Saturday 27 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Gibraltar Friday vowed to do whatever it takes to keep its position as a leading online gambling jurisdiction despite Britain's looming exit from the European Union.

"Whatever Brexit may produce for Gibraltar, government will adapt its licensing and regulatory arrangements to ensure we remain the premier remote gambling jurisdiction," the government said in a statement.

(AFP )

The family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are owners of a 26.5-million-euro ($29.64-million) oil tanker, which was acquired under a secretive offshore arrangement, a consortium of European news outlets reported Friday.

The Belgian newspaper Le Soir, Spain's El Mundo, L'Espresso of Italy and the French online site Mediapart are members of European Investigative Collaboration (EIC), a cooperative initiative in investigative journalism.

(AFP )

Poland's defence minister said Friday he was confident about US President Donald Trump's commitment to NATO amid doubts raised by his failure to publicly endorse the alliance's guarantee of collective defence.

Allies who had hoped to hear Trump declare his commitment to NATO's Article 5 were left disappointed as he made no public mention of it at Thursday's summit in Brussels.

(AFP )

Riot police in Venezuela fired tear gas and water cannon to stop anti-government protesters from marching on a key military installation Friday during the latest violence in nearly two months of unrest.

The opposition is trying to sway the support of the armed forces, a key pillar of the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who is resisting opposition calls for early elections.

Retired military personnel joined demonstrators who tried to march to the Los Proceres complex, which houses the defense ministry and lies close to a major military base in Caracas.

(AFP )

The terror manhunt in Manchester focused on a gritty area of the city notorious for gangland murders on Friday as the head of a local mosque where suicide bomber Salman Abedi worshipped recalled him as an "angry" young man.

Armed police raided a house in Moss Side overnight in connection with Monday's attack, shutting off a street of red-brick homes and shouting: "Hands on the ground! Get on the ground!"

(AFP )

From "Wonder Woman" and "Tank Woman" to "Naked Man" and "Violin Man," ordinary Venezuelans photographed in extraordinary scenes have become icons of the country's political unrest.

Demonstrators are demanding elections to get rid of a socialist government they blame for food and medicine shortages. The government brands them "insurgents" and "terrorists."

Here are five striking faces of the anti-government street protests, during which 57 people have been killed over the past two months.

- Wonder Woman -

(AFP )

The Pentagon on Friday said it was concerned by an "unsafe and unprofessional" encounter between two Chinese fighters and a US surveillance plane over the South China Sea.

The Chinese J-10 warplanes intercepted a US Navy P-3 that was operating in international airspace Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross said.

"The aircrew deemed the intercept unsafe and unprofessional. Operations were able to continue unimpeded," he said.

(AFP )

The US military will try to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile in a test of a defense system that comes amid broad tensions over North Korea's weapons program, the Pentagon said Friday.

Scheduled for Tuesday, the test will involve launching a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at a mock-up of an ICBM fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.

(AFP )

France will introduce a law by year's end that will end prison terms for cannabis use, although consuming the drug will remain a criminal offence, a government spokesman said Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to reform laws on cannabis use in his election campaign manifesto. Currently offenders can face up to a year in jail plus a fine of up to 3,750 euros ($4,200).

(AFP )

Donald Trump's son-in-law and top aide, Jared Kushner, has been caught in the spotlight of an FBI probe into Russian meddling, US media reported, heaping more pressure Friday on the embattled US president.

The latest bombshell ensures that Trump will be thrust right back into the Russia scandal upon his return to Washington this weekend, after making his international debut with a tour of the Middle East and Europe.

(AFP )

Washington will not ease sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine and may even get tougher on Moscow, the White House said Friday, ending uncertainty over the US position on the thorny issue.

"We are not lowering our sanctions on Russia," Gary Cohn, US President Donald Trump's top economic advisor, told reporters at the G7 summit of leading industrialised nations in Sicily.

"If anything we would probably look to get tougher on Russia."

(AFP )

A summit of G7 leaders on Friday failed to make progress on narrowing differences between the United States and its partners on climate change, hosts Italy said.

With President Donald Trump still reviewing the US position, Washington is resisting intense pressure to commit to remaining within the framework of the 2015 global accord on curbing carbon emissions.

"The question of the Paris climate accord is still hanging," Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni told a news conference after the leaders held talks on the issue.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump's performance at a "shocking" NATO summit has dealt a major blow to the alliance and may hand a win to Vladimir Putin, analysts say.

Whether shoving aside Montenegro's PM or having handshake wars with France's new leader, Trump created chaos at what was meant to be a diplomatic showpiece.

But optics aside, Trump failed to publicly endorse NATO's founding mutual defence guarantee and instead castigated the allies for failing to pay their way.

(AFP )

Reports of civilian deaths from US-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria have soared in recent months, raising questions about whether President Donald Trump's order to "annihilate" the Islamic State group is fueling the increase.

The Pentagon vehemently denies this, and insists its targeting procedures and protocols to avoid civilian casualties have not changed.

Here is a look at what is going on.

- How many are dying? -

(AFP )

Within minutes of British counter-terror police learning a deadly blast had struck Manchester Arena, their US counterparts were in the loop. That is how the security relationship -- one of the world's closest -- is supposed to work. What is not supposed to happen, is for the information to leak.

The intimate intelligence cooperation between the two allies has paid off in multiple cases since the 9/11 attacks exposed the Western world to the threat of jihadist groups.

(AFP )

South Africa hope to live up to their reputation as the world's top-ranked one-day international side at Southampton on Saturday after blowing away "cobwebs" in their series-opening defeat by England.

Victory put England 1-0 up with two to play and was a shot in the arm for Eoin Morgan's men ahead of next week's start of the Champions Trophy on home soil.

But South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis said the tourists were determined to avoid a repeat of the "silly mistakes" that had cost them dear in a 72-run reverse at Headingley on Wednesday.

(AFP )

Since the terror attack, Manchester's tattoo parlours have been swarmed by requests for tattoos of bees -- a symbol of the city and its residents' deep community spirit.

To beat the crowds, Naomi Johnson arrived early on Friday at a parlour called Tattitude, after its owners said they would donate proceeds to a fund set up to help people affected by Monday's suicide bombing.

"I just felt I wanted to do something to signify how we are all feeling," said the 32-year-old neurologist, her left leg lifted on a stool as tattoo artist Jordon wielded the ink needle.

(AFP )

Dozens of relatives of Islamic State group fighters were killed Friday in Syria in US-led strikes, regime or Russian raids, after the UN urged nations striking the jihadists to protect civilians.

Raids by the US-led coalition have pounded IS positions across Iraq and Syria since the jihadist group claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing of a concert in Manchester on Monday.

Scores of civilians, many of them families of IS members, have been killed in bombing raids in recent days on the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen, held by IS since 2014.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday brushed off Theresa May’s request for early talks on a trade deal with the EU after Brexit.

As the two held their first official talks on the sidelines of the G7 summit, British Prime Minister May repeated that she would like to start talks on trade at the start of the negotiations, rather than waiting until after the thorny issues of Britain’s financial settlement and expatriate rights are resolved.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte joked Friday that soldiers could rape up to three women, as he reassured them of his full support under his newly imposed regional martial law.

Duterte, who often peppers his language with man-on-the-street curses, made the comments in jest during a speech at a military base to lift the spirits of troops tasked with quelling what he says is a fast-growing threat of Islamist terrorism.

(AFP )

Foreigners are among Islamist gunmen battling security forces in a southern Philippine city, the government said Friday as soldiers tore down black IS flags in retaken districts and the reported death toll climbed to 46.

Tens of thousands of people have fled clashes raging through residential neighbourhoods in Marawi, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with cars choking roads out of the area.

(AFP )

Manchester suicide bomber Salem Abedi used a powerful explosive device that was painstakingly assembled -- likely with assistance -- for his deadly attack on a pop concert, according to officials and experts.

The British-born 22-year-old of Libyan descent detonated the blast on Monday evening, killing 22 people outside a packed Manchester Arena after a show by US pop star Ariana Grande.

(AFP )

At least 15 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters attacked their base in Kandahar, officials said Friday, in the third major insurgent assault this week on the military in the southern province.

The assault in Shah Wali Kot district late Thursday comes after hundreds of insurgents stormed other bases in the same area and Maiwand district earlier this week, bringing the death toll among Western-backed troops to around 60.

(AFP )

A US-led coalition air strike on the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen early Friday killed at least 80 relatives of Islamic State group fighters, a monitoring group told AFP.

"The toll includes 33 children. They were families seeking refuge in the town's municipal building," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"This is the highest toll for relatives of IS members in Syria," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

(AFP )

Flooding and landslides killed at least 91 people and left another 110 missing in Sri Lanka as the monsoon set in Friday, dumping record rainfalls in many parts of the island, authorities said.

About 20,000 people were also driven out of their homes in the south and western parts of the country, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said.

"There are some areas where we are unable to reach, but relief operations are under way," deputy minister for disaster management Dunesh Gankanda told reporters in Colombo.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump has launched a salvo against German car exports to the United States, officials confirmed Friday, in the latest sign of simmering transatlantic trade tensions.

Speaking after German media reported the US president as having described the Germans as "bad, very bad", European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tried to play down the latest spat to erupt since Trump came to power pursuing a protectionist agenda.

(AFP )

A UN drive for a crunch Cyprus peace conference in Geneva has failed leaving the future of talks on reunifying the island in limbo, a UN envoy acknowledged on Friday.

"Unfortunately, despite serious efforts to overcome their differences regarding the modalities for meeting in Geneva, the leaders were unable to find common ground," envoy Espen Barth Eide said.

"Without a prospect for common ground, there is no basis for continuing this shuttle diplomacy," he added.

(AFP )

The UN on Friday urged all nations bombing jihadist targets in Syria to better distinguish between civilian and military targets, following reports that US-led coalition strikes killed dozens of non-combatants.

Air raids on Islamic State group targets in Syria have left hundreds of civilians dead since 2014.

The latest strikes that hit a series of residential buildings on Thursday in Mayadeen, a town in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor, killed at least 35 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(AFP )

The Syrian army is in full control of the highway from Damascus to ancient Palmyra for the first time since 2014 after driving out jihadists, a monitor said on Friday.

Since troops recaptured Palmyra from the Islamic State group in March, the UNESCO World Heritage site had been accessible via Syria's third city Homs, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) to the west.

But after major advances on Thursday night, the army now controls the direct road from the capital to Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

(AFP )

Being accused of witchcraft is no laughing matter in Africa -- but movie director Rungano Nyoni decided a dose of humour was just what was needed to tackle a problem rampant in parts of the continent.

Set in Zambia, the sharp satire "I Am Not A Witch" has premiered to strong reviews at the Cannes film festival, taking aim at the blatant sexism behind accusations that overwhelmingly target women.

White tourists are seen gawping at women detained in a "witch camp" in the movie, taking pictures of them as if they're animals at a zoo.

(AFP )

G7 leaders on Friday found common cause on combatting terrorism after the bloodshed in Manchester but failed to bridge a gulf between Donald Trump and US partners on trade and climate change.

On the opening day of a two-day summit, the leaders endorsed a British call urging internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on the dissemination of jihadist content online, after 22 people were killed in the concert bombing in northwest England this week.

(AFP )

Greek police scrambled Friday to figure out how a letter bomb managed to wound former PM Lucas Papademos despite security checks being beefed up after a wave of similar attacks in March.

"We want to determine whether security procedures were followed," a police source told AFP, hours after Papademos and two guards were injured Thursday by the bomb that exploded as they rode in an armoured car in Athens.

"The fact that the attackers managed to get past security is worrying," the source said, adding that experts were trying to determine the nature of explosive used.

(AFP )

Russian authorities on Friday warned its citizens against visiting Britain after London raised its threat level in the wake of the Manchester suicide attack.

"The Russian embassy in Great Britain recommends Russian citizens refrain from travelling to the country, especially from visiting major cities, if such trips are not absolutely necessary," Russia's state tourism agency said in a statement.

"This is due to the fact that the government of Great Britain has raised the level of the terrorist threat in the country to the maximum possible," it said.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump said Friday the "problem" of an increasingly belligerent North Korea would be "solved", as he met his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe just before the start of the G7 summit.

"It's a big problem, it's a world problem," he said in the Sicilian town of Taormina, just weeks after he called North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un a "madman with nuclear weapons."

(AFP )

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday vowed France's total support for Britain's fight against terrorism after the Manchester attack as he met Prime Minister Theresa May at the G7 summit.

"We will be here to cooperate and do everything we can in order to increase this cooperation at the European level, in order to do more from a bilateral point of view against terrorism," Macron told her, in their first formal meeting since he took office.