In the world | Africatime
Friday 24 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Two years to the day after the deadly Germanwings crash in the French Alps, the father of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz spoke out publicly Friday to dispute that his son deliberately downed the plane.

Both the message and the timing of the first public appearance by a member of Lubitz's close family since the 2015 disaster that claimed 150 lives were criticised by victims' families, who held their own sombre events to mark the tragedy.

(AFP )

South Sudan's famine is a disaster created by its leaders, say analysts who argue that while food may save some lives now it is only peace that can bring lasting relief.

But peace is as distant as ever with an international community that appears paralysed, while the men ruling over the country's misery are unmoved by pleas for them to lay down their weapons.

There is no catastrophic drought in South Sudan, no natural driver for the famine afflicting 100,000 and threatening a million others.

(AFP )

Bilal Abduljabbar clambers onto the back of an Iraqi army truck with his two teenage children to start the final stage of their escape from war-torn west Mosul.

"Where we came from, there was no water and no food, just fighting," the 43-year-old says. "And where we're going, there's no future."

A rumble of mortar fire resonates in the distance as hundreds of people trudge up a rain-drenched street under a heavy grey sky of smoke and clouds.

(AFP )

The UN rights council agreed Friday to "urgently" launch an investigation into violations against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, including torture, murder and rapes allegedly committed by troops.

The Geneva-based body decided to "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission" to Myanmar, particularly focused in northern Rahkine state, in a resolution adopted by consensus.

The mission must provide an oral update in September and a full report by this time next year, said the resolution backed by the European Union.

(AFP )

South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry was sailed away from its watery grave Friday, beginning its final journey nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives.

A flotilla of powerful tugs towed the wreck, lying on its side on a platform between two giant salvage barges, towards a semi-submersible that will finally bring it into port.

The 145-metre ship was brought to the surface in a complex salvage operation believed to be among the largest recoveries ever of a wreck in one piece, a key demand of the families of the dead.

(AFP )

A man has been charged with terror offences including attempted murder after he was arrested driving at high speed into a crowded shopping area in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, prosecutors said Friday.

However, a source close to the investigation told AFP on condition of anonymity that investigators could not confirm if it was a terrorist attack and said the driver made little sense during interrogation.

Other sources said the charges could be interpreted as a "precautionary measure" in order to keep the suspect in detention.

(AFP )

President Vladimir Putin met France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen as she visited Moscow on Friday, with the Russian leader stressing that the Kremlin does not meddle in French politics.

"We by no means want to influence the current events but we reserve the right to communicate with all representatives of all political forces of the country, as do our partners in Europe and the United States for example," Interfax news agency quoted Putin as telling Le Pen.

"I know that you represent quite a fast-developing spectrum of European political forces."

(AFP )

A pro-Russian lawmaker accused of involvement in an alleged coup attempt in Montenegro that authorities say was meant to hobble the country's bid to join NATO has denounced the claims as invented.

Opposition leader Andrija Mandic is among 25 suspects said to have been seeking to seize parliament and assassinate the country's then prime minister during an election last year.

Parliament lifted the immunity of Mandic and another pro-Russian MP last month so they could potentially face charges in a case with echoes of Moscow's alleged interference in the US election.

(AFP )

The international coalition battling the Islamic State group will begin a final push on the jihadists' Syrian stronghold Raqa in the coming days, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday.

But on the ground, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance spearheading the battle for the jihadist group's de facto Syrian capital expressed caution about how soon the battle for Raqa would begin.

IS has come under growing pressure from twin US-backed ground offensives targeting Raqa and their other main stronghold, Mosul in Iraq.

(AFP )

Ukraine on Friday said that one person has died as a result of a fire that broke out at an arms depot in the country's east, sparking explosions and forcing a mass evacuation.

Ukrainian authorities have blamed the fire, which broke out Thursday. on an "act of sabotage" and opened probes into possible "diversion" or negligence of military personnel.

"The body of a woman born in 1951 was recovered from under the debris of a collapsed house," the head of Ukraine's emergency service Mykola Chechotkin said Friday, Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.

(AFP )

The Italian capital was preparing Friday for a high-security lockdown as 27 heads of state or government head to Rome for the European Union's 60th anniversary celebrations.

Snipers will be positioned on rooftops, drones in the skies, and 3,000 police officers on the streets around the centre of the Eternal City Saturday as Italy takes no risks following an attack this week in London claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

(AFP )

France's leader on Friday lashed out at presidential candidate Francois Fillon, saying the rightwinger lacked "dignity" after claiming the state had orchestrated a campaign to smear him.

Fillon, who has slid from frontrunner to third in the race following "fake jobs" allegations, told French TV late Thursday that President Francois Hollande had headed a "secret cell" that was responsible for leaks against him.

It was a "scandal involving the state", said the 63-year-old former prime minister.

(AFP )

Royal Dutch Shell has sold its onshore oil and gas interests in the central African nation of Gabon for $587 million to private equity firm Carlyle Group, it said Friday.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant announced in a statement that it has sold the assets to Carlyle for the equivalent of 544 million euros in a deal expected to complete in mid-2017.

Carlyle will also take on debt of $285 million as part of the deal. It will make extra payments up to a maximum of $150 million depending on production performance and commodity prices.

(AFP )

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday called on EU leaders, who are among his country's creditors, to protect labour rights amid tough talks on the debt-hit nation's economy.

"An array of achievements under our common European acquis have been (curtailed), chief of them the acquis of social rights, specifically...labour rights and collective bargaining," Tsipras said in the letter to EU leaders seen by AFP.

"In my country, this right is restricted."

(AFP )

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Swiss counterpart Thursday after having to call off a campaign appearance amongst diaspora voters, in a bitter row between Ankara and Europe.

Relations between Turkey and Europe have been severely strained since several Turkish ministers were blocked from campaigning on the continent for a 'yes' vote in next month's referendum on boosting the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

(AFP )

Judges at the International Criminal Court are expected on Friday to unveil the first compensation awards to victims of war crimes, with lawyers estimating a 2003 attack on a Congolese village caused $16.4 million in damage.

Friday's order for reparations for 304 victims of former Congolese warlord Germain Katanga is set to be a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst crimes.

(AFP )

A French and an American astronaut are scheduled to float outside the International Space Station Friday for a spacewalk aimed at upgrading the orbiting outpost for the arrival of future space crews.

The spacewalk by France's Thomas Pesquet, 39, and American Shane Kimbrough, 49, will be the latest in a series of outings to install new docking ports for the next generation of commercial spacecraft.

The new crew spaceships, currently under design by SpaceX and Boeing, should begin flying astronauts to the station in the coming years, as early as 2018.

(AFP )

European Union leaders will receive guidance from Pope Francis Friday, on the eve of the troubled bloc's 60th anniversary celebrations in Rome.

On past form, the Argentine pontiff is unlikely to pull his punches in a Friday evening audience with 27 heads of state or government tasked with charting a "common future" for a union soon to lose Britain from its ranks.

(AFP )

Bulgaria's Socialists hope Sunday to win power and end years of dominance by karate-kicking former premier Boyko Borisov, in elections that could tilt the EU and NATO member more towards Russia.

The third election in four years in the European Union's poorest country could also see the nationalist United Patriots emerge as the third-biggest party and kingmaker in tough coalition talks.

Opinion polls put the centre-right GERB party of ex-firefighter Borisov neck-and-neck with the Socialist Party (BSP) on between 25 and 31 percent.

(AFP )

Salvage operators were preparing to move South Korea's sunken Sewol ferry on to another vessel to transfer it to port Friday, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives.

The top of the wreck had been raised to 13 metres above sea-level by late morning, the maritime ministry said in a statement, just high enough to fit it onto a semi-submersible standing by to take it to Mokpo on the mainland.

(AFP )

China is not militarising the disputed South China Sea, the country's premier insisted in Australia on Friday, claiming defence equipment Beijing has installed on artificial islands is "primarily" for civilian use.

The sea is a source of growing regional tension, with Beijing insisting it has sovereignty over virtually all the resource-rich waters, which are also claimed in part by a handful of other countries, and deemed international waters by most of the world.

(AFP )

French centre-right presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Thursday accused President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, of orchestrating media leaks that have dented his image as a scandal free leader a month ahead of the key vote.

Hollande immediately condemned in the "strongest terms the untruthful allegations of Francois Fillon," the presidency said in a statement.

"The executive has never intervened in any judicial process," the Elysee presidential palace said.

(AFP )

Two years to the day after the deadly Germanwings crash in the French Alps, the father of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz will hold a press conference Friday to dispute that his son deliberately downed the plane.

Both the message and the timing of the first public appearance by a member of Lubitz's close family since the 2015 disaster that claimed 150 lives have been criticised by victims' families, who will be holding their own anniversary events to mark the tragedy.

(AFP )

Roua Ahmed's classes ended abruptly when her school in Yemen was bombed, but she still clings to her dream of getting an education.

She is one of hundreds of thousands of young Yemenis forced out of school since fighting escalated with a Saudi-led intervention against Shiite Huthi rebels two years ago.

The war has since killed around 7,700 people, including nearly 1,550 children, and shut down hundreds of schools.

After hers was bombed, Roua sought out classes at a mosque in her home city of Taez. But as clashes escalated, her family saw little choice but to flee.

(AFP )

Once a hugely popular working man's sport, Saturday marks the final demise of greyhound racing in London, closing a chapter of British social culture in the capital.

More than 20 dog tracks have been dotted around London since modern greyhound racing was introduced to Britain in the 1920s, drawing in punters for a cheap evening's entertainment.

Wimbledon Stadium is the last one standing, but it, too, now faces the bulldozers -- a victim of cultural shifts and the city's housing crisis.

(AFP )

Injured South African Quinton de Kock was Friday cleared to play in the third Test against New Zealand after captain Faf du Plessis said resting the influential wicketkeeper-batsman was not an option.

Despite South Africa having an unbeatable 1-0 lead going into Saturday's final Test, du Plessis described their batting as "not good enough" and said he wanted his best possible team on the field.

"It's a big game. Quinton is someone who you don't just replace. From my side, I am trying to have Quinton in my team all the time," he said.

(AFP )

Taiwan's constitutional court heard a landmark case Friday that could make the island the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.

A panel of 14 grand justices heard a debate over a disputed law that critics say is unconstitutional because it prevents unions between gay couples.

Campaigners for and against same-sex marriage gathered outside the court in Taipei, which was heavily guarded for the hearing.

(AFP )

A lot's rotten in Brazil -- from politics to tainted meat exports -- and activists hope big crowds will show their disgust Sunday.

A long-planned day of nationwide protests will seek to turn the screws on corrupt leaders and to defend prosecutors heading politically explosive probes into bribery and high-level theft.

The goal, said organizer Rogerio Chequer from the Vem Pra Rua (Take to the Streets) group, will be to stop members of Congress accused of corruption "from getting away with it."

Brazilians have a lot to be angry about.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council voiced alarm about the deepening humanitarian crisis and famine in South Sudan, with the United States, Britain and France raising anew the idea of sanctions and a weapons embargo.

Attacks on humanitarian and UN missions, serial rapes, recruitment of child soldiers and famine: Six years after independence, "all the optimism that accompanied the birth of South Sudan has been shattered by internal divisions, rivalries and the irresponsible behavior of some of its leaders," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

(AFP )

Before he staged a professional comeback last week, the rapper Kayem had disappeared from public life for two years.

A US citizen by birth who remembers his relatives' suffering at the hands of Moamer Kadhafi's regime in Libya, he was lying low on legal advice after the US authorities crippled his career by putting him on a no-fly list.

He blames profiling for the scrutiny he receives at airports.

(AFP )

The man who mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a policeman in Wednesday's deadly assault outside Britain's parliament has been identified by police as 52-year-old former convict Khalid Masood.

Known by "a number of aliases", London's Metropolitan Police said he had been convicted for a string of offences but none of them terror-related.

Born on Christmas Day 1964 in Kent in southeast England, Masood had been living in the West Midlands where armed police have staged several raids since the attack, storming properties in the city of Birmingham.

(AFP )

French right-wing presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Thursday accused President Francois Hollande, a Socialist, of orchestrating media leaks that have dented his image as a scandal free leader a month ahead of the key vote.

Hollande immediately condemned in the "strongest terms the untruthful allegations of Francois Fillon," the presidency said in a statement.

"The executive has never intervened in any judicial process," the Elysee presidential palace said.

(AFP )

The UN Security Council on Thursday "strongly condemned" recent North Korean missile and ballistic missile engine tests, denouncing Pyongyang's "increasingly destabilizing behavior."

The condemnation came as the US military said on Thursday that it has observed activity in North Korea that suggests Pyongyang may be gearing up for another nuclear test.

"The launch and engine test are in grave violation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's international obligations," the council said in a statement.

(AFP )

The US Senate on Thursday approved the appointment of President Donald Trump's former bankruptcy lawyer, a supporter of Israeli settlement building, as Washington's ambassador to Israel.

Trump's nomination of 58-year-old David Friedman, a man with a history of undiplomatic declarations, had raised concerns about America's commitment to a two-state Middle East peace deal.

But Friedman apologized to lawmakers for his past harsh language at a confirmation hearing last month, and the Senate approved him by a margin of 52 to 46.

(AFP )

The US military has observed activity in North Korea that suggests Pyongyang may be gearing up for another nuclear test, a US official said Thursday.

"At the sites where we watch tests, we see a level of activity that's similar to what they've done before other tests," the defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Fox News reported earlier on Thursday that North Korea is in the final stages of readying for another nuclear test, possibly within the coming days.