In the world | Africatime
Sunday 26 March 2017

In the world

(AFP )

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance on Sunday entered a military airport held by the Islamic State jihadist group in northern Syria, a spokesman said.

The advance on Tabqa airbase comes as the alliance prepares an attack on IS's de facto Syrian capital Raqa, seeking to effectively surround the city before launching its assault.

SDF forces are also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by IS, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged, a technical source there told AFP.

(AFP )

The race for the leadership of Spain's main opposition Socialists heated up Sunday as the president of the southern Andalusia region launched her bid to head the deeply-divided party.

At a rally of some 6,000 party faithful in Madrid, among them former prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, 42-year-old career politician Susana Diaz said she would stand in the May primaries.

(AFP )

Brazilians furious at corruption took to the streets Sunday to support a politically explosive probe into high-level embezzlement and bribery.

The long-planned day of nationwide demonstrations kicked off in the capital Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro, with the nation's biggest city Sao Paulo due to start later.

Protesters, many wearing the yellow shirts of the country's beloved football team, said a huge investigation known as Operation Car Wash must not let up in intensity.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Yemen's rebel-held capital on Sunday in a show of support for the insurgents, two years after a Gulf coalition intervened against the rebels.

The Iran-backed Huthi rebels staged a show of force over the weekend with the mass rally in Sanaa and a symbolic court ruling against Yemen's embattled president, whose troops are supported by the Saudi-led Gulf coalition.

Crowds converged on Sabeen Square in Sanaa, raising banners in protest against the Saudi-led intervention and chanting a vow to "resist to the end".

(AFP )

Six aid workers have been killed in an ambush in South Sudan, the UN said Sunday, the latest such attack in the country suffering a famine blamed on a brutal civil war.

The aid workers were killed while travelling from the capital Juba to the town of Pibor in the east of the country.

"I am appalled and outraged by the heinous murder yesterday of six courageous humanitarians in South Sudan," said Eugene Owusu of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a statement.

(AFP )

Kenya dominated the World Cross-Country Championships on Sunday, Geoffrey Kamworor defending his men's title, Irene Cheptai leading a historic cleansweep in the women's race and Asbel Kiprop helping to secure a third gold in the mixed relay.

Kamworor had to rely on a late break to win the men's race in 28min 24sec, making him the first back-to-back winner since 2006.

Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei had led for most of the race, to the delight of the home crowd, with dozens of Ugandans running alongside him.

(AFP )

Bulgaria's parliamentary election on Sunday is tipped to be a close race between the Socialists, seen as closer to Russia, and the centre-right.

A new grouping of nationalist "patriots" is forecast to come third.

Forming a government after the third election in four years in the European Union's poorest country will be tough. And the resulting coalition may be short-lived, experts say.

Here is a look at the main people to watch:

- Left-wing live-wire -

(AFP )

Thousands of Ethiopians with family members in Israel have again had attempts to join them delayed, this time by a paperwork logjam, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

Threatened by a revolt on the issue within the ruling Likud party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pledged in April that 1,300 Ethiopians would be admitted within 12 months out of a possible 9,000 set to arrive over five years.

(AFP )

Several hundred people including top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested on Sunday as thousands of Russians defied bans to stage protests across the country against corruption.

Navalny called for the marches after publishing a detailed report this month accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of nonprofit organisations.

The report has been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube, but so far Medvedev has made no comment on the claims.

(AFP )

Iran's central bank said Sunday it will appeal Luxembourg's decision to freeze $1.6 billion of its assets, which the US is claiming as compensation for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The bank also said it would take steps to curb its remaining transactions in dollars, which it still receives particularly for oil sales.

In response to fresh US sanctions announced since last month, "Iran has sought to limit its dependence on the dollar... this policy will continue," the bank said in a statement published by state media.

(AFP )

The British government said Sunday that its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp, revealing it was used by the killer behind the parliament attack.

Khalid Masood, the 52-year-old Briton who killed four people before being shot dead in a rampage in Westminster on Wednesday, reportedly used the Facebook-owned service moments before the assault.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd told Sky News it was "completely unacceptable" that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service.

(AFP )

The euro -- and her fervent wish to withdraw from it -- is a central theme of every stump speech by French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, topping her list of 144 election pledges.

Le Pen calls the single European currency a "a knife that you stick in a country's ribs to force it to do what its people don't want to do".

The leader of the National Front (FN) blames the euro for driving up prices, hurting exports and adding to France's already colossal trade deficit.

(AFP )

Gunfire erupted in a crowded Ohio nightclub early Sunday after a personal dispute boiled over, killing one person and leaving 14 wounded as partygoers scattered into the night, authorities said.

The gunman remained at large following the shooting at early Sunday at the Cameo nightclub in Cincinnati that assistant police chief Paul Neudigate said was packed with revellers.

"There are no indications this incident is terrorism related," he said on Twitter.

(AFP )

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Yemen's rebel-held capital Sunday in a show of support for the insurgents, two years after a Gulf coalition intervened against the rebels.

The Yemen conflict pits the Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies against government troops supported since March 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition.

The Iran-backed rebels staged a show of force over the weekend with the mass rally in Sanaa and a symbolic court ruling against Yemen's embattled president.

(AFP )

Iraqi civil defence forces and volunteers removed bodies from the rubble of houses on Sunday in a west Mosul area where air strikes reportedly took a devastating toll on civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in Mosul, caught between advancing Iraqi forces and the Islamic State group jihadists that they are fighting to defeat.

Iraqi officials and witnesses said that air strikes killed civilians in the Mosul al-Jadida area in recent days, but the number of victims -- said by some to number in the hundreds -- could not be independently confirmed.

(AFP )

Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam, seen as tough and capable by supporters but hated by the pro-democracy camp, faces a difficult task in calming political tensions in the divided city.

Voted in as chief executive Sunday by a committee weighted towards Beijing, critics say she will only further polarise a society riven by protests two years ago that centred on fears of China's growing influence.

Lam, who will be the first woman to run Hong Kong, rose through the ranks as a career civil servant before taking public office.

(AFP )

When South Korea's Sewol ferry sank three years ago killing more than 300 people, it also devastated businesses close to the wreck site. Now owners hope its salvage will herald a change in their fortunes.

The ship went down in an archipelago off southwestern South Korea, whose 1,700 islands make up the Dadohaehaesang national park, the country's largest.

Rocky outcrops dot the waters, while bigger ones offer beautiful beaches, hiking trails, and accommodation with scenic ocean views, along with temples and seasonal festivals.

(AFP )

Hamas shut the crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday after blaming the Jewish state for the assassination of one of its officials in the Palestinian enclave.

A statement from the interior ministry in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas, said it was shutting the Erez crossing for an indefinite period as it investigates the murder on Friday.

Hamas officials have blamed Israeli intelligence agency Mossad for the killing of Mazen Faqha, 38, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Israel has not commented on the shooting.

(AFP )

A social worker in the drab eastern German city of Frankfurt an der Oder admits she feels isolated at work whenever talk turns to the country's record influx of refugees.

"I have to say that my colleagues are not very friendly towards foreigners and I am almost alone in my opinion," Elisabeth, who gave just her first name, told AFP.

Foreigners are rarely seen in the former communist city about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Berlin, but as in much of eastern Germany, there is deep suspicion toward migrants.

(AFP )

The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants -- and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.

Many in the military appreciate this increased autonomy, but critics charge it is raising civilian death rates, puts the lives of US troops at greater risk and leads to a lack of oversight of America's conflicts.

(AFP )

Uber has grounded its fleet of self-driving cars pending an investigation into the crash of an Uber autonomous vehicle in Arizona, a spokesperson for the car-hailing service said Sunday.

No one was seriously injured in the accident which occurred Friday in Tempe, Arizona while the vehicle -- a Volvo SUV -- was in self-driving mode, the company said.

"We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle," the Uber spokesperson said.

(AFP )

The target is behind a slope, the advance is unprotected: crawl, fire! Italian instructors in western Afghanistan have been using the relatively quiet winter to bolster Afghan troops against the Taliban.

The war-torn country's security forces are being killed in horrific numbers as they grapple with a militant resurgence, raising questions about how much more they can endure.

But under the banner of NATO's Resolute Support mission, Italian forces at Camp Arena in Herat province are racing the coming spring to give their Afghan counterparts a fighting chance.

(AFP )

Wood fashioned into lace and sculpted into evening dresses: the Hanae Mori Manuscrit label led the way this Tokyo Fashion Week in showing the world the original craftmanship that helps set Japan apart from the crowd.

Dresses of persimmon wood lace paired with soft falling black fabric were the star of the show at designer Yu Amatsu's autumn/winter 2017 collection for the brand that left fashionistas giddy with excitement.

(AFP )

Britain will take an unprecedented step into the unknown on Wednesday with the first formal move towards leaving the European Union, starting a two-year process that has already divided the country.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to protest against Brexit, and Scotland's parliament on Tuesday is set to vote in favour of holding an independence referendum.

(AFP )

German voters went to the polls Sunday in tiny Saarland state, where a resurgent centre-left hopes to strike a first blow in their battle to topple Chancellor Angela Merkel this year.

Although the state bordering France is home to just one million people, its vote half a year before national elections is seen as a test of the Social Democrats' rising fortunes under new leader Martin Schulz.

(AFP )

Bulgarian voters went to the polls Sunday in a tightly fought election pitting Socialists seen as closer to Russia against two-time centre-right premier Boyko Borisov, who is seeking another comeback.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote in the European Union's poorest country, where the average monthly salary is just 500 euros ($540) and corruption is rife, also indicated a strong showing by nationalists.

(AFP )

Brexit challenges Britain's global image of openness and tolerance, but Cool Britannia has what it takes to avoid being suddenly rebranded as uncool just because it quits the EU, advertising professionals say.

From music to film and fashion, Britain has for decades enhanced its image as a modern and dynamic culture. The ease of immigrating and working in Britain helped it build a reputation as a welcoming and hospitable society.

But the vote to leave the European Union last June sent a troubling message of tighter border controls and an exit from the EU's single market.

(AFP )

A quarter of a century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is finally set to pay off all the foreign debt it inherited from the vanished Communist empire.

Keen to establish a reputation of a reliable borrower -- despite Western financial sanctions over the Ukraine conflict -- Moscow announced last week it would pay off $125.2 million in Soviet-era debt to Bosnia-Herzegovina within 45 days.

The payment "completes the settlement of the external public debt of the former USSR, which is a historic event," said Russia's deputy finance minister Sergei Storchak.

(AFP )

Deeply divided and weakened by the rise of far-left party Podemos, Spain's Socialists are gearing up for a leadership contest that will see ousted chief Pedro Sanchez attempt a comeback.

The 45-year-old former economics professor will be up against two other prominent candidates in a contest that will prove decisive for the future of a party that has run out of steam, much like fellow socialists in France and Britain.

(AFP )

Friends, family and hundreds of wellwishers gathered in the Hollywood Hills on Saturday to celebrate the lives of beloved celebrity mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

Comedy actor Dan Aykroyd and singer James Blunt were among the stars who made their way to the Forest Lawn cemetery, where the pair are interred side by side following their deaths just one day apart in December.

Fisher, who catapulted to worldwide stardom as rebel warrior Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, died in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack. She was 60.

(AFP )

A US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 killed the senior Al-Qaeda military commander Qari Yasin, who has been linked to numerous attacks in his native Pakistan, the US military confirmed on Saturday.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

(AFP )

Quinton de Kock batted through the pain of a damaged finger to bolster South Africa with a defiant 90 as the deciding Test against New Zealand was evenly poised at the end of day three in Hamilton on Sunday.

In the rain disrupted Test, New Zealand were 67 without loss at stumps, with a rejuvenated Tom Latham on 42, in reply to South Africa's 314.

The injured De Kock and previously out-of-form Latham were the individual stars in the deciding Test with South Africa 1-0 up and New Zealand needing a win to draw the series.

(AFP )

British police admitted Saturday they may never know the motive behind this week's terror attack on parliament, after releasing all but one of 11 people held over the assault.

They have named 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood as the man who killed four people in Westminster on Wednesday, but issued a fresh plea for any information that might explain why he did it.

"We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this. That understanding may have died with him," said senior counter-terrorism officer Neil Basu.

(AFP )

Hong Kong's new leader Carrie Lam pledged Sunday to mend political rifts after winning a vote dismissed as a sham by democracy activists who fear the loss of the city's cherished freedoms.

Hong Kong has been semi-autonomous since it was handed back to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997.

But 20 years on, there are serious concerns Beijing is disregarding the handover agreement designed to protect Hong Kong's way of life.

(AFP )

Brazil won a major victory Saturday in the fight to restore credibility amid a tainted meat scandal, with key markets China, Egypt and Chile lifting their bans on its products.

The three countries, which had totally closed their markets to Brazilian meat at the beginning of the week, said they would open them to all but imports from the 21 Brazilian processing plants under investigation.

Brazil, South America's largest economy and the world's largest meat exporter, has been reeling since March 17, when Brazilian police announced "Operation Weak Flesh."