Thursday 25 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Supporters of two Afghan MPs who missed a domestic flight from Kabul blocked an airport runway with rocks, forcing the plane to return for the lawmakers, officials said.

The Kam Air flight was abruptly forced to fly back from central Bamiyan province earlier this week, triggering uproar and ridicule on social media with many accusing the lawmakers of abusing their powers.

Five people, including airport security officials, have been arrested over the "illegal diversion", the interior ministry said Thursday.

(AFP )

Former United States President Barack Obama said at a Berlin reunion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday he was "heartbroken" by a suicide bombing that killed 22 people in Manchester.

"We can see the terrible violence that took place just recently in Manchester... it's a reminder that there is great danger of terrorism and people who would do great harm to others just because they're different," Obama told a crowd at the German capital's Brandenburg Gate.

(AFP )

EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in an effort to rebuild ties amid tensions over Turkey's EU accession and human rights.

Juncker, who heads the European Commission, and Tusk, who heads the European Council of 28 EU member state leaders, met the Turkish leader ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels.

Tusk greeted Erdogan at EU headquarters, but neither men spoke during a brief and cordial handshake for photographers.

(AFP )

Russia's security service on Thursday said it had uncovered an alleged bomb-making laboratory in Moscow as officers detained four suspected Islamic State group members plotting "terror attacks" on public transport.

The FSB said those held included citizens of Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asia who were "preparing terror attacks with the use of homemade explosives on Moscow's transport infrastructure."

(AFP )

Russia on Thursday launched a probe into the deaths of three people in Siberian wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced the authorities to impose a state of emergency.

Two people were found dead in the town of Kansk in Russia's Siberian Krasnoyarsk region, according to investigators in the region, who said a fire spread in the area due to hot weather and strong wind.

(AFP )

Five police officers were killed Thursday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in northeastern Kenya, a day after two separate IEDs killed eight officers, a regional security official said.

"The five police officers killed in the attack were headed to boost the ongoing operation in Liboi," said North Eastern regional coordinator Mohamud Ali Saleh referring to a town on the border with Somalia.

The Kenya Red Cross said the attack occurred between Malelei and Kulan in Garissa county.

(AFP )

Zambia is considering a proposal to move its capital from fast-developing Lusaka to a nearly uninhabited marshland district in the centre of the country, a minister said Thursday.

Lusaka has been the national capital since 1935 when Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia under British colonial rule.

"Within the next 10 years, you will not be able to conduct business in Lusaka because of congestion," national planning and development minister Lucky Mulusa told AFP.

"The city is over-crowded, and so the sensible thing to do is move the capital out."

(AFP )

A South Korean female naval officer apparently killed herself after being allegedly raped by a senior colleague, a defence ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The victim, a lieutenant, was found dead in her single-room apartment on Wednesday, where a message was found reading: "Tomorrow, I won't be in this world any longer."

"The lieutenant appeared to have committed suicide," a military spokesman told AFP.

She had reportedly told her boyfriend that she had been raped.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Thursday ran into the first problems of a landmark European trip, embarrassingly called out in public over Russia and on leaks into the Manchester terror attack.

His carefully choreographed visits to the EU and NATO in Brussels were designed to heal divisions caused by the billionaire's harsh campaign criticisms of both institutions.

Trump was to take a "tough" stance with NATO -- the US-led military alliance he once dubbed "obsolete" -- to push it to take more action on Islamist terrorism and to pay its way.

(AFP )

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will depart Monday for a four-nation tour of Europe that will include strategic talks with historic ally Russia and with key trading partner Germany.

Modi will first be hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel at Germany's official state guest house in Brandenburg, where the two leaders will jointly address a meeting of top business leaders.

Germany is India's number-one trading partner in Europe, and Modi has been seeking greater investment and business arrangements between local and foreign firms under his "Make in India" campaign.

(AFP )

Montenegro will formally become NATO's 29th member in early June, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday, amid bitter Russian opposition to the move.

"It shows that NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg said ahead of a leaders summit attended by US President Donald Trump and the Montenegro premier Dusko Markovic.

"I welcome the prime minister here today but I will be also be present when the documents of... joining the alliance will be deposited in Washington," he told reporters when asked about his trip.

(AFP )

China condemned on Thursday the armed kidnapping of a Chinese couple in Pakistan, after the abduction raised safety concerns for Beijing's multi-billion dollar investments in the country.

"The Chinese government attaches high importance to the safety of Chinese citizens overseas," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing.

"We condemn all forms of kidnapping activities," Lu said, adding that the government was working closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure their release.

(AFP )

Philippine security forces bombed residential areas in a southern city on Thursday as they battled Islamist militants who were holding hostages and reported to have murdered at least 11 civilians.

An initial rampage by gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi on Tuesday prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law across the southern third of the Philippines.

(AFP )

NATO will join the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State jihadis, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday, ahead of a summit with President Donald Trump.

"This will send a strong political message of NATO's commitment to the fight against terrorism," Stoltenberg said.

He stressed this did not involve NATO taking on a combat role in the fight against IS and other Islamist terror groups in Syria and Iraq.

(AFP )

The Chinese government charged on Thursday that a US warship had entered its waters in the South China Sea "without permission", prompting Beijing's navy to warn the vessel to leave.

The USS Dewey sailed less than 12 nautical miles from Mischief Reef -- part of the Spratly Islands -- on Thursday morning local time, a US official said earlier, the first freedom of navigation operation under President Donald Trump.

"The relevant action taken by the US vessel undermines China's sovereignty and security interests," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing.

(AFP )

Donald Trump meets NATO and EU leaders for the first time Thursday with the US president set to press nervous allies to do more on terrorism after the Manchester bombing.

Trump faced protests on his arrival in Brussels, but he is getting a red-carpet welcome from Western allies eager to persuade him that his earlier criticisms of them were misplaced.

NATO, which Trump on the campaign trail dismissed as "obsolete" for focusing on Russia instead of terrorism, is set to bow to his demands that it join the US-led coalition against the Islamic State.

(AFP )

China on Thursday accused the US of trespassing after an American warship sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, the first such operation by President Donald Trump's administration in the disputed waterway.

The row comes during a period of warming relations between the countries with Trump saying that Washington has dialed down pressure on Beijing over other issues in hopes of securing their cooperation on North Korea.

(AFP )

North Korea on Thursday accused the South of unleashing more than 450 machine gun rounds at a flock of birds in an "armed provocation" at the tense Demilitarized Zone, after Seoul's forces fired warning shots at an object flying over the border.

Seoul military officials initially suggested the item was a drone from North following the incident on Tuesday, before saying Wednesday that balloons carrying propaganda leaflets had blown in across the frontier, one of the most fortified locations in the world.

(AFP )

A US Navy ship has sailed in disputed South China Sea waters near a reef claimed by Beijing in the first "freedom of navigation" exercise under President Donald Trump, a US official said.

The USS Dewey sailed "less than 12 nautical miles" from Mischief Reef -- part of the Spratly Islands -- early Thursday morning local time, the official said.

The exercise is likely to provoke anger from Beijing as the Trump administration attempts to draw support from China on reining in Pyongyang.

(AFP )

It's a radio talent contest with a mission: showcasing the skills of Mosul's youth after years of jihadist rule and a months-long battle for the city.

The recorded lyrics of competitor MC Rico, a rapper from Iraq's second city, filled the studio of Al-Ghad -- Arabic for "tomorrow".

"We saw a lot of horrors when we were young. I wish I hadn't grown up, because when we grew up, we saw even worse."

The three judges in the Al-Ghad Star contest concentrated hard on the music, nodded their heads and took notes.

(AFP )

Perched on his chestnut steed Shams, teenager Munzer triumphantly held up his first place trophy at a rare horse race staged in an opposition-held area of Syria.

Dozens of men and young children, their faces enveloped in red checkered keffiyehs, looked on as about 20 horses raced each other in the northern Syrian desert this month.

The spectators broke out into a lively line-dance and shot celebratory gunfire into the air as each muscled creature blasted past the finish line, kicking up clouds of golden sand.

(AFP )

Taiwan's giant step towards allowing same-sex marriage has reverberated across Asia, but activists warn the fight for equality isn't over in a region where gay sex remains illegal in some countries.

Challenges to an Asia-wide embrace of same-sex unions were highlighted by this week's caning of two Indonesian men as punishment for gay sex and a South Korean military court's jailing of a soldier for having intercourse with another man.

In mainland China, two men lost a court battle to get married last year.

(AFP )

Indonesia's elite anti-terror squad was Thursday investigating a suicide bombing near a Jakarta bus station that killed three policemen in an assault authorities believe is linked to the Islamic State group.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm after two suicide attackers unleashed carnage outside the busy terminal late Wednesday, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky and panicked people fleeing.

(AFP )

Donald Trump meets NATO and EU leaders on Thursday in the city he once derided as a "hellhole", with nervous allies hoping for a strong show of commitment from the US president.

The billionaire leader, on his first foreign tour, is getting a red-carpet welcome from the same organisations he ridiculed on the campaign trail in remarks that sparked fears for transatlantic ties.

(AFP )

Fancy a beer with a twist of political intrigue?

A craft brewery in Ukraine has cashed in on the frenzy surrounding Donald Trump's possible campaign links to Russia by bottling a lager with a label featuring the US president and Vladimir Putin peeking from behind.

The Kremlin chief is wearing one of Trump's trademark "Make America Great Again" red caps while another man is holding up a "Free Melania" sign -- a reference to the First Lady.

(AFP )

In the midst of China's Cultural Revolution, a 14-year-old coal miner bought a yellowing, torn copy of Honore de Balzac's biography from a book collector on the side of the street.

He became engrossed in the text, and dreamt from then on that he would devote his life to literature -- to become, as Balzac was, a "secretary transcribing history."

(AFP )

Oil producers within and outside OPEC are expected Thursday to extend a deal cutting output aimed at lifting the price of crude, but US rivals could spoil the party.

Last November members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd).

The following month several nations outside the cartel, notably Russia, agreed with OPEC to reduce their production by 600,000 bpd.

(AFP )

A Republican running for Congress in Montana "bodyslammed" a reporter for The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, breaking his glasses, the journalist said.

The altercation between Greg Gianforte and reporter Ben Jacobs took place at a campaign event at Gianforte's headquarters in the city of Bozeman, Montana, The Guardian said.

He is running for the state's only congressional seat in a special election set for Thursday.

"Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses," Jacobs tweeted.

(AFP )

The new Republican health care bill approved by the House of Representatives will leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 than under current law, a congressional forecast announced Wednesday.

That figure is only slightly less than the 24 million people losing or dropping insurance under a previous version of the bill backed by President Donald Trump.

(AFP )

The unbeaten Canterbury Crusaders have shut out Super Rugby title talk as they grapple with an arduous schedule that has them playing in their fourth country in as many weeks on Saturday.

The competition leaders are in Melbourne to play the struggling Rebels at the end of a month that has taken them from South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji and now Australia.

With an 11-point lead in the tough New Zealand conference, only three games left in the regular season and the impending return from injury of All Black Israel Dagg, the Crusaders have reason to feel confident.

(AFP )

Twenty-two people were killed in Monday's suicide attack on a Manchester pop concert, including an eight-year-old girl, teenagers and several parents who had come to collect their children.

Police have established the identity of all of those killed. Here are the victims named so far:

- Teenage couple -

Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19, from South Shields in northeast England, were inseparable, their grieving families said.

"They were perfect in every way for each other and were meant to be," the joint statement said.

(AFP )

Subpoenas are flying, a special prosecutor is taking the reins, and explosive revelations hit the press almost daily: the investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia is heating up.

With Trump reported to have retained a personal lawyer to represent him, here is where the sprawling probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election stands.

- What does US intelligence know? -

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May will curtail her trip to the G7 summit in Italy this week following the deadly suicide attack on a Manchester concert, an official said Wednesday.

Britain is on its highest terror alert level following Monday's bombing, meaning another attack is thought imminent, and police are searching for the perpetrator's accomplices.

May will attend the first day on Friday of the Group of Seven meeting in Taormina on the island of Sicily, which is due to be attended by US President Donald Trump, but will miss the Saturday talks.

(AFP )

Worshippers at the mosque that the Manchester suicide bomber is believed to have frequented said they feared a backlash Wednesday, as the city's mayor warned any attacks on Muslims would please terrorists.

Elders at the Didsbury mosque, a Victorian former Methodist chapel, reacted with disbelief to the attack and voiced concern about reports of Islamophobic attacks since the bombing at a pop concert which killed 22 people.

(AFP )

Venezuela's attorney general Wednesday accused the country's military police of being responsible for hundreds of injuries and the death of at least one young man during recent political unrest.

Attorney general Luisa Ortega said in a public speech that 55 people have been killed so far in the unrest: 52 civilians and three police.

She added that 771 civilians and 229 security officers have been injured.

"More than half of the cases of people being injured have been due to the action of the security forces. It is worrying how the violence has worsened," she said.