Saturday 19 August 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Ruth Pfau, a German nun who devoted her life to combatting leprosy in Pakistan, was buried with full state honours on Saturday, in an unprecedented service for a foreign Christian in the Muslim-majority country.

Pfau, who died at the age of 87 on August 10 was known locally as Pakistan's Mother Teresa. She came to the southern port city of Karachi in 1960 and spent half a century taking care of some of the country's sickest and poorest people.

(AFP )

Venezuela's National Assembly convened Saturday in defiance of a declaration by the new Constituent Assembly that it was seizing full powers from the opposition-led legislature.

The move Friday by the Constituent Assembly, which is loyal to socialist President Nicolas Maduro, was angrily rejected by opposition leaders and has drawn widespread international condemnation as a power grab by Maduro loyalists.

"This fraudulent decision is null, the Constituent Assembly is null," Freddy Guevara, vice president of the National Assembly, told reporters.

(AFP )

At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured after an express train derailed in north India Saturday, officials said, as rescuers clambered across mangled carriages to pull passengers from the wreckage.

Emergency workers and crowds of local people rushed to the site where 14 coaches derailed near Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh state, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) from New Delhi, the latest deadly disaster on the country's creaking rail network.

(AFP )

Prayer time is approaching but Raja Miah, an imam at a tiny mosque in the heart of Barcelona does not expect a big turnout.

Since the twin attacks in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils claimed by the Islamic State group, the Muslim community in central Barcelona's neighbourhood of Raval fears an anti-Islam backlash.

"People are very scared," said Miah, 23, as he sat in a small room at the mosque in Raval as a small group of children in an adjoining room studied the Koran.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the German government on Saturday for criticising his call to ethnic Turks to vote against Germany's two ruling parties in September elections, warning the foreign minister to "know your limits".

The latest spat between Ankara and Berlin risks propelling a months-long crisis in ties between two NATO allies with deep historic links to a new level ahead of Germany's general election on September 24.

(AFP )

Barcelona's authorities came under fire Saturday for failing to put up security barriers at the seaside city's main tourist thoroughfare, Las Ramblas, the site of a deadly jihadist attack two days ago.

An outcry has erupted on social media and in the press about the absence of bollards -- short concrete posts designed to stop vehicles from driving onto sidewalks, with some people even demanding the mayor's resignation for ignoring police recommendations for such preventive barriers.

(AFP )

Ten people were killed and dozens injured when an express train derailed in north India on Saturday, an official said.

Emergency workers were pulling people out of mangled, upended carriages after 14 coaches derailed near Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh state, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) from New Delhi.

"Ten people have died and dozens have been injured. Most of the injured have been taken to the hospital," said P S Mishra, chief medical officer for the area, by phone.

A police officer at the accident spot said 50 people had been taken to hospital.

(AFP )

A Ukrainian climber was found dead on Mont Blanc on Saturday, a day after setting off to scale western Europe's highest peak, rescuers said.

The 42-year-old became trapped in an overnight storm on the 4,810-metre (15,780-foot) mountain.

The climber had alerted mountain rescuers that he was in trouble, but they could not come to his aid because of the poor conditions.

"He had lost track of where he was, so he sent a signal around 10:00 pm (2000 GMT)," said the mountain unit of the gendarmerie in nearby Chamonix.

(AFP )

Dogan Akhanli, a German intellectual of Turkish origin who writes on Turkey's record on human rights, was arrested in Spain on Saturday at Ankara's request, the foreign ministry said in Berlin, adding that it opposed any extradition of the writer.

The arrest was initially announced by German Green MP Volker Beck, who described it as a politically-motivated move by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

(AFP )

The Islamic State group on Saturday claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Spain and stabbings in Russia, in statements carried by the jihadists' propaganda agency.

"Attacks by the soldiers of the caliphate in Spain... led to the deaths and wounding of more than 120 people from the states of the Crusader alliance," Amaq said in a statement on its Telegram account.

IS said its fighters "ran over several Crusaders with a truck in the coastal town of Cambrils".

(AFP )

Turkey on Saturday lashed out at "arrogant" German reaction to comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging ethnic Turks in Germany to vote against both parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition.

The latest spat between Ankara and Berlin risks propelling a months-long crisis in ties between the two NATO allies to a new level ahead of Germany's September 24 general election.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday that "many decisions" had been made in a meeting with his top military advisers, including on the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The Trump administration, wary of international involvements but eager for progress in the grueling Afghan war, has been weighing a range of options. It had originally promised a new plan by mid-July.

(AFP )

Donald Trump on Saturday thanked Steve Bannon for his "service" a day after the US president parted ways with his controversial former chief strategist and key campaign ally.

A champion of the nationalist-populist agenda that carried Trump to power last November, the 63-year-old Bannon left a White House reeling from the fallout over the president's response to a violent white supremacist rally.

"I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton - it was great! Thanks," Trump tweeted Saturday.

(AFP )

The suspected jihadists behind Spain's twin terror attacks are thought to have formed a cell in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains where they allegedly planned large-scale assaults.

Moroccans and a Spaniard

The suspects are all youths -- most of them Moroccans who lived in Ripoll, a town in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region where both of the attack sites were also located.

(AFP )

In the Spanish border town of Ripoll, everyone knows each other -- making it all the more shocking to residents that jihadists believed responsible for this week's deadly twin attacks lived among them.

"You are neighbours your entire life and they end up doing this," said Maria, a waitress in the town of around 10,000 inhabitants, who declined to give her full name.

The attackers killed 14 people and left 120 others wounded, using vehicles to mow down pedestrians in Barcelona on Thursday and in the nearby Catalan seaside resort of Cambrils early Friday.

(AFP )

The Philippines' largest Muslim militant group has launched a deadly offensive against a splinter faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, police said Saturday.

The fighting between the two groups began about two weeks ago in the marshy farmlands around the southern town of Datu Salibo on Mindanao island, regional police spokeswoman Tara Leah Cuyco said.

(AFP )

The Islamic State jihadist group on Saturday claimed responsibility after a man stabbed seven people on the street in a Russian city before being shot dead by police, despite investigators saying it was probably not a terrorist attack.

"The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Surgut in Russia is a soldier of the Islamic State," IS propaganda outlet Amaq said in a statement, after the jihadists also claimed responsibility for twin attacks in Spain that left 14 dead.

(AFP )

Finnish police said Saturday that a Moroccan asylum seeker deliberately targeted women in a stabbing spree that left two dead and is being investigated as the country's first terror attack.

Police shot and wounded the knife-wielding suspect, detaining him minutes after Friday's rampage at a busy market square in Turku, southwestern Finland.

Eight other people were injured, among them six women, police said.

Finland raised its emergency readiness after the attack, increasing security at airports and train stations and putting more officers on the streets.

(AFP )

Nearly 600 people have died and millions have been affected by monsoon floods in South Asia, officials said Saturday, as relief and rescue operations continued.

The latest floods and landslides in the subcontinent began in the second week of August, as the annual monsoon strengthened its grip over the northern and eastern parts of the region.

Indian authorities sought military help in two districts of northern Uttar Pradesh state after fresh heavy rains left hundreds of villages marooned.

(AFP )

A man stabbed seven people on the street in Russia's far north Saturday before being shot dead by police but investigators said that his motive was most likely not terrorism.

The incident took place on Saturday morning in the city of Surgut, where the man "carried out attacks on passers-by, causing stab wounds", said Russia's Investigative Committee which probes major crimes.

It said armed police called to the scene had "liquidated" the attacker.

(AFP )

Lebanese troops on Saturday launched an offensive against the Islamic State group on the country's eastern border with Syria, seeking to drive the jihadists from a long-time stronghold.

The operation came as IS faces multiple military attacks on territory it controls in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where it lost the city of Mosul in July.

Militants have long been active in mountainous eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, where a bloody civil war has raged since 2011.

(AFP )

Finnish police arrested five people in a Turku apartment overnight in their investigation into a stabbing rampage that left two people dead, they said Saturday.

Police shot and wounded a knife-wielding suspect on Friday, arresting him minutes after an afternoon stabbing spree at a Turku market square. Police on Saturday raised the number of injured in the attack from six to eight.

"There was a raid and we have now six suspects in custody, the main suspect and five others," detective superintendent Markus Laine of the National Bureau of investigation told AFP.

(AFP )

Cain Lopez looks tiny standing near the seven enormous wind turbines that tower over his farm in the Mexican village of La Ventosa.

In this gusty rural region near the Pacific coast, the wind is so strong it sometimes flips over cars and even trailer trucks.

Lopez always considered it a curse, until an international energy company came along and said it wanted to build these 40-meter (130-foot) wind turbines on his land, offering him a small fortune by local standards.

Now he considers the wind a blessing, he says.

But not everyone sees it that way.

(AFP )

Uruguay's unique new marijuana industry has run into a hurdle as international anti-money laundering rules are forcing banks to close the accounts of pharmacies legally selling the drug.

Uruguayan pharmacies started selling marijuana last month under a 2013 law that made the South American country the first in the world to legalize pot all the way from production to sale.

But lenders such as Uruguayan state bank Banco Republica (BROU) now say they must abandon such businesses.

(AFP )

The widow of late Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has resurfaced in an online video, weeks after her friends raised concerns about her fate at the hands of the authorities.

Liu Xia was last seen in government-released images of her dissident husband's sea burial on July 15, and China has been under international pressure to free her and let her travel abroad.

Liu Xia, 56, has been under de facto house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, despite having never been charged with a crime.

(AFP )

Afghan security forces were on high alert Saturday as the war-weary country, reeling from a number of high-profile deadly attacks, marked its independence day with muted celebrations.

There was an increased police presence in the capital Kabul where President Ashraf Ghani hosted a private ceremony for Afghan dignitaries.

"All of our police units are on the highest state of alert and they are placed everywhere across the city," Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid told AFP.

(AFP )

It's 2050 and the world revolves around you.

From the contents of your fridge to room temperature -- digital assistants ensure your home runs smoothly. Your screens know your taste and show channels you want to see as you enter the room. Your car is driverless and your favourite barman may just be an android.

Predictions for an AI-dominated future are increasingly common, but Antoine Blondeau has experience in reading, and arguably manipulating, the runes -- he helped develop technology that evolved into predictive texting and Apple's Siri.

(AFP )

Everyone who plans to look skyward when the solar eclipse sweeps across the United States on Monday should have the proper protective eyewear, or risk lasting blind spots, experts warn.

Regular sunglasses will not do, the US space agency says.

Only eclipse glasses that have a certification with "ISO 12312-2 international standard" are safe for use, according to NASA.

Other options are number 14 welder's glass, or making a pinhole projector that allows a user to project the image of the Sun on paper or cardboard.

(AFP )

Soldiers busily assemble tents with wooden floors, lighting and heating in Canada's Quebec province near the US border to temporarily house a surge in asylum seekers from the United States.

Children run between rows and rows of the military green tents as their parents line up to speak with immigration officials and file refugee claims.

(AFP )

A US judge on Friday rejected a bid by a woman Roman Polanski raped as a teenager to close the case, saying the fugitive filmmaker must appear in court for the matter to be resolved.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon said in a 10-page ruling that while Samantha Geimer -- who was 13 at the time -- had clearly suffered because of the case, he could not dismiss it "merely because it would be in the victim's best interest."

(AFP )

Venezuela's sacked attorney general Luisa Ortega, a strident critic of President Nicolas Maduro, arrived Friday in Colombia, immigration officials said.

Ortega was sacked by a new all-powerful assembly that has overtaken the opposition-controlled National Assembly and is packed with Maduro loyalists.

Ortega arrived with her husband German Ferrer, a lawmaker who faced an arrest warrant issued by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court, after a stopover on Aruba, a Dutch island just off Venezuela, Colombian immigration authorities said in a statement.

(AFP )

Police shot and wounded a suspect after a stabbing spree in which a man killed two people and wounded six others in the Finnish city of Turku.

Within hours of the attack on Friday the force had announced increased police patrols across the country.

"There are eight victims in the stabbing. Two dead and six injured," Turku police tweeted after the assault in a market square. A hospital official told journalists that all the victims were adults.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday urged ethnic Turks in Germany to reject its main parties in upcoming elections, prompting a sharp warning from Berlin to stop the "unprecedented" meddling.

Erdogan called on ethnic Turks to ignore Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their partners in the grand ruling coalition, the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

They should also reject the Greens, he said, branding all three parties "enemies of Turkey".

(AFP )

Venezuela's new pro-government constitutional authority declared Friday it was seizing power from the opposition-led legislature, tightening President Nicolas Maduro's grip on the country in defiance of international outrage.

It was the latest maneuver in a deadly political crisis that has seen Maduro branded a dictator by opponents, whom he in turn accuses of plotting with the United States to overthrow him.

(AFP )

Traffic through the White House exit door has been astonishingly high since Donald Trump became president on January 20.

On Friday chief strategist Steve Bannon became the latest casualty of seven months of bedlam in the executive offices of the world's most powerful country.

Here are the main Trump aides who have come and gone since January, before Americans ever really got to know them:

- National Security Advisor Mike Flynn -