Friday 26 May 2017

In the world

(AFP )

G7 leaders met Friday with divisions on trade and climate change, and fresh friction surrounding Donald Trump, threatening to undermine a show of unity against jihadist terrorism.

"There is no doubt that this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years," European Union president Donald Tusk predicted, setting the tone for the two-day meet in Sicily's ancient hilltop resort of Taormina.

The meeting comes days after children were among 22 people killed in a concert bomb attack in Manchester.

(AFP )

Greek police scrambled Friday to determine how a letter bomb wounded 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 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.

(AFP )

A Tunisian court held its first public hearing on Friday in the trial of 33 people in connection with a 2015 jihadist beach massacre that killed dozens of foreign tourists.

A student armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenades went on a rampage in the Port el-Kantaoui resort near Sousse killing 38 holidaymakers, 30 of them Britons, before being shot dead by police.

It was the second of two deadly attacks on foreigners claimed by the Islamic State group that year which devastated Tunisia's once-lucrative tourism sector.

(AFP )

Britain's politicians resume campaigning in earnest on Friday with national security thrust into the spotlight as police scramble to bust a Libya-linked jihadist network thought to be behind the Manchester terror attack.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had suspended campaigning after Monday's suicide bombing at a Manchester pop concert, which killed 22 people, including many teenagers, and wounded dozens more.

(AFP )

A search and rescue exercise turned real for a US Coast Guard crew who found six Tongan fishermen missing at sea for a week, New Zealand officials said Friday.

New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre officer Greg Johnston said Tongan police raised the alarm as the US Coast Guard C-130 Hercules was preparing to return to Honolulu following a multi-national rescue drill in Auckland.

The US crew were alerted as they were flying through the area of the Pacific Ocean where the six were believed to be.

(AFP )

Foreigners are among Islamist gunmen battling security forces in a southern Philippine city, the government said Friday as the reported death toll from four days of clashes climbed to 46.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao on Tuesday, hours after gunmen loyal to the Islamic State group rampaged through Marawi city in response to a raid on one of their safe houses.

(AFP )

The boy was recruited by Colombia's ELN rebels when he was just eight and saw his brother and girlfriend killed. After fleeing from the guerrillas last year, he is now trying to live a normal life.

Now 18, he belongs to the Victus theater project, made up of ex-guerrillas, former paramilitary fighters, retired soldiers and civilians caught up in Colombia's five decade long conflict. He did not want to give his name.

(AFP )

Early in the morning, Maria and her comrades-in-arms creep out from the storm drains under the Caracas streets.

They put on their helmets and black masks and take up their wooden shields.

"The ruckus is starting," Maria, 30, tells her companions. And off they go to look for the riot cops.

Venezuela's political opposition insists that demonstrations must be peaceful if they are to achieve political change in a country wracked by hunger and violence.

(AFP )

Heavily pregnant at 16 after being raped by an insurgent commander, Malala was on the brink of committing suicide when she found refuge and hope in a women's shelter in Kabul.

The non-descript building, tucked away in a residential neighbourhood in the Afghan capital, is one of the few hidden sanctuaries where battered women can seek support.

Managed by the charity Women for Afghan Women (WAW), the shelter has given hope to those such as Malala in a country where rape, abuse and forced marriages are commonplace.

(AFP )

A US Republican candidate accused of assaulting a reporter was declared the projected winner of Thursday's Montana special congressional election, which had been considered a bellwether in the opening months of Donald Trump's crisis-ridden presidency.

Greg Gianforte -- a wealthy businessman who had been expected to comfortably win the contest until recent weeks -- emerged the projected victor despite Wednesday's clash, taking 50.4 percent of the votes against his Democratic opponent's 43.8 percent, according to CNN, with 84 percent of the votes tallied.

(AFP )

G7 leaders meet Friday determined to put on a display of united resolve in the fight against jihadist terrorism, despite deep divisions on trade and global warming.

The two-day summit in Sicily's ancient hilltop resort of Taormina kicks off four days after children were among 22 people killed in a concert bomb attack in Manchester.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a discussion on terrorism in one of Friday's working sessions and is expected to issue a call for G7 countries to put more pressure on internet companies to remove extremist content.

(AFP )

Indonesian authorities have arrested three men in connection with a twin suicide bombing at a Jakarta bus terminal that killed three police officers, an official said Friday, as the Islamic State (IS) group claimed the attack.

The elite anti-terror squad working with regular police Thursday detained the suspects around Bandung in the west of Java island and searched their homes, authorities said.

(AFP )

US compliance with its commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change would be "crippling" to growth, the White House said Friday.

During his election campaign, avowed climate sceptic Donald Trump promised to exit the 2015 UN pact on limiting global warming.

But Trump has now said he will make a decision after returning to Washington following the G7 summit in Sicily which starts Friday, at the end of his international tour.

(AFP )

Britain's politicians resume campaigning in earnest on Friday with national security in the spotlight, as police scramble to bust a Libya-linked jihadist network thought to be behind the Manchester terror attack.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had suspended campaigning after Monday's bombing at a Manchester pop concert, which killed 22 people, including many teenagers, and wounded dozens more.

(AFP )

South Korea on Friday authorised a civilian NGO to contact the North to discuss resuming humanitarian aid and projects, the first example of new liberal president Moon Jae-In's pursuit of dialogue with Pyongyang.

The centre-left president favours engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table, rather than the hardline stance taken by the conservative government of his ousted precedessor Park Geun-Hye.

Unauthorised contacts with North Koreans or visits to the North are punishable by jail terms in the South.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States at a meeting Thursday with European Union leaders, German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

"The Germans are bad, very bad," he said during a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU Council head Donald Tusk and other senior officals in Brussels, the news magazine's online edition said.

"See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this," he reportedly said according to "participants at the meeting".

(AFP )

Senior Trump administration officials fear a nuclear arms race in Asia-Pacific if an increasingly belligerent North Korea is not reined in, Australia's foreign minister said Friday after talks in New York.

Pyongyang has launched a series of missiles this year, including a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range projectile this month which the North claimed was capable of carrying a "heavy" nuclear warhead, fuelling tensions with Washington.

(AFP )

The activities of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner have come under FBI scrutiny as part of the probe of Russian interference in last year's presidential election, US media reported Thursday.

Although it is unclear whether Kushner is a main focus of the probe, he is under investigation for the "extent and nature" of his interaction with Russian officials, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

(AFP )

Diplomacy can be a white-knuckle ride at times, but French President Emmanuel Macron refused to be shaken when he found himself in an unexpected standoff with US counterpart Donald Trump Thursday.

Former reality TV star Trump is known to make visitors flinch with a strong handshake that he often combines with a wrench of the arm to leave his victim off balance.

But Macron, France's 39-year-old political wunderkind, appeared to be ready for him when they met for lunch at the US embassy in Brussels ahead of a NATO summit.

(AFP )

Ecuador's new president Lenin Moreno warned Julian Assange Thursday not to interfere in the politics of the South American country, whose embassy the WikiLeaks founder has lived in for the past five years.

The election victory of Moreno, who took office Wednesday, came as a relief for Assange after the socialist president's conservative rival had vowed to kick him out of Ecuador's London embassy.

On the night of the election in April, Assange took to Twitter to celebrate Lasso's loss.

(AFP )

US-led coalition air strikes on Thursday killed at least 35 civilians in an eastern Syrian town held by the Islamic State group, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit a series of residential buildings in Mayadeen, a town in Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

"Among the dead are at least 26 relatives of IS fighters, many of them women and children, including Syrians and Moroccans," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The other nine are Syrian civilians and include five children," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

(AFP )

Security forces in El Salvador on Thursday captured the female leader of a hit-squad-for-hire two weeks after she escaped from a Guatemalan prison where she was serving a 94-year sentence, officials said.

Marixa Lemus, a 45-year-old Guatemalan who went by the nickname "The Boss," was arrested in the west of El Salvador near the Guatemalan border.

She had dyed her hair blond "to try to avoid being identified," Guatemalan Interior Minister Francisco Rivas told reporters.

Lemus had escaped her military-run prison north of Guatemala City on May 11.

(AFP )

A group of 91 prisoners escaped a jail in northeastern Brazil on Thursday by fleeing through a 30-meter (100-foot) tunnel, Brazilian media said.

Nine of the inmates have been found, while police are attempting to catch the remaining 82 who disappeared from the prison in Parnamirim, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, according to the Agencia Brasil news agency.

The incident comes just months after 56 inmates escaped from the Alcacuz jail, also in Rio Grande do Norte, during a bloody battle between two rival gangs in which 26 people were massacred.

(AFP )

Ukrainians took to the internet Thursday to lambaste star US artist Jeff Koons over his latest New York installation, a huge sculpture that appears remarkably similar to a work by a Ukrainian artist who died in 1993.

Koons has said his 14-metre (45-foot) -high inflatable "Seated Ballerina", installed this month above the statue of Hercules at Rockefeller Center, was inspired by a small Russian porcelain figurine from the end of the 19th century.

(AFP )

Bulgaria's government sparked an outcry Thursday after it announced that the country's vice premier, a nationalist notorious for verbal attacks on Roma and migrants, would head a major panel on minorities.

Valery Simeonov will head the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, which advises on policies to promote the social inclusion of marginalised groups, the government press office announced.

Simeonov, 62, is co-leader of the United Patriots (UP), the junior party in the governing coalition.

(AFP )

A US federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a fresh setback to President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban, upholding a lower court's decision to block the measure targeting travelers from six Muslim majority countries.

The government quickly announced its intention to appeal the decision -- the latest in a series of stinging judicial defeats for the Republican billionaire, who took office in January -- to the Supreme Court.

(AFP )

A Pentagon investigation has concluded that at least 105 civilians died in an anti-IS strike in the Iraqi city of Mosul in March, officials said Thursday, but they blamed the toll on a secondary explosion of jihadist munitions.

A US aircraft delivered a single precision-guided bomb into a building in west Mosul on March 17, with the aim of killing a pair of snipers on the second story of the structure in the al-Jadida neighborhood, which at the time was under Islamic State control.

(AFP )

Nearly 200 people have been arrested by federal agents in southern California as part of a five-day operation targeting immigrants convicted of crimes or in the country illegally, officials said Thursday.

The crackdown, which ended Wednesday and was spearheaded by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), focused on people with prior criminal offenses including for drug trafficking, rape and domestic violence, authorities said.

(AFP )

Moeen Ali insisted no one in the England camp was getting carried away after they underlined their Champions Trophy credentials with a comprehensive 72-run one-day international win over South Africa at Headingley.

Wednesday's success saw England go 1-0 up in a three-match series against South Africa, top of the International Cricket Council's ODI rankings.

The decisive win was all the more timely given that next week sees the start of the Champions Trophy, a tournament featuring the world's leading eight ODI sides.

(AFP )

Former US senator Joe Lieberman withdrew from consideration as FBI director Thursday after President Donald Trump chose a lawyer from the same law firm where Lieberman worked to advise him on the deepening Russia scandal.

As head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lieberman would have overseen the investigation into potential Trump campaign links to Russian meddling in last year's election, the very same probe that the lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, is expected to defend Trump against.

(AFP )

Hungary will not change a controversial higher education law a government official said Thursday, despite an EU threat of legal action over fears it targets a prestigious university founded by US billionaire George Soros.

The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation EU, last month launched a so-called infringement action against Hungary over revisions to its education law which were fast-tracked through parliament last month.

It gave Budapest until Thursday to respond to questions in its "letter of formal notice" or face being taken to court.

(AFP )

Prosecutors in Slovakia have asked the EU country's Supreme Court to ban a far-right party that has become the third most popular political group, saying it is working to subvert democracy.

The party, known as Kotleba-People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), has campaigned heavily against letting migrants into the country, and won seats in parliament for the first time in March 2016.

It currently has 14 MPs sitting in the 150-member parliament.