Tuesday 17 October 2017

In the world

(AFP )

The death toll from a US drone attack on a compound used by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network has risen to 26, officials said Tuesday, less than a week after a US-Canadian family held captive by the militants was rescued.

The barrage on Monday targeted a meeting of Haqqani fighters in Pakistan's remote tribal Kurram district along the Afghan border in the deadliest attack on the group this year.

(AFP )

Suicide bombers and gunmen launched an attack on a police training centre in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the latest violence to rock the war-torn country.

The Taliban claimed responsibility in a tweet for the continuing attack in the centre in Gardez, capital of Paktia province which borders Pakistan.

"At first a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near the training centre, making way for a number of attackers to start their assault," the interior ministry said in a statement.

(AFP )

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared a southern city "liberated from terrorists" after a five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group.

Duterte made the declaration in a rain-soaked speech to troops in Marawi where they have been fighting the militants in clashes that have claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced 400,000 people.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists," Duterte said, speaking moments just after explosions and gunfire were heard in the city.

(AFP )

Two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school due to growing insecurity and poverty, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, underlining the challenges of educating women in the patriarchal country 16 years after the Taliban were ousted.

While millions more girls are receiving an education than during the Taliban's repressive 1996-2001 regime, progress has stalled in recent years, the rights group warned, with the proportion of female students falling in parts of the country.

(AFP )

Though its motto is "one Africa, one voice", the reality of "Africa's parliament" could not be more different.

Since its creation in 2004, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has struggled to make its voice heard, prompting its deputies to ask themselves at a recent gathering: "What are we for?"

"Every time we're here, we obsess over the same things. If we are not making laws, then what's the point of being here?" Corneille Padonou of Benin said to his fellow parliamentarians.

(AFP )

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent Maltese journalist and blogger who made repeated and detailed corruption allegations against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's inner circle, was killed by a car bomb on Monday.

Muscat condemned the killing as a "barbaric" act and ordered security services to devote maximum resources to bringing those responsible to justice.

"What happened today is unacceptable on various levels. Today is a black day for our democracy and our freedom of speech," he told reporters.

(AFP )

The rescue of an abducted US-Canadian family in Pakistan last week has spotlighted their captors the Haqqani network, former CIA assets now considered one of the most dangerous factions fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who doubles as the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader, the extremist group has been blamed for spectacular attacks across Afghanistan since after the US invasion.

(AFP )

Tortured, sold as a slave three times and haunted with guilt after watching his cousin drown, Bangladeshi teenager Khaled Hossain fears he will never recover from the trauma of his failed attempt to reach Europe.

Even as hundreds of thousands surge into Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar hoping for a better life, there is an exodus of those who feel the country is at breaking point and salvation lies elsewhere.

(AFP )

The death of dozens of children in a 2013 shipwreck after repeated SOS calls were ignored has returned to haunt Italy as survivors relive the nightmare in a new documentary.

Images and recordings from the tragedy in which 268 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean capture the horrific final hours of those whose deaths would shame Italy into launching a widescale search and rescue mission.

(AFP )

Migrants wearing burkas and hijabs attack a Czech pensioner, kick over her walker and dash into a building with a sign saying 'welfare benefits', leaving her lying helpless on the pavement.

The staged election clip then tells Czech voters "you can choose whether to give money to our children and seniors or to Muslims and Africans".

The far-right Bloc Against Islamisation, which produced the clip, is one of 31 parties running in the Czech Republic's October 20-21 general election.

(AFP )

A controversial award-winning film that shook up Hong Kong with its bleak visions of the city's future is to be turned into a pan-Asian franchise, with Japanese, Taiwanese and Thai versions in the works.

The original "Ten Years" movie was a collection of short films imagining how life might be in Hong Kong in 2025.

Seen as a thinly veiled warning about life under Beijing's rule -- including diminished human rights and widespread censorship -- the film was banned on the mainland but was a critical success, with screenings around the world.

(AFP )

For decades, she was thought to have started out as a man.

But a sketch uncovered at an obscure Parisian auction in 2012 triggered groundbreaking research that revealed the original painting beneath Jean-Honore Fragonard's "Young Girl Reading" to be a woman gazing outward.

"The drawing pointed out this likely inaccuracy," said Michael Swicklik, senior conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, adjusting his magnifying glasses to examine the luminous 250-year-old portrait of a girl in a bright lemon dress absorbed in her book.

(AFP )

Plans to renovate a historic and beloved Indian restaurant in central London are causing a stir, pitting the developers against high profile defenders, including intellectuals, Anglo-Indian businessmen and lawmakers from both countries.

The India Club, a restaurant and bar on the Strand near London's West End, is trying to use its storied history to block proposals by owners Marston Properties to turn the seven storey building into an upmarket boutique hotel.

(AFP )

Three British and three US authors will on Tuesday discover which one of them is the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize, whose shortlist stirred controversy over its big name omissions.

US author George Saunders is the bookmakers' favourite to take the world's most prestigious English-language literary award for his first full-length novel "Lincoln in the Bardo".

The book weaves a tale around the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie, using the accounts of hundreds of narrators.

(AFP )

Guadalupe Vazquez is standing below the wreckage of what used to be her home, patiently waiting for workers to recover the few belongings she has left after Mexico's September 19 earthquake: some photographs of her daughters hanging on the wall, still visible from the street.

The small but spry octogenarian lived in Mexico City's Narvarte neighborhood in a four-story apartment building, half of which collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude quake.

(AFP )

A new United Nations mission dedicated to supporting the rule of law in Haiti began Monday, after the end of a 13-year peacekeeping mission in the deeply impoverished Caribbean nation rocked by political instability.

The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), composed of 1,275 police officers and 350 civilians, will also train national police and advance human rights.

(AFP )

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday in northern Florida ahead of a speech by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, who was involved in a march in August that ended in violent clashes.

Spencer, a leader of the so-called "alt-right" movement, is due to give a speech Thursday at the University of Florida in Gainesville, a town of some 130,000.

Saying there was an "imminent" threat of a potential emergency as a result, Scott explained that the emergency declaration will ensure that security forces have all the necessary resources at their disposition.

(AFP )

Mexico's attorney general Raul Cervantes resigned Monday after reports emerged he dodged taxes on a Ferrari sports car, a scandal opponents said made him unfit to lead a newly reformed criminal justice system.

Cervantes, a heavyweight in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said on Twitter he had sent his resignation to President Enrique Pena Nieto and the senate "to avoid delaying any longer the urgent laws that Mexico needs."

(AFP )

Celebrities and everyday people flooded social media with personal accounts of sexual assault and harassment Monday, responding to calls to break the culture of silence around such abuse.

The massive global response was triggered by allegations recently made public against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is accused of rape and abuse dating back decades.

People shared stories and offered support under multiple hashtags, including #MeToo in English, #balancetonporc ("Rat out your pig") in French, and #quellavoltache ("That time that") in Italian.

(AFP )

Fernando Lourenco, 71. his wife and sister were asleep in their home in western Portugal when the flames engulfed the hillsides and descended into the village, The retirees never woke up.

"I was at one end of the village battling the flames and in two minutes the wall of fire had already reached the other side," said Ricardo Lopes. a 37-year-old teacher, his eyes red from the fumes and fatigue.

He had arrived at Vila Nova de Ventosa nestled between two hills, where his parents live, around the same time as the fierce blaze fanned by strong wind gusts.

(AFP )

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that Africa's Sahel region was descending into all-out violence and said the United Nations must help the region confront the threat from Islamist militants.

In a report to the Security Council obtained by AFP, Guterres said the United Nations and other donors should shore up a regional force set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

(AFP )

British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said they agreed after talks Monday to "accelerate" efforts for a Brexit deal ahead of a decisive EU summit this week.

May came to Brussels on short notice for a working dinner with Juncker as fears grow that negotiations on Britain's exit from the bloc in 2019 could end without an agreement.

In a short statement notably lacking on the key details at stake in the increasingly bad-tempered negotiations, the pair said their meeting took place in a "constructive and friendly atmosphere".

(AFP )

Washington is "not taking sides" following clashes between Iraqi forces and the country's Kurds, US President Donald Trump said Monday, as tensions escalate following the autonomous Kurdish region's independence referendum.

Speaking after Iraqi troops and tanks swept across the northern province capturing oil and military targets from the Kurds and seizing the governor's office in Kirkuk city, Trump made clear he was not going to inject himself into the dispute between two US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

(AFP )

People wounded in the weekend's massive bombing in Somalia -- the deadliest ever attack to hit the conflict-torn nation -- were flown to Turkey on Monday for treatment, an AFP photographer said.

The Turkish military plane carrying 35 wounded Somalis landed at an Ankara airport, where ambulances were at the ready to rush the victims to hospital.

Turkey strongly condemned Saturday's bombing in Mogadishu which killed at least 276 people and left 300 injured.

(AFP )

US President Donald Trump on Monday dubbed all sexual assault allegations against him "fake news" after his campaign was subpoenaed as part of a defamation suit brought by a former reality show contestant.

"All I can say is it's totally fake news. It's fake and made-up stuff and it's disgraceful what happens, but that happens in the world of politics," he told reporters at the White House.

(AFP )

The Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday despite opposition from the United States and a leading rights group.

DR Congo was among the 15 countries who won seats during a vote at the UN General Assembly. They will serve on the 47-member council from January 2018 through the end of 2020.

Kinshasa now finds itself in the rare position of sitting on the Geneva-based council while the body investigates allegations of killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers in the Kasai region of the DR Congo.

(AFP )

President Donald Trump said Monday that Cuba has a responsibility to prevent further covert attacks on the health US diplomats at their mission in Havana.

Asked by reporters whether he agreed that the Cuban government is capable of halting the mystery attacks, Trump said: "I do believe Cuba is responsible.

"I do believe that and it's a very unusual attack, but I do believe Cuba is responsible. Yes," Trump told reporters.

(AFP )

Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero on Monday was allowed to walk free from a court in Madrid where he faced charges of sedition, a judicial source said.

Spanish state prosecutors had demanded he be remanded in custody pending trial on accusations that he failed to stop Catalonia's banned independence referendum from going ahead on October 1.

Trapero, who became a popular figure in Catalonia for his handling of the August jihadist attacks in Barcelona and nearby Cambrils, faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty of sedition.

(AFP )

North Korea on Monday told the United Nations that it will never negotiate the dismantling of its nuclear weapons unless the United States reverses its "hostile" policy.

Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong told the General Assembly's committee on disarmament that the situation on the Korean peninsula "has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment."

(AFP )

More than 11,000 firefighters were battling over a dozen large wildfires in California on Monday as body recovery teams searched incinerated homes for victims of the blazes that have left 41 people dead.

California fire officials said they had made good progress fighting the fires over the weekend and a forecast of rain this week could further help their efforts.

Sheriff Rob Giordano said 88 people were still missing in Sonoma County, the county hardest-hit by the fires that began eight days ago.

(AFP )

A gay man living in Chechnya on Monday went public to describe his detention and torture by police during a crackdown on homosexuals in the region ruled by strongman Ramzan Kadryov.

Maxim Lapunov, who gave a press conference in Moscow, is the first victim to come forward since reports emerged in March of gay men being imprisoned and beaten in the mainly Muslim region where homosexuality is taboo.

The reports prompted international condemnation and German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly urged President Vladimir Putin in May to investigate.

(AFP )

A British scientist pleaded guilty Monday to 137 criminal offences involving online abuse, including encouraging the rape of a four-year-old boy, the National Crime Agency said in a statement.

Matthew Falder, 28, who dubbed himself "666devil" and "evilmind" online, blackmailed many of his 50 victims into sending "severe abuse images" of themselves.

Falder, whose victims ranged from young children to people in their 30s, would pose as a woman and get his victims to send naked images. He would then manipulate them into sending increasingly depraved abuse images.

(AFP )

Superstar chef Gordon Ramsay revealed the secret of his success Monday, "I am the biggest pain in the ass in the world, because I want the best."

The British cook said he was a stress junkie who needs to master whatever he does, whether in getting seven Michelin stars for his haute cuisine or sorting out failing restaurants in his television show "Hell's Kitchen".

"I need to be at the coalface, I need to be where the heartbeat is, where there is that level of trepidation," he told the MIPCOM television industry gathering at Cannes on the French Riviera.

(AFP )

Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony mainly controlled by Morocco, but whose territory is claimed by the pro-independence Polisario Front.

Morocco says the territory -- which is home to large reserves of phosphate and rich fish stocks off its coast -- is an integral part of the kingdom.

But the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which campaigns for independence, demands a referendum on self-determination for the desert territory of half a million residents.

(AFP )

For the first time, scientists have witnessed the cataclysmic crash of two ultra-dense neutron stars in a galaxy far away, and concluded that such impacts forged at least half the gold in the Universe.

Shockwaves and light flashes from the collision travelled some 130 million light-years to be captured by Earthly detectors on August 17, excited teams revealed at press conferences held around the globe on Monday as a dozen related science papers were published in top academic journals.