Tuesday 17 October 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Some 582,000 Rohingya refugees have now fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since late August, the United Nations said Tuesday, warning that thousands more were still stranded at the border.

The UN said between 10,000 and 15,000 new refugees have arrived at the border in the last 48 hours alone, fleeing violence in Myanmar, where Rohingya villages are being burned to the ground.

It expressed deep concern about newly arrived refugees including children and elderly people dehydrated and hungry from the long journey who are stranded near the border.

(AFP )

The son of a slain Maltese journalist on Tuesday described finding his mother's body in pieces after a car bombing and accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of being "complicit" in her grisly killing.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a journalist involved in digesting the Panama Papers, said his mother had been assassinated for doing her job in investigating alleged corruption.

(AFP )

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said Tuesday they had fully captured the Islamic State group's former Syrian stronghold Raqa, after more than four months of fighting.

"Everything is finished in Raqa, our forces have taken full control of Raqa," SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

"The military operations in Raqa have finished, but there are clearing operations now under way to uncover any sleeper cells there might be and remove mines," he added.

"Soon there will be an official statement announcing the liberation of the city."

(AFP )

Harvey Weinstein's fall should be the end of "dinosaur" men preying on women, Hollywood star Catherine Zeta-Jones said Tuesday as she premiered a film about a woman who had a brutally efficient way of dealing with chauvinism.

The Oscar-winning actress said she hoped Weinstein's disgrace would be the "tipping point, or at last a turning point" in the treatment of women not just in Hollywood but in "any industry, corporation, school or college."

(AFP )

For the second time in four months, firefighters are struggling to contain a series of wildfires that are consuming thousands of acres across Portugal -- and killing scores of people trapped by the flames.

Here are some of the principal causes of the blazes and reasons they turn deadly so quickly, based on a report by 12 experts released last Thursday.

The report was commissioned by parlement after the huge fire that ravaged the Pedrogao Grande region in central Portugal in June, which left 64 dead.

- Ill-trained volunteers -

(AFP )

The leader of a pro-Biafran group that wants to break away from Nigeria failed to show up in court on Tuesday as his treason trial resumed, an AFP reporter said.

Nnamdi Kanu has not been seen for several weeks and his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the Federal High Court in Abuja his client was "in the custody of the (federal government)".

The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group is facing a number of charges linked to his calls for a separate state for the Igbo people who dominate the southeast.

(AFP )

South African President Jacob Zuma sacked a vocal critic from his cabinet on Tuesday, a move expected to further deepen tensions as an elective conference to the ruling ANC draws near.

In his second reshuffle this year, Zuma dropped Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande, a member of the South African Communist Party, which is a key political ally of the ruling ANC.

Zuma also moved State Security Minister David Mahlobo to the energy portfolio, the president's office announced, reviving debate over controversial and costly plans for nuclear energy.

(AFP )

Zimbabwe has banned the importation of fruit and vegetables to save scarce foreign currency in the face of a worsening economic crisis, state media reported Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made told The Herald that President Robert Mugabe had directed that the importation of horticultural products be stopped "as they waste much-needed foreign currency".

"This means that the importation of fruit and vegetables will be stopped immediately."

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared a southern city "liberated from terrorists' influence" but the military said the five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group was not yet over.

Duterte led rain-soaked soldiers in celebrations in Marawi, a day after the military announced the death of the head of the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, in a gunbattle in the city.

(AFP )

Two separate suicide and gun attacks on government forces in Afghanistan left nearly 50 dead and more than 200 wounded, officials said Tuesday, the latest devastating assault on beleaguered security forces.

The Taliban claimed the most deadly of the two assaults, a coordinated attack on police in the southeast Afghan city of Gardez that left hospital officials calling for blood donations and desperate scenes as relatives queued for news of their loved ones after the hours-long gun battle.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday symbolically declared a southern city "liberated from terrorists' influence" but the military said the five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group was not yet over.

Duterte led rain-soaked troops in celebration in Marawi a day after the military claimed a major breakthrough as it announced the death of the head of the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, in a gunbattle in the city.

(AFP )

Former French president Francois Hollande on Tuesday slammed Donald Trump's hardline stance on the Iran nuclear deal -- which Paris helped to negotiate -- as a "double fault", warning the US president's "unpredictability" threatened global stability.

Trump's threat to ditch the landmark 2015 agreement, which saw Tehran dramatically scale back its nuclear ambitions in return for an end to punishing sanctions, has sparked a chorus of foreign support for the pact.

(AFP )

Iraqi forces took control of the two largest oil fields in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk on Tuesday dealing a heavy blow to the finances of the autonomous Kurdish government.

The Kurds withdrew without a fight after federal government troops and militia seized the provincial governor's office and key military bases and oil fields as tensions boiled over following a Kurdish vote for independence last month.

"Federal police units took control of the Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields," north of the city of Kirkuk, a statement said.

(AFP )

Smokers who flout a smoking ban on 20 of Thailand's most famous tourist beaches will face a $3,000 fine or up to a year in prison, Thai authorities have said.

The ban, which comes into force in November, follows a clean-up of nearly 140,000 cigarette butts from a 2.5 kilometre (1.5 mile) stretch of the famed Patong beach in Phuket island province.

Its introduction coincides with Thailand's peak tourist season and will be enforced in visitor hotspots including Krabi, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phuket and Phang Nga.

(AFP )

The death toll from a US drone attack on a compound used by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network has risen to 26, officials said Tuesday, less than a week after a US-Canadian family held captive by the militants was rescued.

The barrage on Monday targeted a meeting of Haqqani fighters in Pakistan's remote tribal Kurram district along the Afghan border in the deadliest attack on the group this year.

(AFP )

Suicide bombers and gunmen launched an attack on a police training centre in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the latest violence to rock the war-torn country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a tweet for the continuing attack in the centre in Gardez, capital of Paktia province which borders Pakistan.

"At first a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near the training centre, making way for a number of attackers to start their assault," the interior ministry said in a statement.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared a southern city "liberated from terrorists" after a five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group.

Duterte made the declaration in a rain-soaked speech to troops in Marawi where they have been fighting the militants in clashes that have claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced 400,000 people.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists," Duterte said, speaking moments just after explosions and gunfire were heard in the city.

(AFP )

Two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school due to growing insecurity and poverty, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, underlining the challenges of educating women in the patriarchal country 16 years after the Taliban were ousted.

While millions more girls are receiving an education than during the Taliban's repressive 1996-2001 regime, progress has stalled in recent years, the rights group warned, with the proportion of female students falling in parts of the country.

(AFP )

Though its motto is "one Africa, one voice", the reality of "Africa's parliament" could not be more different.

Since its creation in 2004, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has struggled to make its voice heard, prompting its deputies to ask themselves at a recent gathering: "What are we for?"

"Every time we're here, we obsess over the same things. If we are not making laws, then what's the point of being here?" Corneille Padonou of Benin said to his fellow parliamentarians.

(AFP )

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent Maltese journalist and blogger who made repeated and detailed corruption allegations against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's inner circle, was killed by a car bomb on Monday.

Muscat condemned the killing as a "barbaric" act and ordered security services to devote maximum resources to bringing those responsible to justice.

"What happened today is unacceptable on various levels. Today is a black day for our democracy and our freedom of speech," he told reporters.

(AFP )

The rescue of an abducted US-Canadian family in Pakistan last week has spotlighted their captors the Haqqani network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.

(AFP )

Tortured, sold as a slave three times and haunted with guilt after watching his cousin drown, Bangladeshi teenager Khaled Hossain fears he will never recover from the trauma of his failed attempt to reach Europe.

Even as hundreds of thousands surge into Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar hoping for a better life, there is an exodus of those who feel the country is at breaking point and salvation lies elsewhere.

(AFP )

The death of dozens of children in a 2013 shipwreck after repeated SOS calls were ignored has returned to haunt Italy as survivors relive the nightmare in a new documentary.

Images and recordings from the tragedy in which 268 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean capture the horrific final hours of those whose deaths would shame Italy into launching a widescale search and rescue mission.

(AFP )

Migrants wearing burkas and hijabs attack a Czech pensioner, kick over her walker and dash into a building with a sign saying 'welfare benefits', leaving her lying helpless on the pavement.

The staged election clip then tells Czech voters "you can choose whether to give money to our children and seniors or to Muslims and Africans".

The far-right Bloc Against Islamisation, which produced the clip, is one of 31 parties running in the Czech Republic's October 20-21 general election.

(AFP )

A controversial award-winning film that shook up Hong Kong with its bleak visions of the city's future is to be turned into a pan-Asian franchise, with Japanese, Taiwanese and Thai versions in the works.

The original "Ten Years" movie was a collection of short films imagining how life might be in Hong Kong in 2025.

Seen as a thinly veiled warning about life under Beijing's rule -- including diminished human rights and widespread censorship -- the film was banned on the mainland but was a critical success, with screenings around the world.

(AFP )

For decades, she was thought to have started out as a man.

But a sketch uncovered at an obscure Parisian auction in 2012 triggered groundbreaking research that revealed the original painting beneath Jean-Honore Fragonard's "Young Girl Reading" to be a woman gazing outward.

"The drawing pointed out this likely inaccuracy," said Michael Swicklik, senior conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, adjusting his magnifying glasses to examine the luminous 250-year-old portrait of a girl in a bright lemon dress absorbed in her book.

(AFP )

Plans to renovate a historic and beloved Indian restaurant in central London are causing a stir, pitting the developers against high profile defenders, including intellectuals, Anglo-Indian businessmen and lawmakers from both countries.

The India Club, a restaurant and bar on the Strand near London's West End, is trying to use its storied history to block proposals by owners Marston Properties to turn the seven storey building into an upmarket boutique hotel.

(AFP )

Three British and three US authors will on Tuesday discover which one of them is the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, whose shortlist stirred controversy over its big name omissions.

US author George Saunders is the bookmakers' favourite to take the world's most prestigious English-language literary award for his first full-length novel "Lincoln in the Bardo".

The book weaves a tale around the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie, using the accounts of hundreds of narrators.

(AFP )

Guadalupe Vazquez is standing below the wreckage of what used to be her home, patiently waiting for workers to recover the few belongings she has left after Mexico's September 19 earthquake: some photographs of her daughters hanging on the wall, still visible from the street.

The small but spry octogenarian lived in Mexico City's Narvarte neighborhood in a four-story apartment building, half of which collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude quake.

(AFP )

A new United Nations mission dedicated to supporting the rule of law in Haiti began Monday, after the end of a 13-year peacekeeping mission in the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation rocked by political instability.

The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), composed of 1,275 police officers and 350 civilians, will also train national police and advance human rights.

(AFP )

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday in northern Florida ahead of a speech by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, who was involved in a march in August that ended in violent clashes.

Spencer, a leader of the so-called "alt-right" movement, is due to give a speech Thursday at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a town of some 130,000.

Saying there was an "imminent" threat of a potential emergency as a result, Scott explained that the emergency declaration will ensure that security forces have all the necessary resources at their disposition.

(AFP )

Mexico's attorney general Raul Cervantes resigned Monday after reports emerged he dodged taxes on a Ferrari sports car, a scandal opponents said made him unfit to lead a newly reformed criminal justice system.

Cervantes, a heavyweight in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said on Twitter he had sent his resignation to President Enrique Pena Nieto and the senate "to avoid delaying any longer the urgent laws that Mexico needs."

(AFP )

Celebrities and everyday people flooded social media with personal accounts of sexual assault and harassment Monday, responding to calls to break the culture of silence around such abuse.

The massive global response was triggered by allegations recently made public against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of rape and abuse dating back decades.

People shared stories and offered support under multiple hashtags, including #MeToo in English, #balancetonporc ("Rat out your pig") in French, and #quellavoltache ("That time that") in Italian.

(AFP )

Fernando Lourenco, 71. his wife and sister were asleep in their home in western Portugal when the flames engulfed the hillsides and descended into the village, The retirees never woke up.

"I was at one end of the village battling the flames and in two minutes the wall of fire had already reached the other side," said Ricardo Lopes. a 37-year-old teacher, his eyes red from the fumes and fatigue.

He had arrived at Vila Nova de Ventosa nestled between two hills, where his parents live, around the same time as the fierce blaze fanned by strong wind gusts.

(AFP )

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that Africa's Sahel region was descending into all-out violence and said the United Nations must help the region confront the threat from Islamist militants.

In a report to the Security Council obtained by AFP, Guterres said the United Nations and other donors should shore up a regional force set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.