Thursday 25 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Philippine security forces bombed 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 the 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 )

A US warship sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea on Thursday, a US official said, the first such operation by US President Donald Trump's administration in the disputed waterway.

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 on condition of anonymity.

(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 attack near a busy Jakarta bus station that killed three policemen, the latest assault in the Muslim-majority country as it faces a surge in militant plots.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm after two suicide attackers unleashed carnage outside the 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.

(AFP )

Thousands of protesters carrying effigies of Donald Trump marched through Brussels on Wednesday after the US president arrived for talks with the EU and NATO.

"Trump not welcome" said banners waved by the crowd, which police said numbered around 9,000. Organisers put the size of the demonstration at 12,000.

"He called Brussels a hellhole and yet he comes here like a conqueror," leftwing protester Yannick Blaise told AFP.

(AFP )

Pop star Ariana Grande on Wednesday suspended her tour until early June at the earliest after a deadly attack on her show in Manchester that left 22 people dead.

"Due to the tragic events in Manchester, the 'Dangerous Woman' tour with Ariana Grande has been suspended until we can further assess the situation and pay our proper respects to those lost," a statement from her management at Universal Music said.

(AFP )

The Manchester attack may boost efforts to preserve long-standing British-EU intelligence sharing following Brexit, even if some forms of cooperation are affected by Britain leaving, experts say.

British Prime Minister Theresa May irked many in Europe when she warned that Britain, the biggest military power in the EU and a nuclear-armed NATO member, might hold back on security cooperation if it can't get a good deal.

(AFP )

Worshippers at the mosque that the Manchester suicide bomber is believed to have frequented reacted with disbelief on Wednesday and pointed the finger at online radicalisation.

Elders at the Didsbury mosque, a Victorian former Methodist chapel, also voiced concern about reports of Islamophobic attacks since the bombing at a pop concert which killed 22 people.

(AFP )

Italian businessman Adriano Riva, whose family owned the bankrupt Ilva steel firm, was handed a two-and-half-year term on Wednesday after transferring 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) siphoned off from the company.

Heavily indebted and short of cash, Ilva was taken over by the Italian state in 2014.

The year before it had been placed under special administration after the Rivas were accused of failing to prevent toxic emissions including carcinogenic particles from spewing out across the town of Taranto in the Puglia region of southern Italy.

(AFP )

The daughter of the woman at the centre of a corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korea's ousted president has cancelled her appeal against extradition, a Danish court said Wednesday.

Chung Yoo-Ra, the 20-year-old daughter of the woman dubbed South Korea's "Rasputin", is one of the figures in the influence-peddling scandal that sparked huge street protests demanding the removal of President Park Geun-Hye.

"Decision to extradite Korean Ms. Chung is now final," the court announced on Twitter. "She has cancelled (her) appeal to (the) High Court."

(AFP )

NATO is to join the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, meeting a key demand of President Donald Trump that the alliance do more to fight Islamist terrorism, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Trump was due to meet NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday to press his case, with the deadly IS-claimed bomb attack in Manchester high on the agenda.

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he expected NATO to join despite reservations by some members states which are fearful of getting dragged into another conflict.

(AFP )

At least 34 people including young children drowned Wednesday when they fell off an overloaded migrant vessel in the Mediterranean, where tensions are rising between aid ships and the Libyan coastguard.

"There's a critical situation today. About 200 people fell into the water," an Italian coastguard spokesman told AFP, saying 34 bodies had been recovered including at least 10 children, some of whom were toddlers.

The victims were on a wooden boat carrying between 500 and 700 people which was just 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast when the disaster happened.

(AFP )

Britain has been a prime target for jihadist groups for nearly 15 years, beginning with Al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State group (IS) which claimed the Manchester bombing.

Using explosives in a confined space is a direct throwback to Al-Qaeda's July 2005 attacks on London public transport that killed 52 people, said Mathieu Guidere, a terrorism expert and professor at the University of Paris.

Following are his responses to three key questions:

- Why Britain? -

(AFP )

England captain Eoin Morgan's fine century laid the platform for a 72-run win over South Africa in the day/night first one-day international at Headingley on Thursday.

Victory over the Proteas, the world's number-one ranked ODI side, gave England a morale boost just a week before they host the Champions Trophy tournament featuring the world's top eight 50-over sides and put them 1-0 up in this three-match series.

South Africa, set 340 to win, made steady progress while the experienced Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis shared a second-wicket stand of 112.

(AFP )

Brazilian soldiers deployed Wednesday to defend government buildings in the capital Brasilia after protesters demanding the exit of President Michel Temer smashed their way into ministries and fought with riot police.

"At this moment, federal troops are already here in (the foreign ministry)," Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said in a brief televised statement. "And next there are troops arriving to secure all the ministerial buildings."

(AFP )

US lawmakers have demanded documents from German banking giant Deutsche Bank detailing its ties with President Donald Trump and his dealings with Russia.

It was the latest twist in the high-stakes investigation of Trump's relations with Moscow, and whether there was any collusion between his campaign and an alleged Russian bid to tilt the US election in the Republican's favor.