Saturday, August 31, 2013

World News Snippets

31 08 2013

At least 5 killed in suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber detonated explosives near a police checkpoint and a bank in southern Afghanistan on Saturday morning, killing at least five people, officials said. Most of the victims were civilians. The bank building was badly damaged, AP reported, adding that no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban fighters have recently escalated their activity as US-led foreign forces cut their presence in the country, with primary responsibility for security now handed over to Afghan troops.

15 killed in liquid ammonia leak in Shanghai

At least 15 people died Saturday after liquid ammonia lead at a refrigeration unit in a factory in Shanghai, China’s Xinhua reports. Over 30 people were hospitalized, six of them in critical condition, the Shanghai regional government said. The incident occurred in the city’s northern district of Baoshan, at a cold storage unit owned by a seafood company. It is not clear yet whether the company’s workers or people living in the urban area nearby have also been affected.


Building at N. Korean missile launch site – US institute

Satellites show that building work has begun in North Korea at the site where the country fired a long-range rocket in December, AFP reported a US research institute as saying. The construction appears to be for a new launch pad for testing ballistic missiles, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website. “One possible explanation is that Pyongyang is building a ‘flat launch pad’, a large concrete area that would be used to test mobile ballistic missiles fired from a transporter-erecter launcher,” the website said, adding that “rockets fired from this location… could travel over 4,000 kilometers [2,500 miles] before encountering a foreign land mass. This would allow full tests of North Korea’s Musudan rocket.” International criticism has backed North Korea into a corner with its missile program, but the country maintains that continuing down this path is the only way to an effective nuclear deterrent. December’s rocket launch and February’s nuclear test coincided with a rise in regional tensions, resulting in Pyongyang admitting to being able to fire a nuclear missile as far as the US West Coast. North Korea claims that its aims are peaceful and scientific, and that it is merely defending its rights as a sovereign state.

Three people killed as 5.9-magnitude earthquake hits southwest China

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake has killed at least three people and left several more injured in southwest China as homes for 22 families collapsed. The earthquake shook several counties in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, including in Shangri-La County. Seventeen tourists have been reported trapped on a highway in Shangri-La as falling rocks hit a tour bus. Earthquakes are common in China’s mountainous areas. In July an earthquake that hit China’s northwest Gansu Province killed 94 people and injured more than 1,000. In April, a quake in Sichuan Province killed 193 people.

First verdict in gang rape and murder case

A New Delhi court is finally set to hand down its first verdict in the trial over the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old female student, who was assaulted with an iron bar on a public bus in the city in December. A juvenile court has delayed announcing the verdict four times since wrapping up the case against the teenage man charged over the brutal attack. Six men were initially arrested over the attack, in which the young woman died from internal injuries. The man, who was 17 at the time, faces a maximum of three years in prison if found guilty. The trial of four other adult suspects continues, with the men facing possible death sentences if convicted.


US cyber-operations regime more aggressive

US intelligence agencies executed 231 cyber-operations in 2011, The Washington Post reported in detailing a more aggressive, expanding cyber-attack architecture than was previously known. In addition, a $652 million program named GENIE helps the US break into foreign networks to plant sophisticated malware in computers, routers and firewalls in tens of thousands of machines every year. Almost three-quarters of the 231 attacks in 2011 were against top-priority targets including Iran, Russia, China and North Korea, and activities including nuclear proliferation. The disclosure of US cyber-ops, defined by the US “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves,” were provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Court upholds ban on gay-to-straight therapy

A controversial psychological practice that purports to convert a youth from gay to straight is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled has ruled unanimously. The judges upheld an earlier court’s ruling, agreeing that a treatment claiming to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy seemed dangerous, and have rightfully been rejected by the scientific community. The therapy, one judge wrote, poses “critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.” The law is the first of its kind in the US.

Catholic school files second suit against contraception mandate

A Catholic university has filed a second lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services over contraception coverage “facilitation.” Ave Maria University said in the suit it “cannot fulfill its mission of preparing students to impact the world by living their Christian values if it violates its own religious convictions by” facilitating access to contraception, sterilization, or abortion, or related counseling and services. The first suit was dismissed when the government agreed to change regulations of its health care mandate to accommodate religious beliefs, yet religious entities felt the new rules were inadequate.

Six dead, dozens injured as Morsi supporters march across Egypt

At least six are dead and around 50 injured in Egypt as thousands of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi marched in cities across the country, calling for Morsi’s return to office. Security sources said around 20 were arrested, and that police fired teargas at protesters in Cairo’s Mohandiseen district. The marches spurred the military-backed government to warn Egyptians of legal consequences should anyone violate a mandatory 1700 GMT curfew. Since Morsi was forced from office on July 3 by the armed forces, hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed by Egyptian security forces.

12 killed in twin car bombing in Iraq

Two car bombs exploded in the town of Tuz Khurmato, killing 12 and injuring 10 others, with the second bomb going off just as bystanders gathered to help the victims of the first blast. Tuz Khurmato, 170 kilometers north of the capital, Baghdad, has been a hotspot for sectarian violence, and tension between the central government and Kurdish separatists. A total of more than 1,000 people died in attacks in Iraq last month.

N.Korea withdraws US envoy invitation

North Korea has withdrawn its invitation for a senior US envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek the release of detained American Kenneth Bae, the US State Department has said. Bob King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights, was due to travel from Tokyo to Pyongyang on Friday to request a pardon for Bae. The American was accused of subversion and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. The US is “surprised and disappointed by North Korea’s decision,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Colombia president orders troops to patrol capital

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday ordered troops to patrol the capital following rioting. Violence broke out on Thursday after some 30,000 university students and others marched in support of a 10-day protest by small farmers. Two men, aged 18 and 24, were killed by gunfire in circumstances which are not yet clear. “To assure normality… I have ordered the militarization of Bogota,” Santos said. He added that 50,000 military personnel would help police along highways blockaded by small farmers.

Tunisia closes southern border regions to protect against terrorism threat

Tunisia’s authorities have closed southern regions bordering Algeria and Libya to protect against the threat of terrorism, the presidential office has announced. The closure would last a year and could be shortened depending on the situation. Tourists and traders will require permission from local authorities to travel in the area. The Algerian border where troops have been fighting militants in the mountains, was also included. The measures will further impact the impoverished regions surviving largely on cross border trade and smuggling.

4 suspected Al-Qaeda militants killed in US drone strike

At least four suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed on Friday in a presumed US drone strike in Yemen’s central al-Bayda province, according to a local government source. The strike in the district of Rada’a killed the local Al-Qaeda leader and three others, the source told Reuters. Tribal sources put the death toll at five. The drone reportedly targeted a place where the suspected militants were meeting. At least 40 people have been killed in Yemen since late July.

Lebanese authorities charge 5 in Tripoli mosque bombings

Lebanese authorities have charged five men in connection with the fatal double bombing last week in the northern city of Tripoli, a security official said Friday. Lebanese defendants Hashem Menkara, Ahmad al-Ghareeb and Mustafa Houri reportedly face charges of orchestrating the August 23 bombings outside two Tripoli mosques that killed at least 47 people. Syrians identified as Mohammed Ali and Kudr al-Aryan have been charged with preparing the explosives.

Russia expects Belarus to release Uralkali’s CEO shortly – Kremlin aide

The Kremlin expects the Belarusian authorities to release shortly Uralkali Director General Vladislav Baumgertner, detained in Minsk, presidential aide Yury Ushakov said Friday. “Russia hopes it would be done without delay,” he told reporters. Belarusian investigators on Thursday evening officially charged Russian potash miner CEO with abusing his office.

Iraq Al-Qaeda group claims Baghdad attacks

An Al-Qaeda front group claimed a wave of bombings across Baghdad in a statement on Friday. Nationwide violence killed 75 people and wounded more than 200 on Wednesday. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said the attacks were retribution for the executions this month of people convicted of terror-related offences. On August 19, Iraq put 17 people to death, all but one of them on terrorism-related charges.

DNA test verified Osama bin Laden’s identity – reports

A forensic intelligence laboratory run by the CIA in Afghanistan performed the DNA test of Osama Bid Laden’s body and confirmed his identify back in 2011, revealed intelligence budget documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Washington Post wrote that results “provided a conclusive match.” In May 2011, the Pentagon denied having records of these tests, after AP asked for disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. In their request, the press service asked for DNA and facial recognition tests disclosure of Bin Laden’s corpse as well as all media material captured during the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the death certificate and other records related to the May 2011 mission.

US refuses to negotiate on NSA surveillance – Brazilian minister

United States lawmakers have rejected a proposal to negotiate with the Brazilian government over the circumstances by which the National Security Agency monitors Brazil’s communication data. Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Cardozo made a “proposal to move toward an agreement to establish the rules on procedures in the interception of data” during meetings this week with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. He asked for an explanation on the revelation that intelligence analysts were not only seeking to identify terrorists, but tracking Brazilian diplomatic maneuvers. “They told us the United States would not sign an agreement under those terms with any country in the world,” Cardozo said.

Two Guantanamo detainees released to Algeria

The US announced the release of two detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to their home nation of Algeria, bringing the total number of detainees at the prison to 164. Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab were approved for transfer based on a review directed by President Obama. Hadjarab had been detained for 12 years, his lawyer told the Guardian, and was cleared for release in 2007. He took part in the ongoing hunger strike at the prison. More than 37 detainees remain on hunger strike, according to the US military.

Car bombing in Iraq kills at least 11

At least 11 people has been killed and 27 wounded in a car bomb in the Iraqi city of Samarra, some 125 kilometers north of Baghdad, reports Reuters, citing police and medical sources. The parked vehicle blew up in a busy market street. This comes just a day after a series of terrorists attacks ripped through Baghdad, killing up to 90 people and injuring around another 300. In July, over 1,000 Iraqis died in attacks – the highest monthly death toll since 2008, the UN said.

Moscow links Iraq bombings to Syrian armed groups

Moscow is “seriously concerned” over a new escalation of violence in Iraq, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday, commenting on a series of bombings Wednesday in Baghdad that killed up to 90 people and wounded nearly 300.“These terrorist attacks are obviously backed from abroad, including by armed groups operating in Syria,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the attacks showed that the ongoing conflict in Syria had spread and that further destabilization could lead to a worsening of the situation “not only in neighboring states, but in the entire region.”

Greek unions start fall protests

Greece civil servants’ union, ADEDY, caused most public services to close early, while several hundred protesters marched peacefully to parliament. The action against government plans to axe thousands of state jobs saw no major disruption Thursday, but unions are threatening to organize more protests in September. The conservative-led government is planning to suspend up to 50,000 public servants this year and fire 15,000 by the end of 2014. The start of the new school year could be disrupted as teaching unions were meeting Thursday to plan strikes.

Pakistani judge overturns sentence of doctor who helped find bin Laden

A Pakistani judge on Thursday overturned the 33-year sentence of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped CIA agents find Osama bin Laden. Judge Sahibzada Mohammad Anees ordered a new trial, ruling that the previous judge in the case had exceeded his authority when handing down the sentence last year, Reuters said. The US withheld $33 million in aid for Pakistan in retaliation.

Iran appoints first-ever Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has appointed Marzieh Afkham as its new spokesperson, the first time Tehran has named a woman to the position. A career diplomat with nearly three decades of service at the ministry, Afkham has been director of its media and public diplomacy department since 2010. Incumbent spokesman Abbas Araqchi described her as “seasoned and experienced in the field of media diplomacy,” ISNA news agency reported. “Her expertise was the only factor in this appointment,” he added, in reference to opposition from ultra-conservative MPs.

Khmer Rouge tribunal ‘survival’ under threat – UN

The UN secretary general has warned Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal is running out of money and its “very survival” is now under threat. International donors’ contributions to the UN-backed court have run dry and some staff members have not been paid for months, Ban Ki-moon said. Speaking in The Hague on Wednesday, he said that “financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia.” The tribunal, which began in 2006 to seek justice for atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s, has faced budgetary shortfalls. Some unpaid staff went on strike in March, and about 100 staffers plan to strike again on September 1.

Taliban kills 15 police in W Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents killed 15 Afghan officers and wounded 10 from police convoy patrolling a key highway in western Afghanistan’s Farah province, an official said Thursday. Insurgents staged an evening mountain pass ambush and fled unharmed after attacking about 40 officers in the convoy. Before dawn Wednesday near the ambush site, rockets were fired at a fuel truck parking. One truck full of gasoline exploded and fire destroyed about 35 of the 40 trucks in the lot, and reportedly killed six of the drivers.

Russia to send new ships to join naval group in Mediterranean Sea

The composition of the Russian Navy’s group of ships in the Mediterranean Sea will be changed soon, Interfax reported, citing a source in the Armed Forces General Staff. A large anti-submarine ship of the Northern Fleet is expected to join it within the next few days. The Black Sea Fleet’s missile carrying cruiser Moskva, which is now wrapping up its mission in the North Atlantic, will join it a little later, the source said. In autumn, the Pacific Fleet’s missile-carrying cruiser Varyag is expected to replace the large anti-submarine ship Vice Admiral Panteleyev. The Russian Navy is not planning to expand its permanent force in the Mediterranean, a Navy spokesman told Interfax on August 27.

Founder of Indian Mujahideen arrested

Indian security services have arrested Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of Indian Mujahideen, after being on the run for over five years. Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Thursday confirmed the arrest near India-Nepal border. Bhatkal, 30, is accused of masterminding several terror strikes including Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad explosions. He was detained along with another IM leader Akhtar, sources said.
Media agencies

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