the two regions "can unify our
forces so we can do the battle of the century."
The two leaders say they will meet with
their regional councils to finalize their requests before going to Rome to
meet with Premier Paolo Gentiloni.
Unlike in Catalonia, the referendums do
not seek independence and were approved by Italy's constitutional court.
Still, the autonomy drive is a powerful threat to Rome's authority.
Together, Veneto and Lombardy account for 30 percent of Italy's GDP and
nearly one-quarter of the nation's electorate.
Maroni said an overwhelming 95 percent
of his region's vote went to "yes," with turnout above 40 percent of
Lombardy's 8 million voters. That far exceeded the bar for success that he
set at 34 percent, which was the turnout for a national referendum on
constitutional reform in 2001.
Independence-minded Veneto easily met a
turnout threshold to validate the vote set by Zaia, with some 60 percent of
the region's 4 million voters casting ballots. According to early returns,
98 percent voted "yes."
The Democratic Party, which leads the
national government in Rome, had criticized the referendums, saying the
non-binding votes carried no legal weight, were not needed to trigger
autonomy negotiations and were a costly waste of resources.
Such arguments played into the hands of
the "yes" campaigners, who consider those put-downs to be part of the
anti-democratic, centrist decision-making in Rome. Those sentiments have
been echoed in the Catalan independence drive in Spain, in the U.S. election
of Donald Trump as president and in Britain's vote to leave the 28-nation
The victory raises the Northern
League's profile ahead of national elections next year. But it also has the
power to create a wedge between the rich north and the poor south just as
Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, who supports autonomy, has pushed for
a more national profile for the once-northern party.
The referendum campaign drove hard on
the theme that too much northern tax revenues were going to the
less-efficient southern regions.
The Northern League was founded with
the goal of secession for the wealthier, more productive northern regions,
but it gave that up when it joined the national government under
then-Premier Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s. During that period, it pushed
for federalism, which lost steam during Italy's long economic crisis.
Autonomy has become the new expression of the party's identity politics.
Also supporting the referendums were
the populist 5-Star Party and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's
The referendum victory is just the
first step as the regions seek greater autonomy. Some of the policy issues
they are seeking can be won with a new law. But many of the more emotional
issues — including greater fiscal control, immigration and security issues —
would requiring difficult-to-achieve constitutional changes.
"I don't think this is possible," said
Paolo Natale, a political scientist at Milan's state university. "It will be
difficult for the state to accept that they take over education and security
policy. The management of immigration policy has to be done at a national
The Italian constitution already grants
varying levels of autonomy to five regions in recognition of their special
status: the largely German-speaking Trentino-Alto Adige, French-speaking
Aosta, the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia
region for its position on the border with then-Yugoslavia as a Cold War
Today in History, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017
Today is Monday, Oct. 23 the 296th day of 2017. There
are 69 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 23, 1942, during World War II, Britain launched
a major offensive against the Axis forces at El Alamein in Egypt, resulting
in an Allied victory.
On this date:
In 425, Valentinian III is elevated as Roman emperor at
the age of six.
In 1086, at the Battle of Sagrajas, the army of Yusuf
ibn Tashfin defeats the forces of Castilian King Alfonso VI.
In 1295, the first treaty forming the Auld Alliance
between Scotland and France against England is signed in Paris.
In 1642, the Battle of Edgehill signals the first major
engagement of the English Civil War.
In 1812, Claude François de Malet, a French general,
begins a conspiracy to overthrow Napoleon Bonaparte, claiming that the
Emperor died in Russia and that he is now the commandant of Paris.
In 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont flies an airplane in the
first heavier-than-air flight in Europe at Champs de Bagatelle, Paris,
In 1915, tens of thousands of women paraded up Fifth
Avenue in New York City, demanding the right to vote.
In 1917, Lenin calls for the October Revolution in
In 1929, the Wall Street Crash begins after a steady
decline in stock market prices since a peak in September.
In 1941, the Walt Disney animated feature "Dumbo,"
about a young circus elephant who learns how to fly, premiered in New York.
In 1944, the World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf began,
resulting in a major Allied victory against Japanese forces.
In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly convened
in New York for the first time, at an auditorium in Flushing Meadow.
In 1956, a student-sparked revolt against Hungary's
Communist rule began; as the revolution spread, Soviet forces started
entering the country, and the uprising was put down within weeks.
In 1973, President Richard Nixon agreed to turn over
White House tape recordings subpoenaed by the Watergate special prosecutor
to Judge John J. Sirica.
In 1983, 241 U.S. service members, most of them
Marines, were killed in a suicide truck-bombing at Beirut International
Airport in Lebanon; a near-simultaneous attack on French forces killed 58
In 1991, Cambodia's warring factions and
representatives of 18 other nations signed a peace treaty in Paris.
In 2001, the nation's anthrax scare hit the White House
with the discovery of a small concentration of spores at an offsite mail
Movie director Philip Kaufman is 81. Soccer great Pele
is 77. Movie director Ang Lee is 63. Jazz singer Dianne Reeves is 61.
Community activist Martin Luther King III is 60. Movie director Sam Raimi is
58. Parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic is 58. Rock musician Robert Trujillo
(Metallica) is 53. TV personality and host Cat Deeley is 41. Actor Ryan
Reynolds is 41. Rock singer Matthew Shultz (Cage the Elephant) is 34.
Rhythm-and-blues singer Miguel is 32. Actress Emilia Clarke is 31. Actress
Briana Evigan is 31. Actress Jessica Stroup is 31.
Thought for Today:
"You can fool too many of the people too much of the
time." — James Thurber, American humorist (1894-1961).
Update October 21-22 , 2017
Drone video shows devastation in Raqqa, Syria
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged
buildings in Raqqa, Syria, two days after Syrian Democratic Forces ousted
Islamic State fighters and took full control of the city. (AP Photo/ Gabriel
Raqqa, Syria (AP) — Drone
footage from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa shows the extent of
devastation caused by weeks of fighting between Kurdish-led forces and the
Islamic State group and thousands of bombs dropped by the U.S.-led
Footage from Thursday shows the
bombed-out shells of buildings and heaps of concrete slabs lay piled on
streets littered with destroyed cars. Entire neighborhoods are seen turned
to rubble, with little sign of civilian life.
The video shows entire blocks in the
city as uninhabitable with knocked-out walls and blown-out windows and
doors, while some buildings had several stories turned to piles of debris.
The stadium that was used as an arms depot and prison by the extremists
appears to have suffered less damage compared with surrounding buildings.
Long before the ground offensive by the
Syrian Democratic Forces began in Raqqa in early June, warplanes pounded the
city for months.
The U.S.-backed Kurdish-led SDF
announced Tuesday they have driven IS militants out of the city after weeks
The SDF is scheduled to hold a news
conference in Raqqa on Friday during which the city will be declared free of
extremists for the first time in nearly four years. The SDF will likely hand
over authority in the city to the Raqqa Civil Council, which is made up of
local officials and tribal leaders and will be in charge of returning life
to normal in the city.
Omar Alloush, a senior member of the
Raqqa Civil Council, said the body has a quick-response plan that will begin
with removing mines left behind by IS then move to removing debris and
opening roads before fixing water and power stations.
An SDF commander, Brig. Gen. Talal
Sillo, said residents will be allowed to start returning to the city once
the mines and explosives are removed. In other cities that the extremists
lost earlier, experts worked for weeks to remove booby traps and explosives
that kept maiming and killing people long after IS left.
The U.N. and aid organizations estimate
about 80 percent of the city is destroyed or uninhabitable.
The top U.S. envoy for the anti-IS
coalition, Brett McGurk, tweeted this week that IS fighters placed 150
explosive devices in and around a water treatment plant near Raqqa, but said
it has been cleared and is being restored.
The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat
for IS, which has seen its territory steadily shrink since last year. The
group took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014 and
transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.
Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon,
tweeted Thursday that the SDF has cleared 98 percent of the city, adding
that some militants remain holed up in a small pocket east of the stadium.
Catalan crisis looms large at Spanish prize-giving event
From left, President of the European Commission
Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and
President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani are congratulated after
receiving awards presented by Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia during
the Princess of Asturias awards ceremony, in Oviedo, northern Spain, Friday
Oct. 20. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Oviedo, Spain (AP) — The
Catalonia region's controversial bid for independence was an unavoidable
topic Friday at the prize-giving ceremony for Spain's prestigious Princess
of Asturias awards.
Spain's King Felipe VI received a
standing ovation after saying in his speech that Catalonia "is and will be
an essential part" of Spain.
European leaders also made indirect
comments about the independence issue, which has brought a tense
confrontation between Catalan secessionists and the Spanish government.
European Parliament President Antonio
Tajani and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker were in the
northern Spanish city of Oviedo to receive a prize on behalf of the European
Union. They made clear their support for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano
Rajoy's efforts to keep Spain united, receiving loud applause at the
Campoamor theater in the Asturias region.
Other winners picking up their prize
included Argentine comedians, the Hispanic Society of America museum and
library, astrophysicists, South African artist William Kentridge and British
scholar Karen Armstrong. The winners were announced earlier this year.
Four representatives of the New Zealand
national rugby team, which won the sports prize in recognition of its
success and racial and cultural integration, brought some light relief when
they performed the haka — a traditional tribal dance — on stage after
picking up their award.
Spacewalking astronaut copes with frayed tether, bad jetpack
Astronaut Joe Acaba performs a spacewalk outside
the International Space Station on Friday, Oct. 20. (NASA via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — A
spacewalking astronaut successfully replaced a blurry camera outside the
International Space Station on Friday, but had to contend with a balky
jetpack and a frayed safety tether.
Both jetpacks and safety ties are
crucial for saving a flyaway astronaut.
NASA said Joe Acaba was always securely
attached to the orbiting outpost and never in any danger during the nearly
But one of his tethers had to be
replaced shortly after he and station commander Randy Bresnik floated
outside. Mission Control noticed the red lifeline was frayed and worn.
Bresnik went back to the air lock to get Acaba a spare.
Then five hours into the spacewalk,
Mission Control saw that the right handle on Acaba's emergency jetpack was
popped open — again. Bresnik once more went to his crewmate's assistance,
even offering some tape to keep it down.
After consulting for several minutes in
Houston, flight controllers declared the jetpack unreliable and ordered
Acaba back inside, once he was done greasing the new robot arm on the space
station's big robot arm. He finished the lube job, then headed in.
Bresnik acknowledged things didn't go
as planned, "with all the stuff that happened today and the challenges we
had." But he thanked everyone for their hard work and diligence.
In the end, only a couple minor chores
were left undone.
"Great work today," Mission Control
radioed as the spacewalk came to a close.
It was the third spacewalk in two weeks
for U.S. astronauts. Bresnik went out on all three; he was accompanied by
Mark Vande Hei to install the new robotic hand on Oct. 5 and lubricate it on
Each spacewalker wears a jetpack for
use in an emergency. It's available in case an astronaut's multiple tethers
fail and allows the spacewalker to fly back to the station. It's been tested
by orbiting astronauts — years ago — but never called into urgent action.
Earlier, Acaba provided necessary focus
to the space station's robot arm.
He unbolted a blurry camera from the
new robotic hand installed two weeks ago. He then popped in a spare, which
flight controllers quickly tested from Houston. The replacement provided
crisp, clear views.
Sharp focus is essential when the space
station's robot hand grabs an arriving supply ship and anchors it. The next
delivery is a few weeks away, prompting the quick camera swap-out.
Orbital ATK, one of NASA's commercial
shippers, plans to launch a cargo ship from Virginia on Nov. 11.
Acaba and the station's commander,
Randy Bresnik, were supposed to go spacewalking earlier this week. But NASA
needed extra time to add the camera repair to their chores.
Friday's spacewalk — expected to be the
last one for the year — also saw the astronauts installing a high-definition
camera, replacing a fuse and removing thermal insulation from spare
electronics. Early next year, astronauts will replace the hand on the
opposite side of the 58-foot robot arm, Canada's main contribution to the
space station. The original latching mechanisms are showing wear and tear
since the arm's launch in 2001.
The 250-mile-high complex is currently
home to three Americans, two Russians and one Italian.
A one-time high school and middle
school teacher, Acaba is the first astronaut of Puerto Rican heritage; his
parents were born there. He ventured out on Friday's spacewalk as the
station soared above the hurricane-ravaged island, where much of his
extended family lives.
"There's a whole line of people looking
up and smiling today as you get ready to head out the door," Bresnik told
Wild boars rampage through German town, injure at least 4
Ingwersen, left, and Horst Allwardt right look at a wild boar that was shot
in the center of Heide, northern Germany on Friday, Oct. 20. (Helge
Holmson/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Police say a pair
of wild boars have gone on the rampage and injured at least four people in
the northern German town of Heide.
Authorities warned people to stay indoors after the
adult boars appeared early Friday and aggressively attacked pedestrians.
Public broadcaster NDR reported that a man had a finger partially bitten
Police said one of the boars was shot and killed
outside a bank, but the other is still on the run.
Heide is 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of
Hamburg, near Germany's North Sea coast and the border with Denmark.
140 arrested in Malawi after mob attacks on 'vampires'
President, Peter Mutharika. (AP Photo/File)
Lilongwe, Malawi (AP) — Deadly
mob attacks on people suspected to be "vampires" have led to 140 arrests in
Malawi, police said Friday.
The situation had spun out of control,
the inspector general of police, Lexon Kachama, told The Associated Press.
More arrests were expected.
Nine people have been killed in the
attacks that began last month after rumors of "blood-suckers" spread. In the
latest case, a man with epilepsy was burned to death in Blantyre, the
southern African nation's second-largest city, Kachama said. Another person
there was stoned to death.
President Peter Mutharika has appealed
for calm in the four districts where the mob attacks have taken place,
saying this week that "my government will offer protection from these
The United Nations and U.S. Embassy
have blacklisted some of the areas as dangerous zones for staffers.
"The biggest challenge is that thieves
and robbers have now taken advantage of the situation and are mounting
illegal roadblocks at night in order to harass people," Kachama said.
Government officials have said the
attacks were harming the deeply impoverished country's image. Residents
including health officials, teachers and traditional leaders have said their
homes were destroyed after rumors spread that they were harboring
Family believes body is that of missing Argentine protester
Demonstrators hold up posters of missing activist Santiago Maldonado, during
a protest at Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha
Luis Andres Henao
Buenos Aires, Argentina (AP) —
The brother of an Argentine protester whose disappearance prompted
nationwide demonstrations said Friday that the family believes a body found
in a river is that of activist Santiago Maldonado.
The family is now "convinced that the
body is Santiago," Maldonado's brother, Sergio Maldonado, told reporters,
before he walked into a morgue in Buenos Aires where the autopsy was going
to be performed.
The body was found Tuesday near the
site of a protest on Aug. 1, when Maldonado was last seen alive. Protesters
were demanding the release of a jailed Mapuche indigenous leader and the
return of lands belonging to Italian clothing company Benetton that are
claimed by the Mapuche as their ancestral territory.
People at the protest said they saw
police beat and detain Maldonado after he and others blocked a road in
Chubut province, about 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers) southwest of the
Police never confirmed the arrest and
But some rights groups accused
President Mauricio Macri's government of being part a cover-up.
The case hit a raw nerve in Argentina,
where thousands of forced disappearances and other human rights abuses
committed during the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship still haunt many
four decades after the end of state-sponsored violence.
Tens of thousands of people
demonstrated, while soccer players and celebrities joined rights activists
in a social media campaign under the slogan: "Where is Santiago Maldonado?"
Last week, U2's lead singer and social
activist Bono asked Macri about Maldonado during a meeting in Buenos Aires
and said he glad that Macri was taking the case seriously.
Politicians from opposing political
parties had demanded Macri's government find the 28-year-old artisan and
tattoo artist alive. Some analysts say the latest development in the case
could turn problematic for Macri's coalition ahead of Sunday's midterm
legislative elections. The body's discovery had led political parties
earlier this week to suspend campaigning ahead of the vote.
Coast Guard divers discovered the body
in a river in southern Argentina. Officials said there were reasons to
believe it was Maldonado. They said Maldonado's national identity card and a
jacket that a witness said he was wearing when he went missing were found
with the body.
Members of Maldonado's family blame
border police for his disappearance and question how the body could have
been found in an area of the river that they say had been scoured three
"The uncertainty over his whereabouts
has ended," Maldonado's family said a statement on Friday. "The agony that
our family began suffering the very day that we found out about his
disappearance will not end until we get justice."
Today in History, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017
Today is Saturday, Oct. 21, the 294th day of 2017.
There are 71 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
In 1805, a British fleet commanded by Adm. Horatio
Nelson defeated a French-Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar; Nelson,
however, was killed.
On this date:
In 1097, Crusaders led by Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemund
of Taranto, and Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, begin the Siege of Antioch.
In 1209, Otto IV is crowned emperor of the Holy Roman
Empire by Pope Innocent III.
In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan discovers a strait now
known as Strait of Magellan.
In 1854, Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 nurses
are sent to the Crimean War.
In 1931, The Sakurakai, a secret society in the
Imperial Japanese Army, launches an abortive coup d'état attempt.
In 1940, the first edition of the Ernest Hemingway
novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is published.
In 1941, superheroine Wonder Woman made her debut in
All-Star Comics issue No. 8.
In 1942, the MGM musical "For Me and My Gal," starring
Judy Garland and featuring the film debut of Gene Kelly, premiered in New
In 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed
when a coal waste landslide engulfed a school and some 20 houses in Aberfan,
In 1967, the Israeli destroyer INS Eilat was sunk by
Egyptian missile boats near Port Said; 47 Israeli crew members were lost.
In 1986, pro-Iranian kidnappers in Lebanon abducted
American Edward Tracy (he was released in Aug. 1991).
In 1994, in
people are killed when the
Actress Joyce Randolph is 93. Rock singer Manfred Mann
is 77. Musician Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the MG's) is 76. TV's Judge Judy
Sheindlin is 75. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is 68. Actress
LaTanya Richardson Jackson is 68. Singer Julian Cope is 60. Actor Ken
Watanabe is 58. Actor Will Estes is 39. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West
is 37. Actress Charlotte Sullivan is 34.
Thought for Today:
"A man is what he thinks about all day long." — Ralph
Waldo Emerson, American essayist, poet and philosopher (1803-1882).
Fire rips through luxury Myanmar hotel, 1 body recovered
firefighter walks through the burned-out Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, Thursday,
Oct. 19, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Yangon (AP) — A fire gutted a
luxury teakwood hotel popular with foreigners in Myanmar's biggest city of
Yangon before dawn Thursday, causing one death.
Firefighters who carried a body out of
the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel said the victim was male. Local media reported a
woman from Macau was hospitalized in critical condition.
Photos and video posted online show the
spectacular blaze racing through the traditional Burmese-style building.
Smoke was still rising from the remains
of the lakeside hotel hours after daybreak and dozens of firefighters were
at the site.
"I'll never forget looking up and
seeing the night sky turned red," said American David Powers, who escaped
the blaze with his wife, 4-year-old daughter and their passports, phones and
"The embers floating through the sky
looked like hellish snowflakes," he said. "Once we got across the street we
could really see how bad the fire was."
Powers, who works in Bangkok and is
from South Carolina, said there was no alarm and he initially thought the
sounds of shouting and footsteps outside the family's room were drunken
Firefighter Kyaw Kyaw said the blaze
started about 3 a.m. and may have been caused by an electrical fault.
Exploding gas cylinders hastened its spread, he said.
Kyaw Kyaw said one firefighter suffered
from smoke inhalation.
The teak upper floors of the hotel were
destroyed and the blaze also appeared to have swept through the cement
bottom two floors.
The hotel was built in the early 1990s,
incorporating a colonial era British rowing club. It is currently owned by
the Htoo Group, a conglomerate controlled by Tay Za, a businessman who
prospered under Myanmar's former military government.
Adrienne Frilot, a tourist from
California, told local news site Frontier that she initially thought the
hotel staff who knocked on her door for minutes were drunken guests.
"We realized that something was wrong
and opened the door and we smelled the smoke and then evacuated
immediately," she told the publication.
"The staff were so helpful," she said.
Study: World pollution deadlier than wars, disasters, hunger
In this June
5, 2017, file photo, toxic froth from industrial pollution floats on
Bellundur Lake on World Environment Day, in Bangalore, India. (AP
New Delhi (AP) — Environmental
pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people
every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger
or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
One out of every six premature deaths
in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from
toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in The Lancet
medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness
and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion
in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy.
"There's been a lot of study of
pollution, but it's never received the resources or level of attention as,
say, AIDS or climate change," said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of
global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and
the lead author on the report.
The report marks the first attempt to
pull together data on disease and death caused by all forms of pollution
"Pollution is a massive problem that
people aren't seeing because they're looking at scattered bits of it,"
Experts say the 9 million premature
deaths the study found was just a partial estimate, and the number of people
killed by pollution is undoubtedly higher and will be quantified once more
research is done and new methods of assessing harmful impacts are developed.
Areas like Sub-Saharan Africa have yet
to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. Soil pollution has received
scant attention. And there are still plenty of potential toxins still being
ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed
throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or
Asia and Africa are the regions putting
the most people at risk, the study found, while India tops the list of
One out of every four premature deaths
in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution, the
study found. China's environment was the second deadliest, with more than
1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related
Several other countries such
Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a
fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.
To reach its figures, the study's
authors used methods outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
for assessing field data from soil tests, as well as with air and water
pollution data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study run by
institutions including the World Health Organization and the Institute for
Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Even the conservative estimate of 9
million pollution-related deaths is one-and-a-half times higher than the
number of people killed by smoking, three times the number killed by AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria combined, more than six times the number killed in
road accidents, and 15 times the number killed in war or other forms of
violence, according to GBD tallies.
It is most often the world's poorest
who suffer. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92 percent —
occur in low- or middle-income developing countries, where policy makers are
chiefly concerned with developing their economies, lifting people out of
poverty and building basic infrastructure, the study found. Environmental
regulations in those countries tend to be weaker, and industries lean on
outdated technologies and dirtier fuels.
In wealthier countries where overall
pollution is not as rampant, it is still the poorest communities that are
more often exposed, the report says.
"What people don't realize is that
pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot
contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after," said Richard
Fuller, head of the global toxic watchdog Pure Earth and one of the 47
scientists, policy makers and public health experts who contributed to the
"There is this myth that finance
ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you
won't develop, he said. "It just isn't true."
The report cites EPA research showing
that the U.S. has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on
controlling air pollution since 1970, when Congress enacted the Clean Air
Act, one of the world's most ambitious environmental laws. Removing lead
from gasoline has earned the U.S. economy another $6 trillion cumulatively
since 1980, according to studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Some experts cautioned, however, that
the report's economic message was murky. Reducing the pollution quantified
in the report might impact production, and so would not likely translate
into gains equal to the $4.6 trillion in economic losses.
The report "highlights the social and
economic justice of this issue," said Marc Jeuland, associate professor with
the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at
Duke University, who was not involved in the study.
Without more concrete evidence for how
specific policies might lead to economic gains, "policy makers will often
find it difficult to take action, and this report thus only goes part way in
making the case for action," he said.
Jeuland also noted that, while the
report counts mortality by each pollutant, there are possible overlaps — for
example, someone exposed to both air pollution and water contamination — and
actions to address one pollutant may not reduce mortality.
"People should be careful not to
extrapolate from the U.S. numbers on net (economic) benefits, because the
net effects of pollution control will not be equivalent across locations,"
The study's conclusions on the economic
cost of pollution measure lost productivity and health care costs, while
also considering studies measuring people's "willingness to pay" to reduce
the probability of dying. While these types of studies yield estimates at
best, they are used by many governments and economists trying to understand
how societies value individual lives.
While there has never been an
international declaration on pollution, the topic is gaining traction.
The World Bank in April declared that
reducing pollution, in all forms, would now be a global priority. And in
December, the United Nations will host its first-ever conference on the
topic of pollution.
"The relationship between pollution and
poverty is very clear," said Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, lead environmental
specialist at the World Bank. "And controlling pollution would help us
address many other problems, from climate change to malnutrition. The
linkages can't be ignored."
A few militants fight on in Philippine city ripped to shreds
A mosque with its dome blasted out with holes is
seen at the battle-scarred Marawi city in southern Philippines Thursday,
Oct. 19. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Marawi, Philippines (AP) — Smoke
wafted from the smoldering carcasses of buildings and houses, with the dome
of a mosque blasted out with holes, as Philippine troops battled Thursday to
defeat a final stand by the last dozens of pro-Islamic State group militants
in a southern city.
The desolate war scene, witnessed by
Associated Press journalists on board a navy patrol gunboat in Lake Lanao,
could herald what the government hopes will be the end of a nearly
five-month siege by the militants in Marawi city.
Filipino troops killed 13 more
suspected militants Wednesday night, including one believed to be a top
Malaysian terror suspect although his body hasn't been recovered yet,
military officials said.
"Our troops are continuing their
assault," army Col. Romeo Brawner said after his news conference in Marawi
was disrupted by loud explosions reverberating from the final area of
battle, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. About 20 to 30 militants
continue to fight back, he said.
While troops pressed their assault with
artillery and gunfire, officers used loudspeakers to ask the militants, many
of them positioned in a bullet-pocked two-story building, to surrender. The
building stands on a pier by the lake near a huge gunfire-scarred welcome
sign that says "I (love) Marawi."
Sporadic fighting continued even after
President Rodrigo Duterte visited the Islamic city on Tuesday and announced
its liberation, sparking hopes that hundreds of thousands of residents could
begin returning home. The speed of their return, however, will depend on how
quickly the city is declared safe of militants and rebuilt.
Volunteers and displaced residents have
begun a government-led cleanup in neighborhoods that were declared safe.
Power has been restored in more than half of the lakeside city, along with
water supply, officials said.
On Monday, the defense secretary and
military chief of staff announced that two of the last leaders of the siege
— Isnilon Hapilon, who is one of the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and
Omarkhayam Maute — were killed in a gunbattle.
Their deaths were the turning point
that partly convinced the president he could declare Marawi liberated from
the gunmen, Brawner told the AP.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto
Padilla said Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad was believed among 13 militants
killed overnight and another seven in the morning. Six soldiers were
slightly wounded in the fighting.
Two civilian hostages — a mother and
her teenage daughter — were also rescued, Padilla said.
The information about Mahmud was based
on what the rescued mother and daughter told the military, Padilla said.
Mahmud, who uses nom de guerre Abu
Handzalah, is a close associate of Hapilon. Military officials said he had
linked up Hapilon with the Islamic State group and provided funding to
bankroll the siege of Marawi.
Padilla said troops discovered that
there may be more militant fighters remaining in a small battle area than
Marawi, a mosque-studded center of
Islamic faith in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, has been
devastated by the siege by the militants who waved IS-style black flags and
hung them on buildings they had occupied in Marawi's business district and
outlying areas, according to the military.
The insurrection prompted the military
to launch a ground offensive and airstrikes, with the United States and
Australia later backing the troops by deploying surveillance aircraft.
Duterte declared martial law across the south, the homeland of minority
Muslims and the scene of a decades-old separatist rebellion, to deal with
the uprising and prevent other insurgents from waging attacks elsewhere and
reinforcing the fighters in Marawi.
The surprise occupation of the city and
the involvement of foreign fighters set off alarms in Southeast Asia.
Analysts said parts of the southern Philippines were at risk of becoming a
new base for IS as it lost territory to international forces in Iraq and
Some of the residents who returned to
Marawi for the cleanup Thursday became emotional after seeing their
devastated city and homes. Esnairah Macabunar saw weeds growing around her
two-story house but became more stunned when she went inside and realized
her home had been ransacked.
"Everything was stolen in my house,"
she said. "I am still shaken because I cannot accept what happened, my whole
life savings are gone."
UN says plague cases in Madagascar almost doubled in 5 days
Red Cross volunteers talk to villagers about the
plague outbreak, 30 miles west of Antananarivo, Madagascar, Monday, Oct. 16.
(AP Photo/Alexander Joe)
Edith M. Lederer
United Nations (AP) — The number
of plague cases in Madagascar has almost doubled over the last five days and
medical experts project the situation will worsen, with 1,000 cases expected
every month if funds aren't rapidly provided, the United Nations said
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told
reporters that only 26 percent of the $9.5 million needed to combat the
outbreak of the often deadly disease has been received.
Dujarric said U.N. humanitarian
officials in the Indian Ocean island nation reported 1,032 cases as of
Wednesday, 67 percent of which were pneumonic plague. He says that "is more
serious than the bubonic plague and highly challenging to control."
So far, he said, 89 deaths have been
counted, including 13 on Tuesday.
Dujarric said U.N. officials have
strengthened systems to identify contacts of victims, monitor the number of
patients at hospitals, transport medical samples, and address "the
transmission risks of traditional burial practices."
Madagascar has about 400 plague cases
per year, or more than half the world's total, according to a 2016 World
Health Organization report. Usually, they are cases of bubonic plague in the
rural highlands. Bubonic plague is carried by rats and spread to humans
through flea bites. It is fatal about half the time if untreated.
For the first time, though, this
outbreak is largely concentrated in the country's two largest cities,
Antananarivo and Toamasina.
Most of the cases in the current
outbreak are pneumonic plague, a more virulent form that spreads through
coughing, sneezing or spitting and is almost always fatal if untreated. In
some cases, it can kill within 24 hours. Like the bubonic form, it can be
treated with common antibiotics if caught in time.
Global health officials have responded
The World Health Organization,
criticized for its slow response to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa,
has released $1.5 million and sent plague specialists and epidemiologists.
The Red Cross is sending its first-ever plague treatment center to
But, Dujarric said, "Medical experts
project that the situation will continue to deteriorate, with 1,000 cases
per month expected if the response is not rapidly funded."
Pakistan's ex-premier Sharif indicted on corruption charges
Nawaz, daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right front passenger
in vehicle, arrives at an accountability court in Islamabad, Pakistan,
Thursday, Oct. 19. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Islamabad (AP) — A Pakistani
court on Thursday indicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as his
daughter and son-in-law on corruption charges stemming from documents leaked
from a Panama law firm.
A lawyer for the 67-year-old Sharif,
who is currently in London, where his wife is receiving medical treatment,
entered a plea of not guilty. The former premier's daughter, Maryam Sharif,
and her husband, Mohammad Safdar, attended the hearing at the Accountability
Court and also pleaded not guilty.
Sharif later on Thursday told reporters
in London that he will go back to Pakistan to attend the next court hearing,
scheduled for Oct. 26. In his televised comments, he said he was removed
from office by judges on a trivial charge.
The charges stem from a trove of
documents — known as the Panama Papers — that investigators say showed the
family held unreported assets overseas. The family has denied any
After leaving the courtroom, Maryam
Sharif again denied the allegations as "baseless." She said her father would
return to Pakistan and that they would "face these cases with courage."
The former prime minister is unlikely
to be arrested on his return home as the court has already granted bail.
Sharif's political future has been in doubt since July, when the Supreme
Court disqualified him from office over corruption charges.
Rana Sanaullah, a senior leader of
Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League, said there were "hidden hands"
behind his dismissal and the spate of corruption allegations, without
Sharif was re-elected as party leader
earlier this month after parliament approved a bill allowing officials
disqualified by courts to hold party offices. The move angered opposition
parties, which say Sharif is continuing to rule through a "puppet" prime
minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Sons of slain journalist call for Malta leader's resignation
Candles, notes and paper cuttings lie next to
the Love Monument in St. Julian, Malta, Tuesday Oct. 17, 2017, the day after
the killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. (AP Photo/ Rene
Valletta, Malta (AP) — The sons of slain investigative journalist
Daphne Caruana Galizia have called on the Maltese prime minister to resign.
In a Facebook post Thursday, they said
Joseph Muscat should take political responsibility for "failing to uphold
our fundamental freedoms."
The sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul
Caruana Galizia, said they weren't endorsing Muscat's call for a reward to
lead to their mother's assassins, saying "we are not interested in justice
"We are not interested in a criminal
conviction, only for the people in government who stood to gain from our
mother's murder to turn around and say that justice has been served," they
Caruana Galizia, a harsh critic of
Muscat's and who reported extensively on corruption on Malta, was killed by
a car bomb on Monday.
Her sons wrote that identifying their
mother's assassins was not enough. Corruption on the Mediterranean island
nation also needed to be rooted out, they said.
Muscat has denounced the assassination,
and has proposed a reward to find her killers.
On Thursday, some 200 journalists held
an event in support of the slain journalist.
A group representing journalist - the
Institute of Maltese Journalists - has filed a court case seeking to ensure
source confidentiality on all data that is lifted from Caruana Galizia's
computers and mobile phones during the investigation.
Investigators, meanwhile, were looking
at similarities with other car bombings in Malta over the last two years —
six in all including Caruana Galizia's. None have been solved.
Former police commissioner John Rizzo
told the Malta Independent that it appears that mobile detonated explosives
were used in each of the six bombings since the start of 2016, which caused
four deaths and two serious injuries. The previous victims were all known
to police, the paper said.
"Very few people could construct such a
bomb. Instructions may be obtained online but building such a device would
still require a certain degree of skill," Rizzo said.
Investigators haven't publicly
identified which explosives were used in the journalist's murder, but
experts say any military grade explosives, like Semtex, are not available in
Malta and would have had to be brought in from abroad.
Muscat defended the failure to solve
the rash of car bombings as he left parliament Wednesday evening. Including
the last six, there have been over 30 in the last 15 years on the island.
"I will continue to defend the
institutions and I am a firm believer in the institutions," he said.
Today in History, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017
Today is Friday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2017. There
are 72 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
In 1944, American general Douglas MacArthur fulfills
his promise to return to the Philippines when he commands an Allied assault
on the islands, reclaiming them from the Japanese during the Second World
On this date:
In 1714, the coronation of Britain's King George I took
place in Westminster Abbey.
In 1720, Caribbean pirate Calico Jack is captured by
the British Royal Navy.
In 1818, a convention is signed between the United
States and the United Kingdom, which settles the Canada–United States border
on the 49th parallel for most of its length.
In 1827, in the Battle of Navarino, a combined Turkish
and Egyptian fleet is defeated by British, French, and Russian naval forces
in the last significant battle fought with wooden sailing ships.
In 1935, The Long March, a mammoth retreat undertaken
by the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party a year prior, ends.
In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee
opened hearings into alleged Communist influence and infiltration in the
U.S. motion picture industry.
In 1952, Governor Evelyn Baring declares a state of
emergency in Kenya and begins arresting hundreds of suspected leaders of the
Mau Mau Uprising, including Jomo Kenyatta, the future first President of
In 1968, former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy
married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
In 1973, the Sydney Opera House is opened by Queen
Elizabeth II after 14 years of construction.
In 1977, three members of the rock group Lynyrd
Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, were killed along with three
others in the crash of a chartered plane near McComb, Mississippi.
In 1994, actor Burt Lancaster died in Los Angeles at
In 2011, Moammar Gadhafi, 69, Libya's dictator for 42
years, was killed as revolutionary fighters overwhelmed his hometown of
Sirte and captured the last major bastion of resistance two months after his
Japan's Empress Michiko is 83. Movie director Danny
Boyle is 61. Actor Viggo Mortensen is 59. Rock musician Jim Sonefeld (Hootie
& The Blowfish) is 53. Rock musician David Ryan is 53. Actor Kenneth Choi is
46. Rapper Snoop Dogg is 46. Singer Dannii Minogue is 46. Actor John
Krasinski is 38. Actress Jennifer Nicole Freeman is 32.
Thought for Today:
"Everybody's private motto: It's better to be popular
than right." — Mark Twain (1835-1910).
Russian TV star Sobchak declares her presidential bid
Socialite and TV host Ksenia Sobchak says she
has decided to run for president of Russia in next March's election. (AP
Moscow (AP) — A Russian
celebrity TV host shook up the country's political scene Wednesday by
announcing her presidential bid, a move that would likely boost public
interest in the race but could further fragment the nation's beleaguered
Ksenia Sobchak, 35, announced her
intention to become a candidate in March's election in a YouTube video,
arguing that Russia has grown tired of its current political elite and needs
Sobchak, the daughter of Anatoly
Sobchak, the reformist St. Petersburg mayor in the early 1990s, first became
known as a socialite and a fashion icon before she launched her successful
Sharp-tongued and witty, Sobchak has
been often critical of the Russian government. She joined anti-Kremlin
protests in Moscow in 2011-2012 but has largely avoided criticizing
President Vladimir Putin, who once worked as her father's deputy.
Putin, 65, hasn't yet said whether he
will seek re-election on March 18 but he's widely expected to run. With
approval ratings topping 80 percent, Putin would win in a landslide against
torpid veterans of past Russian presidential campaigns, like Communist
leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky or liberal
Grigory Yavlinsky. They have all signaled their intentions to run again in
Sobchak told Dozhd TV that she had
warned Putin that she planned to join the race while interviewing him
recently for a documentary about her father.
"I had an impression he didn't like
it," she said of Putin's reaction.
Some pundits, however, said Sobchak's
candidacy should please the Kremlin, helping counter growing voter apathy
without posing a threat to Putin. Andrei Kolesnikov, an expert with the
Carnegie Moscow Center, warned that Sobchak's bid would further fragment and
weaken Russia's opposition.
When rumors about Sobchak's intentions
first appeared recently, Russia's most popular opposition leader, Alexei
Navalny, warned her on YouTube that she would play into the Kremlin's hands
if she enters the race. Navalny is currently serving a 20-day jail term for
organizing an unsanctioned protest.
Navalny has also declared his intention
to enter Russia's presidential race, even though a criminal conviction that
he calls politically motivated bars him from running. The 41-year-old
anti-corruption crusader has organized a grassroots campaign across Russia
to support his nomination. It has organized waves of protests this year,
putting pressure on the Kremlin.
"They need a cartoonish liberal
candidate at a time when they don't want to allow me to enter the race,"
Navalny said in a warning to Sobchak.
Sobchak has rejected Navalny's
criticism, saying that if he is allowed to run she would consider
withdrawing her candidacy in his favor. She has cast herself as a "candidate
against all," appealing to broad public dismay with Russia's
tightly-controlled and corrupt political system.
Like other self-nominated candidates,
Sobchak needs to gather 300,000 signatures to get registered for the race.
Those nominated by parties represented in parliament don't need to do that.
The candidates haven't reached the
formal registration stage so there is no exact count of their number yet.
Sobchak wouldn't discuss possible
sources of funding for her campaign in a nation as vast as Russia, but her
high-level connections in Russia's business world could help her bid.
4 dead as fighting continues in southern Philippine city
Smoke rises from the city as explosions continue
to reverberate in Marawi, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte declared its
liberation in the southern Philippines, Wednesday, Oct. 18. (AP Photo/Bullit
Marawi, Philippines (AP) —
Philippine troops killed four Islamic State group-linked militants in a
clash and occasional blasts thundered across Marawi on Wednesday after the
president declared the southern city liberated from "terrorist influence."
President Rodrigo Duterte visited the
battle-scarred Islamic city on Tuesday and announced its liberation,
sparking hopes that hundreds of thousands of residents could finally return
home after being displaced for nearly five months by a bloody siege.
But as life and some traffic resumed in
Marawi's outskirts, the sounds of fighting rattled some who returned.
"We still hear explosions," Sohayla
Pacalna, a souvenir shop owner, told The Associated Press. "But we don't
know what they are."
After Duterte's speech, troops pressed
an offensive late Tuesday against 20 to 30 gunmen holding several hostages
in buildings near the city's Lanao Lake and killed four militants, Col.
Romeo Brawner said, adding that 10 soldiers were wounded.
He said 854 militants have now been
killed in the fighting, which broke out on May 23, along with 163 soldiers
and policemen and 47 civilians.
Occasional bursts of gunfire and
explosions sent clouds of smoke rising from the one-hectare (2.5-acre) area
where soldiers said the remaining militants were hiding. The hilly community
of narrow streets is now a gray wasteland of disfigured buildings and ruined
Troops used megaphones to urge the
remaining militants to give up.
"The only way to get out alive is to
surrender," military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano said.
Marawi, a mosque-studded center of
Islamic faith in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, has been
devastated by the siege by the militants, who waved IS-style black flags and
hung them on buildings they occupied in Marawi's business district and
outlying areas, according to the military.
The insurrection prompted the military
to launch a ground offensive and airstrikes, with the United States and
Australia later backing the troops by deploying surveillance aircraft.
Duterte declared martial law across the south, the homeland of minority
Filipinos and the scene of decades-old Muslim separatist rebellions, to deal
with the uprising and prevent other insurgents from waging attacks elsewhere
and reinforcing the fighters in Marawi.
The surprise occupation of the city and
the involvement of foreign fighters set off alarms in Southeast Asia and the
West. Analysts said parts of the southern Philippines were at risk of
becoming a new base for IS as it lost territory to international forces in
Iraq and Syria.
Defense officials announced Monday that
two of the last leaders of the siege — Isnilon Hapilon, who is one of the
FBI's most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute — were killed in a
A top Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin
Ahmad, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Handzalah and is a close associate of
Hapilon, has not been found and is among the remaining militants being
hunted by troops.
The killings of the two sparked hopes
among hundreds of thousands of displaced residents that they could now leave
the squalor of overcrowded evacuation camps and return to Marawi. Many were
uncertain, though, whether they had homes to return to and how they could
rebuild their lives.
It may take more than three years to
rebuild Marawi's ruined commercial and residential neighborhoods, officials
said, and it remains unclear how the massive construction cost can be
Thousands march over 'Somalia's 9/11;' attack details emerge
Protesters march near the scene of Saturday's
massive truck bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, Oct. 18. (AP
Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Mogadishu, Somalia (AP) — Somali
intelligence officials shared a detailed account of the country's deadliest
attack, while thousands marched Wednesday in Mogadishu in a show of defiance
against the extremist group blamed for Saturday's truck bombing that left
more than 300 dead.
Two people have been arrested in the
attack that was meant to target Mogadishu's heavily fortified international
airport, where several countries have their embassies, the officials said.
Somalia's president urged the
long-fractured Horn of Africa nation to unite, and Mayor Thabit Abdi said
the city was "awash in graves." Some desperate relatives still dug through
the rubble with their bare hands in search of scores said to be missing.
Wearing red headbands, a crowd of
mostly young men and women gathered at a Mogadishu stadium and shouted
slogans against al-Shabab, which has long targeted the seaside city but has
not commented on the attack.
Some in Somalia have called the bombing
their "9/11," asking why one of the world's deadliest attacks in years
hasn't drawn more global attention. Nearly 400 others were wounded.
"You can kill us, but not our spirit
and desire for peace," said high school teacher Zainab Muse. "May Allah
punish those who massacred our people," said university student Mohamed
It was not all peaceful. At least three
people, including a pregnant woman, were injured after security forces
opened fire while trying to disperse protesters marching toward the attack
site, said police Capt. Mohammed Hussein.
Analysts have suggested that al-Shabab,
an al-Qaida ally, may have avoided taking responsibility because it did not
want to be blamed for the deaths of so many civilians.
A detailed description of the attack
emerged. According to a Somali intelligence official investigating the
blast, an overloaded truck covered with a tarpaulin approached a security
checkpoint outside Mogadishu early Saturday.
The truck, covered in dust, aroused the
suspicions of soldiers who ordered the driver to park and get out. The
driver, a man who soldiers said behaved in a friendly manner, made a phone
call to someone in the capital.
The driver passed the phone to the
soldiers to speak to a well-known man who vouched for the truck and
persuaded soldiers to allow it into the city, the Somali intelligence
official told The Associated Press.
Once through the checkpoint, the truck
began to speed along the sandy, potholed road and raced through another
checkpoint where soldiers opened fire and flattened one of its tires.
The driver continued before stopping on
a busy street and detonating. The blast leveled nearly all nearby buildings
in one of Mogadishu's most crowded areas.
The man who vouched for the truck has
been arrested and is being held in jail, the Somali intelligence official
The massive bomb, weighing between 600
kilograms and 800 kilograms (1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds), was meant for
Mogadishu's heavily fortified international airport, according to security
officials. Several countries' embassies are located there.
The driver probably decided to detonate
on the street instead because several checkpoints still lay ahead, the
Somali intelligence official said.
"Another reason that he would not
proceed further is the fact that security forces were coming after it," the
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to speak to reporters.
The truck bomber had an accomplice
driving a smaller car, a Toyota Noah minivan packed with explosives that
took another route, said another Somali intelligence official who spoke on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Security forces stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint near the airport,
forcing the driver to park and get out.
As soldiers questioned the driver, the
minivan detonated, the official said.
The minivan's driver is currently in a
prison in Mogadishu, said a senior Somali police officer, Capt. Mohamed
Somalia last year saw its highest-ever
number of attacks from improvised explosives, at least 395, up from about
265 the year before, according to a threat assessment by the Nairobi-based
Sahan research group. Since 2013, when there were 33 such attacks, the
threat has grown quickly.
Al-Shabab's capacity to produce and
transport ever-larger explosives is improving, the assessment said.
Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices have increased from between 100
and 200 kilograms in 2015 to between 800 and 1,000 kilograms in 2016.
In the ruins of the latest attack,
Suban Hussein, the mother of a missing 19-year-old university student,
pointed at a large chunk of debris.
"I have searched everywhere else," she
declared. "I believe my son's body is under here." No one came to her
Al-Qaida set to gain as Islamic State disintegrates
This photo shows an IS fighter firing a weapon
during clashes with Syrian government troops in the eastern Syrian province
of Deir el-Zour. (Militant Photo via AP)
Bassem Mroue and Qassim Abdul-Zahra
Beirut (AP) — Over several
nights in September, some 10,000 men, women and children fled areas under
Islamic State control, hurrying through fields in northern Syria and risking
fire from government troops to reach a province held by an al-Qaida-linked
For an untold number of battle-hardened
jihadis fleeing with the civilians, the escape to Idlib province marked a
homecoming of sorts, an opportunity to continue waging war alongside an
extremist group that shares much of the Islamic State's ideology — and has
benefited from its prolonged downfall.
While the U.S.-led coalition and
Russian-backed Syrian troops have been focused on driving IS from the
country's east, an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant
Liberation Committee has consolidated its control over Idlib, and may be
looking to return to Osama bin Laden's strategy of attacking the West.
Syrian activists with contacts in the
area say members of the Levant Liberation Committee vouched for fleeing IS
fighters they had known before the two groups split four years ago and
allowed them to join, while others were sent to jail. The activists spoke on
condition of anonymity because they still visit the area and fear reprisals
from the jihadis.
IS has lost nearly all the territory it
once controlled in Syria and Iraq, including the northern Iraqi city of
Mosul — the largest it ever held — and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa,
which once served as its de facto capital. Tens of thousands of its fighters
have been killed on the battlefield, but an untold number have escaped. As
it gradually disintegrates, theological splits have also emerged within the
organization, including the rise of a faction that blames its leader, Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi, for the setbacks.
"Al-Qaida will welcome ISIS members
with open arms, those are battled-hardened with potent field experience,"
said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the
author of "ISIS: A History."
ISIS is an alternative acronym for the
Islamic State group.
The two groups both sprang from
al-Qaida in Iraq, which emerged in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led
invasion, but split over ideology and leadership in 2013 and battled each
other across northern Syria. Earlier this month, IS attacked the Levant
Liberation Committee again, in what was seen as a revenge attack after the
While IS went on to carve out a
proto-state in large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic
caliphate in 2014, the al-Qaida militants allied themselves with other
Syrian insurgent groups and cultivated grass-roots support by providing aid
and other services to civilians. They remained focused on the war against
Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, although they've also crushed
several small U.S.-backed rebel factions.
But despite formally severing ties with
al-Qaida last year and repeatedly changing its name, the group is still
widely seen as a loyal affiliate of the global network that carried out the
Sept. 11 attacks. Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the coalition
battling the Islamic State group, has said Idlib is the largest al-Qaida
haven since bin Laden's days in Afghanistan.
"I worry that al-Qaida has taken
advantage of the past three or four years to very quietly rebuild while ISIS
has preoccupied our attention," said Bruce Hoffman, head of Georgetown
University's security studies program and author of "Inside Terrorism."
"This is in al-Qaida's DNA, to either
absorb, wait out or forcibly deal with any of their rivals so that they're
the last man standing." The growth of the Levant Liberation Committee in the
past year "has really astonished me," he added.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials told
The Associated Press in Baghdad that bin Laden's successor, Ayman
al-Zawahri, sent an envoy to Syria to convince IS fighters to defect and
join his group. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorized to brief reporters, said this might have been the
reason behind an audiotape released by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on
Sept. 28, in which he ordered his fighters not to "retreat, run away,
negotiate or surrender."
While al-Qaida may yet regain the
mantle of worldwide jihad, it could also come under increasing threat in its
bastion in northwestern Syria, as the forces arrayed against IS shift their
focus to a new potentially worldwide threat.
"The honeymoon period for al-Qaida, in
which the so-called Islamic State absorbed most of the counterterrorism
focus while al-Qaida's affiliates grew stronger, is coming to an end,"
according to an analysis by the Soufan Group security consultancy.
"It now appears Zawahiri is seeking to
consolidate the terror network and return the group to its heyday as the
vanguard of a global movement," it added. That could place the militants in
the crosshairs of the international coalition.
Turkey launched a limited military
operation in Idlib last week aimed at imposing a "de-escalation zone," one
of several set up across Syria under an agreement between Turkey, Iran and
Russia. The Turkish troops have yet to confront al-Qaida, but that could
change if it comes to be seen as a regional or international threat.
Meanwhile, Assad's forces, fresh from
victories against IS in eastern Syria, may switch their focus to Idlib, the
largest remaining insurgent bastion in the country. Russia, which has been
waging an air campaign in support of Assad since 2015, struck an al-Qaida
gathering in Idlib earlier this month, and claimed to have killed several
The U.S.-led coalition has targeted
al-Qaida militants on several occasions in recent years, aiming to disrupt
what U.S. officials say is a secretive cell known as the Khorasan group that
is planning external attacks. A U.S. airstrike killed al-Qaida's second in
command, former bin Laden aide Abu al-Kheir al-Masri, in Syria earlier this
EU switches summit venue over fumes in new Europa building
The interior of the Europa building in Brussels
is shown in this Dec. 9, 2016 file photo, (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Brussels (AP) — The European
Union made a last-minute switch to the venue of a two-day summit opening
Thursday because of noxious fumes in the recently-opened Europa building in
The EU Council said in a statement
Wednesday that the egg-shaped building encased in a glass box had to be
evacuated because of technical issues affecting the ventilation in the
kitchens, which produced fumes that led to several staff members falling
The body initially said the summit
would not be affected, but reversed that position late Wednesday. The 28 EU
leaders will now meet for the summit Thursday and Friday at the adjacent
Justus Lipsius building, which had long hosted summits before the switch to
the Europa building early this year.
The EU summit will discuss a slew of
issues including Brexit negotiations.
The Europa building was evacuated last
Friday due to a similar incident.
The EU announced that the switch was "a
precautionary measure" only. Still, it was a setback and embarrassment for a
320-million euro ($375 million) building opened amid great pomp only last
year as the epitome of EU design and construction technology.
"Despite checks and precautions, a
further technical incident occurred today in one of the Europa building
kitchens," the council said in a statement. Firefighters and medical staff
were brought in to investigate the cause of the fumes, but the problem
couldn't be fixed in time to let the summit go ahead.
Compared to the Europa building, the
Justus Lipsius is a drab, brown-marble and glass construction typical of
Today in History, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017
Today is Thursday, Oct. 19, the 292nd day of 2017. There are 73 days
left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 19, 1987, the stock market
crashed as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 508 points, or 22.6
percent in value (its biggest daily percentage loss), to close at
1,738.74 in what came to be known as "Black Monday."
On this date:
In 202 BC, at the Battle of Zama,
Roman legions under Scipio Africanus defeat Hannibal Barca, leader of
the army defending Carthage.
In 1216, John, King of England,
died, just more than a year after affixing his royal seal to Magna Carta
("The Great Charter").
In 1469, Ferdinand II of Aragon
marries Isabella I of Castile, a marriage that paves the way to the
unification of Aragon and Castile into a single country, Spain.
In 1781, British troops under Gen.
Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, as the American
Revolution neared its end.
In 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte begins
his retreat from Moscow.
In 1914, the First Battle of Ypres
began during World War I.
In 1936, H.R. Ekins of the New
York World-Telegram beat out Dorothy Kilgallen of the New York
Journal and Leo Kieran of The New York Times in a
round-the-world race on commercial flights that lasted 18 1/2 days.
In 1950, the People's Republic of
China joins the Korean War by sending thousands of troops across the
Yalu River to fight United Nations forces.
In 1953, the Ray Bradbury novel
"Fahrenheit 451," set in a dystopian future where books are banned and
burned by the government, was first published by Ballantine Books.
In 1967, the U.S. space probe
Mariner 5 flew past Venus.
In 1977, the supersonic Concorde
made its first landing in New York City. The body of West German
industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer, who had been kidnapped by left-wing
extremists, was found in Mulhouse, France.
In 1982, automaker John Z. DeLorean
was arrested by federal agents in Los Angeles, accused of conspiring to
sell $24 million of cocaine to salvage his business. (DeLorean was
acquitted at trial on grounds of entrapment.)
In 1994, 22 people were killed as a
terrorist bomb shattered a bus in the heart of Tel Aviv's shopping
In 2003, Mother Teresa is beatified
by Pope John Paul II.
Author John le Carre is 86. Artist
Peter Max is 80. Actor Michael Gambon is 77. Actor John Lithgow is 72.
Rock singer-musician Patrick Simmons (The Doobie Brothers) is 69. Singer
Jennifer Holliday is 57. Boxer Evander Holyfield is 55. "South Park"
co-creator Trey Parker is 48. Rock singer Pras Michel (The Fugees) is
45. Actor Omar Gooding is 41. Actress Rebecca Ferguson is 34. Rock
singer Zac Barnett (American Authors) is 31. Actress Hunter King is 24.
Thought for Today:
"It takes a clever man to turn
cynic and a wise man to be clever enough not to." — Fannie Hurst,
American author (both this date in 1885, died 1968).