Sunday 28 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

A White House in crisis scrambled to allay public concern over reports that Donald Trump's son-in-law sought a secret communications link to Russia -- a bombshell allegation the US president swatted down as "fabricated."

Returning late Saturday from his first foreign trip as president, Trump geared up to combat concerns over advisers' ties to Russia, including explosive reports about Jared Kushner, his indispensable aide-de-camp.

(AFP )

A total of 14 people are in detention in Britain and Libya over Monday's suicide bombing at a pop concert in the English city of Manchester by a British-born man of Libyan origin.

A teenage boy and a woman arrested by British police this week have since been released without charge, leaving 12 in British custody who were arrested "on suspicion of offences contrary to the terrorism act".

In Libya, the father and brother of the bomber, Salman Abedi, are also in detention.

(AFP )

After 12 days of red carpet glamour, political fashion statements and wardrobe malfunctions, here are the looks that turned heads at the Cannes film festival.

- Beware the thigh-split -

Gowns slashed almost to the hip were omnipresent at this year's Cannes, with Susan Sarandon -- at 70, the same age as the festival -- giving a masterclass in the genre when she turned up on opening night in a green velvet number that also made the most of her ample cleavage.

(AFP )

A Frenchman who was abducted nearly two months ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been freed, the office of President Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday.

A French diplomat said the freed hostage was among five gold mine workers who were seized on March 1 in the east of the troubled country.

The hostages worked for Banro, a Canadian gold mining corporation that runs two mines in DR Congo and is exploring for the mineral elsewhere in the vast, resource-rich country.

(AFP )

Europe "must take its fate into its own hands" faced with a western alliance divided by Brexit and Donald Trump's presidency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days," Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.

"We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands," she added.

(AFP )

Spanish mountaineer Kilian Jornet has reached the summit of Mount Everest for the second time in a week, his team said Sunday.

Jornet scaled Everest's north face, starting from a camp at 6,500 metres on the Tibet side of the mountain, in 17 hours late on Saturday, said a statement from the team.

"I’m so happy to have made the summit again! Today I felt good, although it was really windy so it was hard to move fast," he said in the statement.

(AFP )

Thousands of travellers faced further chaos on Sunday as British Airways cancelled around 40 flights from London's Heathrow Airport following an IT system failure.

Around one quarter of Sunday's flights set to depart from London's key hub before 1.00 pm (1200 GMT) were cancelled as the airline battled to contain the "knock-on disruption" to schedules, with aircraft and crews out of position around the world.

British Airways said it was hoping to operate a near-normal schedule of flights from Gatwick, London's other major airport, and the majority of its Heathrow services.

(AFP )

US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Sunday said he was considering banning laptop computers on international flights into and out of the country amid signs of "a real threat."

Kelly made his remarks during the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel periods in the United States, at a time when the bombing at a concert in Manchester, England has raised concerns that further attacks -- possibly involving explosives packed in electronic devices -- may be planned.

(AFP )

Emergency teams rushed food and water Sunday to half a million Sri Lankans displaced by the island's worst flooding for more than a decade, as the death toll climbed to 151.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said relief operations had intensified following a break in the monsoon rains, with medical teams reinforcing hospitals in affected districts.

The official death toll had climbed to 151 with 111 people still listed as missing, Senaratne said. Another 95 were in hospital.

(AFP )

British Airways said it hopes to resume most flights out of London's major airports on Sunday after a computer systems failure caused chaos for thousands of passengers on a busy holiday weekend.

Problems continued at London's Heathrow, with flights cancelled early Sunday as the airline battled to contain the "knock-on disruption" to schedules, with aircraft and crews out of position around the world.

"At this stage we are aiming to operate a near-normal schedule of flights from Gatwick and the majority of our Heathrow services," it said in a statement.

(AFP )

Two thousand fearful civilians were trapped on Sunday inside a southern Philippine city where troops are battling Islamist militants, authorities said, as the death toll from almost a week of fighting neared 100.

The military intensified a bombing campaign on parts of Marawi on Mindanao island, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic nation, as it accused the gunmen of atrocities including murdering women and a child.

(AFP )

British Airways said it hopes to resume most flights out of London's major airports on Sunday after a computer systems failure caused chaos for thousands of passengers on a busy holiday weekend.

It warned of some "knock-on disruption" to schedules as aircraft and crews are out of position around the world.

"At this stage we are aiming to operate a near-normal schedule of flights from Gatwick and the majority of our Heathrow services," it said in a statement.

It advised passengers not to come to the two airports unless they have confirmed bookings.

(AFP )

Donald Trump, just back from his first international trip as US president, geared up to combat concerns Sunday over aides' ties to Russia including explosive reports that his son-in-law sought a secret communications line with Moscow.

The latest furor was stirred up after The Washington Post reported late Friday that Jared Kushner -- arguably Trump's closest White House aide, and husband to the president's eldest daughter Ivanka -- made a pre-inauguration proposal to the Russian ambassador to set up a secret, bug-proof link with the Kremlin.

(AFP )

Emergency teams rushed to distribute aid Sunday to half a million Sri Lankans displaced after the island's worst flooding in more than a decade, as authorities upgraded the death toll to 146.

The official Disaster Management Centre said 112 people were still missing, with 50 injured in hospital, since torrential rain and landslides swept away entire villages.

Floodwaters were receding in some areas after a break in the rain, giving authorities a chance to deliver much-needed supplies to victims who lost everything in the deluge.

(AFP )

Islamist militants locked in street-to-street battles with security forces in a southern Philippine city have killed 19 civilians, the military said Sunday, bringing the official death toll from nearly a week of fighting to at least 85.

The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on Tuesday across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat of militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.

(AFP )

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched a fierce attack against regional rival Saudi Arabia, saying it was being pumped "like a milking cow" by "infidel" Americans.

"These people (the Saudis) appear to believe in the Koran... but in practice they act against its teachings," Khamenei said at a meeting on Saturday to mark the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

"They are close with the infidels and offer the enemy the money they should be using to improve the lives of their own people.

(AFP )

The Canterbury Crusaders will pitch their unbeaten 13-match run against the in-form Otago Highlanders in an enticing Super Rugby showdown after yet another New Zealand rampage this weekend.

The seven-time champions registered a 41-19 bonus-point victory over the hapless Melbourne Rebels to protect an 11-point lead at the top of the all-conquering New Zealand conference with one week remaining until the break for the international Test window.

(AFP )

Australian Schapelle Corby battled a media storm as she returned home from Bali Sunday 12 years after her conviction for drug trafficking, in a dramatic end to a saga that captivated her homeland.

The beauty school dropout hit Australian headlines when she was arrested in 2004 at Bali airport aged 27 with several kilos of hashish stashed in her surfing gear, and was jailed the following year for 20 years.

(AFP )

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has overseen a test of a new anti-aircraft weapon system, state media said Sunday, amid mounting tensions in the region following a series of missile tests by Pyongyang.

Over the past few months, the young leader has overseen several military drills, including the test-firing of a medium-range ballistic missile last Sunday, as Washington seeks to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions.

(AFP )

Fifty years ago, the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria seceded, declaring an independent Republic of Biafra and sparking a brutal civil war that left about one million people dead.

- Coups and secession -

On May 30, 1967, the military head of Nigeria's eastern region, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declares "the independent Republic of Biafra".

His move comes two days after the head of Nigeria's military government, General Yakubu Gowon, divided the federation into 12 states, including three in the east.

(AFP )

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Madrid on Saturday for a "march of dignity" to demand better wages and job security as Spain's economy improves.

Demonstrators from all over the country marched down Madrid's main avenue, the Gran Via, behind a banner reading "bread, work, homes and equality." Dozens of trade unions and leftwing groups joined the protest.

Organisers put the turnout at 200,000, while the local prefecture put it at only 6,000. An estimate by AFP journalists put it in the tens of thousands.

(AFP )

A British minister said Sunday members of suicide bomber Salman Abedi's network could still be a large, as thousands defied the terror threat to take part in an annual half marathon.

As runners pounded the streets of the northwestern English city, police arrested a 25-year-old man in the eastern Old Trafford area, bringing the number now detained on UK soil in connection with the attack to 12.

(AFP )

The grave of General Charles de Gaulle, France's World War II hero and post-war president, was vandalised on Saturday, police said.

A man aged in his thirties stepped onto the grave and kicked the base of a 1.5-metre (4.9-feet) -high stone cross at its head, causing the cross to topple over and break, they said.

The gravestone itself was undamaged, they said.

The simple grave, located in the village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises in the northern French department of Haute-Marne, draws tens of thousands of visitors each year.

(AFP )

Police on Saturday released security camera images of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi on the night he massacred 22 people at a pop concert.

Investigators also gave details of the 22-year-old's last hours as they appealed to the public for any information about his movements in the days running up to Monday night's attack.

The photographs taken from CCTV footage show a bespectacled Abedi, who has a small moustache, in trainers, jeans, black sleeves, a black cap and a black puffer waistcoat, over which the straps of his backpack can be seen.

(AFP )

South Africa captain AB de Villiers insisted his side had done nothing wrong after they found themselves caught up in a fresh ball-tampering row on Saturday as they lost their one-day international series against England.

The hosts somehow managed to win by two runs at Southampton to go 2-0 up when it seemed South Africa were on the brink of levelling matters ahead of Monday's third and final ODI at Lord's.

As if that was not bad enough for the tourists, de Villiers thought he might be accused of ball-tampering during England's innings

(AFP )

A French photojournalist held in Turkey for nearly three weeks has ended a week-long hunger strike, press freedom body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Saturday.

Photographer Mathias Depardon was detained on May 8 while working on a report in Hasankeyf in the southeastern Batman province for National Geographic magazine.

He has been held ever since despite reports that he would be deported and began his hunger strike on May 21.

(AFP )

Ben Stokes struck a superb century before pacemen Josh Ball and Mark Wood helped England seal a dramatic and series-clinching two run-win over South Africa in the second one-day international at Southampton on Saturday.

Victory put England 2-0 up with one to play ahead of Monday's finale at Lord's.

Stokes made South Africa pay dearly for dropping him off both first and second balls after the all-rounder had been passed fit to play following a knee injury.

(AFP )

Demonstrators clashed with Venezuelan police again Saturday as they descended on the offices of the state media regulator, the latest in nearly two months of often-violent protests demanding the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

Youth with their faces covered blocked the main motorway running through Caracas, cutting it off with trucks that they then set on fire. They also erected barricades of rubble.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the rally, and demonstrators fought back by hurling Molotov cocktails and stones.

(AFP )

Donald Trump's first trip overseas was supposed to be about building bridges and clarifying his administration's intentions to friends and foes alike.

And the US president flew home Saturday boasting he had "scored a home run" everywhere he'd been, saying he had forged bonds with friends old and new in the fight against terrorism.

But behind him he left some of Washington's allies as bewildered as ever over his abrasive, unpredictable style and the substance of his policy plans.

(AFP )

Bomb squads and repeated police raids have rattled Manchester residents, who find themselves caught up in a fast-moving terrorism investigation to find those behind Monday's suicide bomb attack.

As a bomb disposal van drove out of their neighbourhood, residents in the city's southern Moss Side area were dumbfounded that a terror probe had come thundering into their streets.

"Everyone's just worried aren't they, everyone, no matter where they are... it's scary stuff," said David Bailey, 29, who manages a property one street away from where the bomb squad was brought in.

(AFP )

It's a powerful symbol: Seven of the world's richest countries gathered in Sicily, a Mediterranean island on whose shores rickety migrant boats from northern Africa regularly wash up.

But while migration and the vast continent on Sicily's southern doorstep got a mention Saturday in the final statement of G7 leaders gathered in the hilltop town of Taormina, the summit itself was dominated by trade, climate change and security threats.

(AFP )

Peace talks between the Philippine government and communist insurgents broke down on Saturday after a dispute over the rebels' ordering their fighters to step up attacks.

But communist negotiators remained hopeful that the discussions being held at a seaside resort town in the Netherlands would continue, despite the suspension announced by government negotiators.

(AFP )

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Angela Merkel of his displeasure over Germany's reportedly giving asylum to troops accused of links to last year's failed coup, he said in an interview published Saturday.

As he met the German chancellor on the sidelines of Thursday's NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan said he raised the issue of "the putschist soldiers whose asylum applications have been accepted, and gave a firm reaction."

"We asked: 'How can you do this?'" Erdogan said, quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper.

(AFP )

The world's 1.5 billion Muslims began observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan on Saturday, blighted by conflict and bloodshed in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Libya.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam during which Muslims are supposed to devote themselves to praying, giving to charity and fasting from dawn to dusk.

It is sacred because tradition says the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed during that month.

(AFP )

British Airways cancelled all its flights out of major London airports Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday after a computer systems failure, causing chaos for thousands of passengers on a busy holiday weekend.

"We have experienced a major IT system failure that is causing very severe disruption to our flight operations worldwide," BA said.

BA flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick were initially cancelled until 6.00 pm (1700 GMT) but the airline later said there would be no flights for the rest of the day.