In the world | Africatime
Thursday 27 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Iraqi forces on Thursday retook the town of Hatra, southwest of Mosul, on the third day of an operation that saw them wrest back a nearby UNESCO-listed ancient city, a statement said.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces said they had flushed the Islamic State group out of Hatra, which lies 120 kilometres (80 miles) from Mosul.

(AFP )

A Russian navy ship collided with another vessel off the Turkish coast in the Black Sea Thursday, Russia's defence ministry said, adding that its crew was trying to keep it afloat.

The research ship Liman "sustained a hull breach due to a collision" with the ship Ashot-7, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of the Bosphorus Strait, the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian agencies.

The statement said the crew was not harmed but is "fighting to keep the ship" afloat and that other Russian navy ships and a plane have been dispatched to the scene.

(AFP )

The UN said Thursday it had enlisted Yusra Mardini, the teenage Olympic swimmer who braved a Mediterranean crossing in a leaky dinghy fleeing war-torn Syria, to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said it had appointed Mardini as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, a role long famously held by US movie star Angelina Jolie.

(AFP )

EU lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly condemned "brutal repression" in Venezuela, where anti-government unrest has left 28 people dead this month.

In a resolution, the European Parliament said it "strongly condemns the brutal repression exercised by the Venezuelan security forces, as well as irregular armed groups, against the peaceful protests".

MEPs also urged the Venezuelan government to investigate all the deaths and bring those responsible to justice, as well as guaranteeing the right to peaceful further protests.

(AFP )

There is no tap water, electricity or shops in Lusanga, a Congolese town once known as Leverville where the Dutch-British conglomerate Unilever long ran a profitable palm oil plantation.

But the 15,000 onetime workers living on the land recently found new hope in a stark contemporary art centre called the "White Cube" which stands somewhat strangely on the African skyline.

Funded in part by chocolate sculptures and aimed at redressing the wrongs of the colonial past, the project seeks to promote local art and crafts while helping breathe new life into sustainable farming.

(AFP )

Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan has blamed Barack Obama for his 2015 presidential election defeat to Muhammadu Buhari, alleging the former US president headed a global conspiracy to get rid of him.

Jonathan made the allegations in a new book out on Friday called "Against The Run of Play", which documents how he became the first Nigerian incumbent head of state to lose an election.

He said Obama and his officials "made it very clear to me by their actions that they wanted a change of government in Nigeria and were ready to do anything to achieve that purpose".

(AFP )

The United States issued a warning Thursday to its citizens about travelling to a popular tourist region in Ethiopia after a string of grenade attacks targeting hotels and homes.

The US embassy in Addis Ababa said there had been four grenade blasts this month in Gondar, a city in the north known for its ancient castles.

A popular stop on Ethiopia's tourist circuit, Gondar was also the scene of anti-government protests last year that led to the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency.

(AFP )

A Moroccan court has sentenced seven people to between five and eight months in prison over the death of a fish seller crushed in a rubbish truck.

Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was killed on October 28 as he protested against the authorities' seizure and destruction of his swordfish, which had been caught out of season.

His death in the northern port of Al-Hoceima sparked nationwide protests.

(AFP )

A Taiwanese trekker is recovering in hospital after rescuers found him and his dead girlfriend on a mountainside in Nepal where they were stranded for 47 days, surviving on only water and salt after their food ran out.

Liu Chen-chun, 18,​ died just three days before the rescue team located the couple in northwest Nepal, but her boyfriend managed to survive despite losing 30 kilos (66 pounds) during the ordeal.

A severely malnourished Liang Sheng-yueh, 20, was being treated in hospital in Kathmandu, where he was airlifted after being rescued from the remote region.

(AFP )

EU-Turkey relations have been severely hit by actions taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.

"The developments over the past weeks have severely hit German-Turkish ties as well as European-Turkish relations," she told parliament, saying in particular that Ankara's arrest and treatment of German newspaper correspondent Deniz Yucel was "incompatible with a constitutional state".

The journalist for Die Welt daily, a German-Turkish national, was jailed in February on terror charges and is awaiting trial.

(AFP )

Iraqi forces on Thursday retook the town of Hatra, southwest of Mosul, on the third day of an operation that saw them wrest back a nearby UNESCO-listed ancient city, a statement said.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces said they had flushed the Islamic State group out of Hatra, which lies 120 kilometres (80 miles) from Mosul.

(AFP )

The European Parliament accuses French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's party of defrauding it of nearly five million euros ($5.5 million) in expenses, more than twice an initial estimate, a French legal source said Thursday.

The parliament accuses Le Pen's anti-EU National Front (FN) of using funds meant for parliamentary assistants to pay staff for party work in France between 2012 and 2017.

The allegations, which Le Pen denies, have triggered an investigation in France.

(AFP )

Children account for one-third of civilian casualties in Afghanistan's grinding conflict in the first three months of 2017, and are paying an increasingly high price in the fighting, a UN report said Thursday in Kabul.

From January to March, 210 children were killed -- up 17 percent from the same period last year -- and 525 injured, out of a total of 2,181 civilian casualties (715 dead and 1,466 injured).

The overall total is slightly down, by four percent, compared to the same period in 2016.

(AFP )

A suspected Islamist radical shot and wounded two policemen on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion as they tried to arrest him on Thursday, authorities said.

The attack comes a week after a French policeman was shot and killed and two others wounded on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, just days ahead of the first round of the presidential election.

More than 230 people have been killed in a string of jihadist attacks on the French mainland since January 2015 and the country has been under a state of emergency for nearly a year and a half.

(AFP )

Dimming the lights on their patrol boat, Tunisian coastguards stand in silence scanning the sea for speedboats on clandestine missions to and from Italy.

Smuggling gangs are using high-performance vessels to ferry people, drugs and cigarettes across the Strait of Sicily, a distance of just 95 miles (150 kilometres).

Commander Mohamed Naceur Saadani says their use of speedboats is a "new and dangerous" phenomenon.

Standing on the bridge of a patrol boat capable of 40 knots (about 70 kilometres, 45 miles per hour), he monitors a bank of glowing radar screens.

(AFP )

Syria accused Israel of triggering a huge explosion near Damascus airport on Thursday by firing several missiles at a military position.

Israel has carried out multiple air strikes in Syria since the country's civil war erupted in 2011, most of which it has said targeted arms convoys or warehouses of its Lebanese arch-foe Hezbollah, which is a close ally of the Syrian regime.

In line with its usual practice, Israel's military declined to comment on the latest blast.

(AFP )

A massive explosion hit near the Damascus International Airport in the early hours of Thursday morning, a monitoring group said, without specifying the cause.

"The blast was huge and could be heard in Damascus," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Damascus International Airport lies about 25 kilometres southeast of Syria's capital.

The Britain-based Observatory, which gathers information from sources across war-ravaged Syria, said it had confirmed the explosion had not taken place inside the airport itself.

(AFP )

United Airlines on Thursday announced it will offer bumped passengers up to $10,000 in compensation and reduce overbooking following the dragging incident on board one of its flights that caused worldwide outrage.

Those and other changes, which the airline called "substantial," are the result of a two-week internal probe of the April 9 incident, video of which went viral.

Passenger David Dao was pulled from his seat and dragged off the full plane by airport security in Chicago to make room for airline crew.

(AFP )

Constant fuel shortages and insufficent infrastructure have brought about a "humanitarian crisis" for Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the World Bank said on Thursday.

In a report ahead of an international donor conference next week, it said Thursday that foreign aid alone cannot rescue the stagnant Palestinian economy without practical changes and Israeli cooperation.

Gaza's sole electricity plant frequently runs out of fuel for its generators and rations power supplies to as little as four hours per day.

(AFP )

Auckland Blues hardman Jerome Kaino has joined a growing list of All Blacks sidelined by injury as the Super Rugby competition takes its toll ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour.

Kaino is to undergo surgery on an injured knee on Friday and will be out of action for six weeks, putting him in doubt for the first Lions Test against the All Blacks on June 24.

(AFP )

The distraught Thai mother of a baby girl killed by her boyfriend in a murder he broadcast on Facebook Live has described the harrowing moment she stumbled across the video and rushed to alert police.

The killing on Monday evening caused revulsion both in Thailand and around the world, sparking renewed debate about what can be done by social media giants to more quickly remove live broadcasts of violent crimes, suicides and murders.

(AFP )

Nine democracy protesters were arrested in Hong Kong Thursday over an anti-Beijing rally in the latest swoop by police as activists say they are being persecuted.

Concerns are growing that the semi-autonomous city's freedoms are under threat from Beijing, fuelling calls from some groups for greater autonomy or even a complete split from China.

Pro-independence activists Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were arrested and charged Wednesday over causing chaos in the legislature after being barred from taking up their seats as lawmakers last year.

(AFP )

An Afghan strongman is giving sanctuary to Taliban fighters and their families who had sought haven across the border in Pakistan, building on a radical strategy to reduce Islamabad's perceived influence on the insurgency.

Kandahar's powerful police chief Abdul Raziq last December called for a "safe zone" for Taliban militants, a contentious plan centred on Afghanistan's long-standing accusation that the insurgency is fuelled by Pakistan's support in cross-border sanctuaries.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump on Wednesday told the leaders of NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico that the United States will not immediately move to exit the regional free trade agreement.

The announcement followed US media reports that Trump was considering giving formal notice of pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In phone calls to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time," the White House said in a statement.

(AFP )

In a remote corner of the Indonesian archipelago, a modest synagogue stands in a tiny Jewish community that has found acceptance despite rising intolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The red-roofed building on Sulawesi island is the only synagogue in the nation of 255 million people. Here, unlike other parts of the country, the Jewish community feel safe to practise their faith openly.

(AFP )

Coral-munching crown-of-thorns starfish can be safely killed by common household vinegar, scientists revealed Thursday in a discovery that offers hope for Australia's struggling Great Barrier Reef.

The predatory starfish is naturally-occurring but has proliferated due to pollution and run-off at the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, which is also reeling from two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching.

(AFP )

Gift Ngoepe, who became the first African player to appear in a Major League Baseball game Wednesday, marked the occasion by getting a single in his first at-hat for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ngoepe, from Polokwane, South Africa, entered the game playing second base in the fourth inning of the Pirates 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs. John Bell's home run in the sixth inning provided the winning score.

The 27-year-old Ngoepe was recalled by Pittsburgh from their minor league affiliate Indianapolis earlier in the day.

(AFP )

For years, Spaniards watched angrily as corruption-hit politicians appeared to benefit from a get-out-of-jail-free card, but the mood is cautiously changing as the once-powerful find themselves behind bars.

Such was public resentment at the perceived impunity of those with connections that two relatively new parties -- the far-left Podemos and the centre-right Ciudadanos -- rose with meteoric speed on pledges to fight corruption.

But a series of recent prison sentences, arrests and resignations have some cautiously optimistic.

(AFP )

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter on Wednesday canceled a planned appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, saying she had lost the backing of the groups that had sponsored her talk.

"It's a sad day for free speech," Coulter told the New York Times.

The right-wing commentator had insisted she would show up at Berkeley, a famously progressive campus, on Thursday even though the university said it could not provide a suitable venue because of security threats.

(AFP )

Can a lie strip a naturalized American of citizenship?

That's what the US Supreme Court is weighing in the case of a Bosnian Serb couple who didn't come clean about the husband's wartime past.

Divna Maslenjak broke US law when she failed to tell US embassy staff that her husband was in the Bosnian Serb army during the darkest days of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war when she applied for US asylum for her family, which they received in 1999.

(AFP )

Venezuela said Wednesday it was quitting the Organization of American States in anger at pressure from the bloc over the government's handling of a violent political crisis.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the government would launch a two-year process to pull out of the Washington-based regional diplomatic grouping.

"Tomorrow, as President Nicolas Maduro has instructed, we will present a letter of complaint to the OAS and we will begin a process that will take 24 months," she said in a televised address.

(AFP )

Sixteen retired Chilean military officers were charged Wednesday with involvement in the 1973 murders of 15 opponents of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, officials said.

In one of the grisly incidents of the so-called Caravan of Death, which is believed to have killed at least 75 people, officials including former army commander in chief Juan Emilio Cheyre were charged in the 15 killings, human rights special prosecutor Mario Carroza said.

(AFP )

Farmers in Argentina gave away truckloads of vegetables in central Buenos Aires on Wednesday in a protest over low prices for their produce that also highlighted the growing ranks of poor in the country.

Thousands of people lined up for hours in the capital's Plaza Mayor for handouts of spinach, tomatoes and other farm goods -- the second such giveaway this week by farmers.

Some four tons were distributed in the square, close to the presidential palace. Farmers also planted lettuce and celery in a flowerbed.

(AFP )

A Nicaraguan woman who was burned to death in an exorcism that caused worldwide shock was starved and beaten in the week before her killing, witnesses told a court Wednesday.

Evangelical pastor Juan Rocha and four followers are accused of murdering Vilma Trujillo, a 25-year-old mother of two, because they believed she was possessed by the devil.

On the second day of their trial, which is being carried live on Nicaraguan television, Trujillo's relatives told the court how Rocha had his followers bound her, beat her, and refused her food, water and visitors.

(AFP )

South Sudanese government forces on Wednesday launched an offensive on a town in the north, displacing civilians who may be headed toward the border with Sudan, the UN envoy said.

Some 50,000 people in Kodok in Upper Nile state, many of whom fled fighting six weeks ago in the town of Wau Shilluk, were at risk from the violence, said David Shearer, who also heads the UN mission in South Sudan.

"The conflict has widened rather than contracted over the past few weeks," Shearer told a news conference.