Friday 23 June 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Multiple blasts killed at least 26 people and wounded dozens in two Pakistani cities on the last Friday of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, as officials warned the toll could rise.

Authorities said 13 people were killed and 124 wounded when twin blasts tore through a market in Parachinar, capital of Kurram district, a mainly Shiite area of Pakistan's tribal belt.

Local official Nasrullah Khan told AFP that the first blast detonated as the market was crowded with shoppers preparing for the Eid ul-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan.

(AFP )

The CIA had top-level intelligence last August that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an operation to help Donald Trump win the US presidential race, the Washington Post reported Friday.

The intelligence shocked the White House and put US security chiefs on a top-secret crisis footing to figure out how to react.

(AFP )

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who has declared his intention to run in Russia's presidential elections next year, is ineligible to be a candidate, the country's central electoral commission said Friday.

"Currently Alexei Navalny is not eligible to stand for office," the commission said in a statement, citing the fact that he is serving a five-year suspended sentence for embezzlement, which falls into the category of a serious crime.

Someone who is convicted of a serious crime cannot stand for public office for 10 years after their sentence ends, the panel said.

(AFP )

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel used the French president's first Brussels summit Friday to deliver an unmistakeable message: their countries intend to lead the EU's post-Brexit revival.

The Franco-German power couple held an unusual joint press conference after meeting their 26 European Union counterparts, against a backdrop of their respective flags and the bloc's blue banner with yellow stars.

(AFP )

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday decided to send a group of experts to Democratic Republic of Congo to help investigate an explosion of deadly violence in the Kasai region.

A council resolution called on the UN rights office to dispatch a team of international experts to help Kinshasa investigate gross rights violations in the region, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers.

(AFP )

EU leaders warned Friday that Britain's plans to protect the rights of European citizens post-Brexit risked leaving them worse off, after Prime Minister Theresa May made what she insisted was a "fair" offer.

"My first impression is the UK offer is below our expectations and this risks worsening the situation of our citizens in the UK," EU President Donald Tusk told a news conference after the second day of a Brussels summit.

(AFP )

Zimbabwe's Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday pledged that next year's elections will be peaceful, "free and fair" despite opposition concerns about electoral interference.

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference aimed at courting South African investors, Mnangagwa noted that the last election in 2013 "was free of any violent incidents."

"We believe that we shall have a free and a fair election during 2018," he told reporters, pledging that the upcoming presidential and parliamentary ballot would, like the last, be "free of violence."

(AFP )

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday decided to send a group of experts to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help investigate an explosion of deadly violence in the Kasai region.

A council resolution called on the UN rights office to dispatch a team of international experts to help Kinshasa investigate gross rights violations in the region, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers.

(AFP )

The British van driver suspected of mowing down Muslim worshippers near a London mosque appeared in court on Friday charged with terrorism-related murder and attempted murder.

Darren Osborne, 47, appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, speaking to confirm his name, age and that he had no fixed address.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would argue that Osborne, "motivated by extreme political views and a personal hatred of Muslims, acted to kill, maim, injure and terrify as many people as possible" during this week's attack.

(AFP )

Colombia's FARC rebels will complete their historic disarmament on Friday, ending half a century of war, President Juan Manuel Santos said during an official visit to France.

"This June 23, the United Nations mission in Colombia will announce that the FARC has handed over 100 percent of its weapons," Santos told an economic forum in Paris.

"Today the FARC, the most powerful and oldest guerrilla movement in Latin America, will cease to exist," he said to warm applause.

This date "changes the history of Colombia," Santos said.

(AFP )

A double-decker tourist bus became stuck under a central Paris bridge on Friday, injuring at least four passengers, firefighters said.

The bus crashed into the Alexandre III bridge, a tourist magnet due to its ornate structure and views over the Eiffel Tower and River Seine. The Paris fire service said one of the injured was seriously hurt.

The crash came during a large-scale event on the Seine to promote the French capital's bid for the 2024 Olympics, with a floating running track installed across the river just next to the bridge.

(AFP )

US social media giant Facebook launched a campaign in Britain on Friday to counter the spread of online extremism following warnings from Prime Minister Theresa May after four terror attacks in three months.

Facebook said it would seek to educate charities and other organisations on how to fight hate speech, in the wake of recent terror attacks in Belgium, Britain and France.

(AFP )

North Korea on Friday accused the US of waging a "smear campaign" over the death of a student who was sent back home in a coma, denying he was tortured or abused.

President Donald Trump has slammed the treatment of 22-year-old American Otto Warmbier, who spent more than a year in detention in the secretive state, as "a total disgrace".

"The smear campaign against (North Korea) staged in the US compels us to make firm determination that... we should further sharpen the blade of law", the foreign ministry spokesman said according to state media.

(AFP )

The US navy said Friday it will hold a memorial ceremony for seven sailors killed when their destroyer collided with a container ship off Japan's coast last weekend.

The service will be held on Tuesday at the naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, where the badly damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald is based, a navy spokeswoman said.

The sailors' relatives, US military officials and some 300 crew members of the guided-missile warship will join the private event, she added, without releasing other details.

(AFP )

EU leaders gave a distinctly cool response Friday to Britain's plans to protect the rights of European citizens living there after Brexit, after Prime Minister Theresa May set out what she said was a "fair" offer.

"That's a first step but this step is not sufficient," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters as he arrived for the second day of an EU summit in Brussels.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the proposal outlined by May over an EU leaders' dinner on Thursday was "particularly vague".

(AFP )

Manslaughter charges could be filed over London's deadly tower blaze, police said Friday after finding that exterior cladding on the building had failed safety tests and that the fire started with a faulty fridge.

The government ordered immediate checks on the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer model blamed for the June 14 blaze in west London, which left 79 people presumed dead.

Hotpoint-branded fridge freezers were manufactured by Indesit between 2006 and 2009, before Indesit was bought by current owner Whirlpool.

(AFP )

A cholera outbreak in war-ravaged Yemen could infect more than 300,000 people by the end of August, up from nearly 193,000 cases today, the United Nations said Friday.

"Probably at the end of August we will reach 300,000" cases, UN children's agency spokeswoman Meritxell Relano told reporters in Geneva during a conference call.

Since the outbreak was declared in April, an estimated 1,265 people have died, she said.

"The number of cases continue to increase," Relano said, adding that all of Yemen's 21 governorates have been affected.

(AFP )

EU migrants said Friday that far from being "generous", Prime Minister Theresa May's offer for their post-Brexit residency was niggardly and left them prey to the whims of British lawmakers.

The offer outlined by the beleaguered May at an EU summit was also condemned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as woefully insufficient.

"The PM's plan doesn't come close to fully guaranteeing the rights of the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK," Khan tweeted, although British officials said further details would come on Monday.

(AFP )

French President Emmanuel Macron's new government took a tough line on Calais migrants Friday, with his interior minister saying he does not want the northern port to become an "abscess".

Making his first visit to a city which has for years been a magnet for migrants and refugees hoping to cross to Britain, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb ruled out building a reception centre for asylum-seekers in Calais, saying it would only encourage more people to come.

(AFP )

A female Japanese politician has resigned after an audio tape emerged of her violently attacking a male secretary, and reportedly threatening to crush his head with a lead pipe.

Mayuko Toyota, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate and up-and-coming member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), can be heard screaming at the unnamed aide, saying he should die as she mocked his thinning hair.

Her 55-year-old secretary can be heard repeatedly apologising and begging the lawmaker to stop kicking and beating him.

(AFP )

North Korea has tested a rocket engine that could be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile, a US official said, in an apparent provocation ahead of a summit between President Donald Trump and the leader of South Korea.

President Moon Jae-In heads to Washington next week to meet Trump for the first time since taking office in May, as tensions soar on the Korean peninsula over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons programme.

The US official confirmed to AFP that Pyongyang tested a rocket engine on Thursday, on condition of anonymity and without providing further details.

(AFP )

Two Russian warships and a submarine in the Mediterranean have fired missiles at Islamic State group targets in Syria, the defence ministry said Friday.

It said that Turkish and Israeli military "were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through communication channels," but it did not mention the United States.

Russia has suspended its communication channel with the US on military operations in Syria after a US jet shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday, with Moscow accusing Washington of failing to issue a warning.

(AFP )

North Korea on Friday accused the United States of waging a "smear campaign" over the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and sent back home in a coma.

US President Donald Trump has slammed the incarceration and eventual death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier as "a total disgrace".

"The smear campaign against (North Korea) staged in the US compels us to make firm determination that humanitarianism and benevolence for the enemy are a taboo and we should further sharpen the blade of law", the foreign ministry spokesman said in state media.

(AFP )

Maria de Jesus Patricio has a treatment for pretty much anything that ails you: "toad grass" for cholesterol, "dragon's blood" for infections, "sacred bark" for constipation or anger.

Now the traditional healer is turning her attention to her biggest patient yet, as the first indigenous woman to run for president of Mexico -- a country she says is sick with the "cancer" of unfettered capitalism, corruption and drug trafficking.

(AFP )

One of the top surviving leaders of Cambodia's ruthless Khmer Rouge regime on Friday denied genocide charges and rejected the label of "murderer" in forceful closing remarks at a lengthy UN-backed trial.

The Khmer Rouge's former head of state, 85-year-old Khieu Samphan, spoke angrily to the Phnom Penh chamber trying him and another senior leader, 90-year-old Nuon Chea, for the regime's killing of ethnic Vietnamese and Muslim minorities, forced marriage and rape.

(AFP )

President Xi Jinping will come to Hong Kong next week to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain, local media said, in a visit that will be incendiary to activists.

Although widely expected, officials have not so far said whether Xi will make the trip, his first to Hong Kong since becoming president in 2013.

The South China Morning Post reported for the first time Friday that Xi's visit had been "confirmed", citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the visit.

(AFP )

China's top diplomat told Donald Trump that Beijing was willing to keep working with Washington to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula -- days after the US leader implied that Chinese efforts had failed.

The meeting between State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Trump at the White House on Thursday also came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged China to step up diplomatic and economic pressure on the North over its nuclear weapons.

(AFP )

Raniero Mancinelli cannot afford to drop a stitch. Pope Francis is creating five new cardinals next week and the race is on to have their scarlet robes ready in time.

The Italian tailor's family shop, located just outside the walls of Vatican City, hums to the sounds of customers from every corner of the Catholic world.

As a Filipino nun sizes up the least expensive chalice on offer from one display, a young Brazilian priest is buying reams of gold embroidery.

Nearby an Irish colleague is squeezing into a shiny liturgical robe that comes in just one size.

(AFP )

Bollywood bad boy Salman Khan's latest movie opened in Indian cinemas Friday but film analysts are sceptical it will have the same box office success as his previous Eid blockbusters.

It is something of a tradition in the Hindi film industry for Khan to star in the big release of the Eid holiday to mark the end of Ramadan, which this year is expected to fall on Monday.

(AFP )

An explosion targeting a police vehicle in Pakistan's southwestern Quetta city on Friday killed at least 11 people and injured around 20 others, officials said.

The explosion occurred in front of the office of the police chief in Quetta, which is capital of mineral-rich southern Balochistan, a province that is rife with separatist and Islamist insurgency.

"Eleven people have died... and at least 20 others are injured," Fareed Ahmed, medical superintendent at Civil Hospital told AFP, saying the death toll had increased from five earlier in the morning.

(AFP )

A dusty teddy bear strewn on the floor, family photos on a wall and dried underwear on a clothesline are among the few remnants of life in deserted homes of a Philippine city left in ruins by war.

A dog eats the carcass of a cat on a street littered with rubbish where soldiers patrol, while military planes and helicopters continue the relentless bombing of Islamist militants hidden in other homes a kilometre (half a mile) away.

(AFP )

Albania votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday with hopes that a long tradition of polling fraud, violence and disputed results will come to an end and propel the country towards EU membership.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama, 52, appears to have just a slight advantage over the centre-right Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha, 43, according to opinion polls.

After a 2009 election, the Rama-led Socialist opposition cried fraud and urged supporters onto the streets for months of protests. Three were shot dead in 2011.

(AFP )

Political players contesting Albania's legislative election on Sunday harbour long-held animosities that border on hatred.

The vote, which pitches the ruling Socialists against the opposition Democratic Party, will test the democratic maturity of a country eager to join the European Union.

Here are the main players:

- Artist-turned-PM -

(AFP )

EU leaders on Friday poured cold water on a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in strategic European industries.

European leaders discussed the divisive topic on the second day of an EU summit in Brussels, as Europe seeks to lead on free trade in response to the protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will formally nominate Republican fundraiser and American football team owner Woody Johnson to be his ambassador to Britain.

The pick had been expected since January, when the then president-elect announced his intention to tap Johnson as envoy to Washington's closest European ally during a leadership lunch with congressional Republicans and incoming cabinet members.