In the world | Africatime
Monday 24 April 2017

In the world

(AFP )

An Italian journalist arrested in Turkey while researching refugees near the Syrian border has been freed after two weeks in detention, Italy's foreign ministry said Monday.

Gabriele Del Grande, 34, was expected to arrive at Bologna airport in Italy Monday and be met by his parents and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.

"I spoke to him just now and he's on his way back to Italy. I had the great joy of telling his family. We are waiting for him," Alfano said.

(AFP )

The Afghan defence minister and his army chief resigned Monday, days after a Taliban attack at a military base in northern Afghanistan killed or wounded more than 100 soldiers, a presidential statement said.

"President Ashraf Ghani has accepted the resignation of the defence minister and army chief of staff," the statement from Ghani's office said.

Furious Afghans had called for resignations of minister Abdullah Habibi and army chief Qadam Shah Shaheem after the assault outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday.

(AFP )

Arkansas is rushing to execute a slew of prisoners this week before its cache of lethal drugs run out, despite intense criticism and legal challenges to the southern US state's plans.

What began as a macabre plan to put eight convicted murderers to death in 11 days -- a record, had it been carried out -- has now seen one prisoner executed and four win reprieves.

The US Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to deny staying the executions of all eight condemned inmates.

(AFP )

A man who accidently snorkeled headfirst into a crocodile in northern Australia escaped with minor injuries as wildlife officers Monday worked to track down the reptile.

The croc, measuring up to two metres (6.5 feet), "reacted defensively" when the swimmer "inadvertently" swum into it on Sunday near popular Lizard Island in Queensland state.

"The man suffered minor cuts and abrasions to his head and was treated for his non-life threatening injuries on the island," a department of environment spokesperson said.

(AFP )

With a jaunty victory dance, 101-year-old Man Kaur celebrated winning the 100 metres sprint at the World Masters Games in Auckland on Monday, the 17th gold medal in the Indian athlete's remarkable late-blooming career.

Kaur clocked one minute 14 seconds as a small crowd cheered her on -- ending a mere 64.42 seconds off Usain Bolt's 100m world record set in 2009.

In truth her dash became more of a gentle amble the closer the diminutive centenarian came to the finish line, with more energy spent beaming at spectators than running.

(AFP )

Liang Shanshan considers herself a mother of two: one child is her biological son, the other is a 16-year-old Chinese teen pop star she has never met.

She is a "mother fan" and part of a group of women in their mid-20s to 60s whose maternal instincts are set off by China's boy band sensation TFBoys("The Fighting Boys").

The band has won millions of Chinese followers since their 2013 debut, rapidly amassing a following ardent enough to buy a giant ad in New York's Times Square for a band member's birthday.

(AFP )

Talk about fluid tunes: A group of innovative Danish musicians submerged like fish in an aquarium have created an underwater concerto with instruments specially adapted to resonate in a silent world.

In the central Danish town of Aarhus, a Godsbanen centre concert hall looks more like a fish farm than a music set, with its jumble of water tanks, canisters, tubes, pipes and retrofuturistic objects.

(AFP )

After fleeing war in Syria and arriving in America with her family four months ago, for one day Mona Hafez is not a refugee. She is a tourist seeing the sights of New York.

"Coming to the park was really fun. Riding the subway was awesome. I love all of New York City," says the 10-year-old, words tumbling out of her mouth in delight.

(AFP )

Islam Maytat thought marrying an Afghan-British businessman was her ticket to a new life as a fashionista in London. Instead she became a widow living under jihadist rule in Syria.

At just 23, the young Moroccan spent three traumatic years in northern Syria under the Islamic State group's so-called "caliphate".

Tens of thousands of foreigners have joined jihadist groups in Syria, including women who are encouraged to marry and raise the children of IS fighters.

Some, like Maytat, have been lured unknowingly into marriages with would-be jihadists.

(AFP )

Thick black fumes from smoke bombs engulfed stands at PSV Eindhoven's crunch home game against Ajax, interrupting the match and leaving several fans with breathing and eye problems.

Dozens of people scattered to take refuge as black smoke billowed through the Philips Stadion, forcing the referee to suspend play five minutes into the second half.

Ten fans, four security guards and a steward suffered respiratory or eye problems, according to the Dutch press agency ANP. A 35-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of letting off the devices, it added.

(AFP )

International media pored over the results of France's closely watched first round of its presidential election Sunday, with mainstream newspapers flocking to back centrist Emmanuel Macron against far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

- 'Le Pen threat not over' -

Media in neighbouring Britain hailed pro-European Macron's strong showing, while adding that Le Pen's projected second-place success -- securing her a place alongside him in the May 7 run-off -- should not be ignored.

(AFP )

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone conversation Sunday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine remain an obstacle to improved US-Russian ties, the State Department said.

"Secretary Tillerson phoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today to discuss his recent trip to Moscow and his message to the Russian leadership that, although the United States is interested in improving relations with Russia, Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine remain an obstacle," said acting spokesman Mark Toner.

(AFP )

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sought to reassure international Jewish community leaders on Sunday that he would stand up against any perceptions of anti-Israel bias at the world organization.

Guterres spoke amid a deepening row over alleged bias within the UN following US pressure, exacerbated last month when a UN rights expert issued a blistering criticism of Israel's policies.

Guterres said he would "guarantee" that those working under him would abide by principles that he considers right.

(AFP )

A woman wounded while participating in an April 19 pro-government march died Sunday, an official said, raising the death toll in three weeks of unrest in Venezuela to 21.

Almelina Carrillo, 47, succumbed to injuries suffered when she was struck in the head by a bottle thrown from a building during the march in Caracas, Venezuela's state ombudsman Tarek Saab said on Twitter.

Venezuela has seen near-daily protests since the beginning of April, with opponents of President Nicolas Maduro demanding his ouster.

(AFP )

Russia became the world's third largest military spender in 2016 despite low oil prices and economic sanctions, as the global expenditure rose for a second consecutive year, a study said on Monday.

Russia's military spending was $69.2 billion (around 64 billion euros) in 2016, a 5.9 percent rise over 2015, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report, adding this was the highest proportion of its GDP since it became an independent state.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron's youthful supporters wept tears of joy and shouted themselves hoarse on Sunday as projections from France's presidential election suggested their champion was well on track for power.

Similar jubilation played out at the headquarters of the far-right National Front (FN), whose leader Marine Le Pen brought the party to the presidential runoff for just the second time in its history.

For supporters of the conservative Republicans and far-left France Insoumise (France Unbowed), there was bitterness at a dream left unfulfilled.

(AFP )

Donald Trump pressed for the funding of a Mexico border wall Sunday as a looming spending showdown in Congress threatens to shut down the US government on the president's 100th day in office.

Building the wall was Trump's signature campaign promise, and the White House appeared determined to get Congress to approve a down payment as part of a bigger bill to keep the US government funded.

Trump weighed in on Twitter, insisting Mexico will pay for the wall "but at a later date so we can get started early."

(AFP )

Police clashed with leftwingdemonstrators in Paris on Sunday shortly after early projections from the France's presidential elections showed far-right leader Marine Le Pen had made it to a runoff vote.

Police moved in on the demonstrators, some of whom threw bottles and firecrackers, an AFP journalist saw. Three people were arrested, according to police.

(AFP )

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen wept for joy when her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the bogeyman of French politics, made it to the final of the 2002 presidential election.

But while Le Pen senior ultimately failed to win the top job, 15 years later his charismatic daughter believes she can become France's first woman president, and the first from the far-right National Front (FN).

In Sunday's first round vote, the fiercely anti-EU, anti-immigration Le Pen secured a spot in the May 7 run-off, just behind centrist Emmanuel Macron, according to several polling institutes.

(AFP )

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday emerged as the projected winners of a nail-biting first round presidential vote in France.

The likely result clears the way for a straight two-way fight between the pair in a second and final round on May 7, with opinion polls saying Macron is the favourite.

Here are some of the first reactions to sunday's vote:

- European Union -

(AFP )

Hundreds of supporters of the 'No' campaign and Turkey's main opposition party protested in Istanbul on Sunday against the narrow victory in last week's vote on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

The 'Yes' camp won 51.41 percent in last Sunday's referendum in a tighter-than-expected win, but opponents claim the result would have been reversed in a fair poll.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron is a centrist pro-European whose sensational political career, unorthodox marriage and promises to modernise France have made him a favourite for the presidency.

If he wins, the 39-year-old former banker would be the youngest French leader in modern history, upending tradition that has usually seen voters favour experience in their powerful presidents.

(AFP )

Jean-Luc Melenchon, who crashed out of France's unpredictable presidential election Sunday, is a fiery Communist-backed eurosceptic who had vowed to return "power to the people".

Melenchon had enjoyed a late surge ahead of the first-round vote in an election marked by widespread disillusionment with the political class.

But initial projections put the head of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) trailing in fourth place behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative Francois Fillon.

(AFP )

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to destroy those who call for the destruction of Israel, in a speech to mark the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"Iran and the Islamic state want to destroy us, and a hatred for Jews is being directed towards the Jewish state today," he said at a ceremony in Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial.

"Those who threaten to destroy us risk being destroyed themselves," Netanyahu warned.

"From being defenceless people, we have become a state with a defensive capacity that is among the strongest in the world," he said.

(AFP )

The two men suspected of plotting an "imminent" attack ahead of France's presidential election were charged Sunday with terror offences, prosecutors said.

The foiled plot in Marseille sparked fears that the closing days of the campaign could be a target for extremists ahead of Sunday's first round of voting in the country's most unpredictable election in decades.

Elite police and intelligence agents arrested the two Frenchmen -- 23-year-old Clement Baur and Mahiedine Merabet, 29 -- on Tuesday in the Mediterranean port city.

(AFP )

From London to Berlin, Washington to Tel Aviv, French voters lined up at polling stations abroad at the weekend to cast ballots for one of the closest presidential elections in years back home.

Around 1.3 million French people abroad are registered to vote -- representing around two percent of the total electorate.

In London -- often called the sixth biggest French city -- hundreds of people queued up outside the two polling stations well before they opened on Sunday, with some waiting up to two hours to vote.

(AFP )

China's foreign minister called Sunday for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula amid rising tension over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.

"China is firmly supporting the denuclearisation of the area in the name of stability and peace", Wang Yi told reporters in Athens after meeting Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias.

"China may not have the key to this solution ... but we are happy that more sides are accepting our point of view", he added.

(AFP )

US actress Erin Moran, who played mischievous kid sister Joanie on the sitcom "Happy Days" and its spin-off "Joanie Loves Chachi," has died. She was 56.

The Harrison County Sheriff's department in Indiana said Moran was found "unresponsive" following a 911 call to the authorities at 4:07 pm (2007 GMT) on Saturday.

"Upon the arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Marie Moran Fleischmann was deceased and an autopsy is pending," it said.

(AFP )

Charity boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean are colluding with traffickers in Libya, an Italian prosecutor was quoted as saying Sunday, stirring up a simmering row over aid groups' role in Europe's migrant crisis.

In an interview with Italian daily La Stampa, Sicily-based prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro made his most specific claims yet over NGO activities off Libya, which the EU border agency Frontex recently described as tantamount to providing a "taxi" service to Europe.

(AFP )

Croatia honoured on Sunday the victims of its most brutal World War II death camp, an event again snubbed by ethnic Serbs, Jews and anti-fascists who accuse authorities of tolerating a pro-Nazi ideology.

Conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, several ministers and foreign diplomats attended a commemoration ceremony at the site of the Jasenovac camp which was dismantled 72 years ago.

(AFP )

Germany's anti-immigration AfD wrapped up a fractious party congress Sunday by choosing a new team to lead it into a September general election, after dramatically sidelining its most prominent personality.

Capping two days of often bitter debate on its platform and personnel, the Alternative for Germany appointed two chief candidates: 76-year-old Alexander Gauland, a hardline defector from Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU, and Alice Weidel, 38, an openly lesbian former investment banker.

(AFP )

The two frontrunners in France's closely fought presidential election, centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, cast their ballots as the first round of voting kicked off on Sunday.

A throng of well-wishers and journalists were on hand as Macron, 39, accompanied by his 64-year-old wife Brigitte, arrived to vote in the chic northern seaside resort of Le Touquet.

The couple voted at the same town hall where they were married 10 years ago.

(AFP )

An American monitor with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe died after a mission patrol vehicle hit a landmine in the Russian-backed separatist east, eliciting sharp words towards Moscow from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday.

It marked the first loss for the security body's Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) since Europe's only current war broke out more than three years ago.

(AFP )

Spanish coast guard crews worked Sunday to clean up a three-kilometre (1.9-mile) long diesel slick off the holiday island of Gran Canaria after a passenger ferry slammed into a pier.

The ferry carrying 140 passengers smashed into a breakwater late Friday in the port of Las Palmas, the capital of Spain's Canary islands off the northwest coast of Africa.

Thirteen people were injured and the crash damaged underwater fuel pipes, the regional government said in a statement. Video footage on Spanish television showed chunks of concrete falling onto the port.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite faithful thronged the mausoleum of Imam Kadhim in Baghdad Sunday for the climax of a week-long pilgrimage that saw millions converge on the Iraqi capital.

Beating their heads and chests, crowds of pilgrims lurched and swerved to try to touch a mock coffin being carried to the shrine in the northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah.