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Roy Siemens

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Roy likes politics. Knowledge is power, Roy constantly says, so he spends nearly all day gathering information and writing articles about the latest events around the globe. He likes history and studying about war techniques, this is why he finds writing his articles a piece of cake. Another hobby of his is horse – riding.

Image source Wikimedia

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three separate cases, the country’s attorney general announced.

Benjamin Netanyahu is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favors to try to get more positive press coverage.

He described the charges as an “attempted coup”, blaming them on a “tainted” process.

The prime minister has also insisted he will not resign and is not legally obliged to do so.

In a TV speech, Benjamin Netanyahu said authorities “weren’t after the truth, they were after me”, and called on the country to “investigate the investigators”.

Earlier, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he made the decision “with a heavy heart”, but said it showed nobody was above the law in Israel.

He said: “Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”

The announcement comes amid a political stand-off in Israel following two inconclusive general elections in April and September.

Benjamin Netanyahu Questioned over Corruption Allegations

On November 20, Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival for the premiership, Benny Gantz, said he had been unable to form a governing coalition with a majority in parliament. He had been given the opportunity to try after Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier failed to do so.

On November 21, President Reuven Rivlin asked lawmakers to agree on a candidate for prime minister within 21 days and avoid an unprecedented third election in a year.

After the charges were announced, Benny Gantz tweeted his support for the attorney general and law enforcement agencies, and wrote it was “a very sad day” for Israel.

In February, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that he intended to indict Benjamin Netanyahu in connection with three cases – known as Case 1,000, Case 2,000 and Case 4,000 – pending final hearings that eventually took place in October.

It is unclear what this means for the prime minister’s future.

Benjamin Netanyahu is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise, and there is currently no legal barrier to him staying in office as prime minister.

It could take many months before the cases are brought before a district court. And even if convicted, Benjamin Netanyahu would not be required to step down until the appeals process was exhausted – something that could take years.

(AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel’s military is investigating “harm caused to civilians” from an air strike it launched in Gaza.

According to Palestinian medics, eight members of one family died in the strike, among them five children.

However, Israel said the attack targeted the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, who it called a militant commander from the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Israel said no civilians were expected to be in harm’s way.

The Deir al-Balah attack, in central Gaza, was the deadliest episode in a two-day exchange of fire between Israel and the Palestinian group.

The attack took place on November 14, shortly before a fragile ceasefire came into effect.

On November 16, Israeli air raids struck Hamas targets for the first time in the latest violence.

Israel’s military originally insisted that the head of the family, who it said was killed, was a commander of a PIJ rocket-launching unit.

It now says the information about his identity is not certain and is being reviewed.

Islamic Jihad did not comment on whether Rasmi Abu Malhous was a member.

Gaza Violence: Ceasefire Agreed as Four Israelis and 23 Palestinians Were Killed

Israel Targets Hamas Sites in Gaza in Retaliation for Rocket Strikes

On November 16, Israel says its air defenses intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza at the southern Israeli city of Beersheva.

In response, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said they struck “Hamas terror targets” in Gaza. Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV reported a naval facility and a site in Beit Lahia being hit.

Up till now, Israel has avoided targeting Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory.

Fighting flared after Israel killed a PIJ commander in the early hours of November 12.

Israel said the commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, was a “ticking bomb” who was behind a planned imminent attack and responsible for recent rocket-fire from Gaza.

More than 450 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and several waves of air strikes carried out on Gaza in two days of violence.

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According to a monitoring group, North Korea’s harvest will be worse than usual, exacerbating already severe food shortages in the country.

Swiss-based Geoglam said, after using satellite images, that drought had affected crops in an area known as the “cereal bowl”.

According to the UN data, 4 in 10 North Koreans need food aid and crop production is at its lowest level in five years.

Food shortages in North Korea are made worse by international sanctions on the country over its nuclear program.

In May food rations – which feed about 70% of the North Korean population – were cut from 550g (19.5 oz) to just 300g per person following poor results in this year’s early harvest.

According to Geoglam, North Korea’s main harvest in the southern provinces of South and North Hwanghae and South Pyongyan was complete but was estimated to have produced a below-average quantity of crops.

The organization also said that North Korea’s overall food situation was not expected to improve.

The country experienced severe droughts in spring and summer, and in September it was hit by Typhoon Lingling, which flooded farmland.

North Korea cannibalism: parents kill their children for food after being driven mad by hunger in famine-hit country

North Korea Experiences Worst Drought in Century

North Korea requests immediate food aid after devastating floods

In September, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said poor rice and maize harvests had left more than 10 million people in urgent need of assistance.

North Korea has also had to cope with a regional outbreak of swine fever in its pig herd, leading to reduced pork production.

Earlier this year a UN team found families surviving “on a monotonous diet of rice and kimchi most of the year, eating very little protein”, according to a report by the World Food Program. The report said some families were eating protein only a few times a year.

China and other countries have already provided North Korea with food aid so far this year.

Despite its situation, North Korea has refused to accept 50,000 tonnes of rice from South Korea. This is reportedly because of tensions with the South linked to stalled talks between Pyongyang and the US over the North’s nuclear program.

Food shortages are regular in North Korea. In the 1990s a severe nationwide famine is thought to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced Turkey has captured a wife of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On November 5, Turkey said it had detained Baghdadi’s sister in Syria.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself during a raid by US Special Forces on his compound in north-west Syria last month.

The ISIS’ leader death was hailed as a victory for President Donald Trump, but critics argue that the jihadist group remains a security threat in Syria and elsewhere.

Last week the Islamic State confirmed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death and named a new leader.

Speaking in the Turkish capital Ankara, President Erdogan said he was revealing the capture of Baghdadi’s wife for the first time and also said Turkey was holding Baghdadi’s brother-in-law.

He said: “The United States said Baghdadi killed himself in a tunnel. They started a communication campaign about this.”

“But, I am announcing it here for the first time: we captured his wife and didn’t make a fuss like them. Similarly, we also captured his sister and brother-in-law in Syria.”

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Pentagon Publishes First Footage of Raid on Syrian Compound

Kayla Mueller: ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Raped American Hostage

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: ISIS releases message from leader after death reports

On November 5, Turkish officials said the arrest of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sister Rasmiya Awad would yield valuable intelligence about ISIS.

The arrest was reportedly made on November 4 in an area of Aleppo province now under Turkey’s control.

Rasmiya Awad was found in a trailer, where she was living with her husband, daughter-in-law and five children, a Turkish official told AP news agency, adding she was being interrogated on suspicion of involvement with an extremist group.

Experts say the town where Rasmiya Awad was captured is a known smuggling route for ISIS families.

President Trump announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death at a press conference at the White House on October 27.

The president said DNA tests had been carried out to verify Baghdadi’s identity, confirming his death.

After the raid, the compound was destroyed in an air strike.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi has since been named as ISIS’ new leader and “caliph”.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

At least five people have been injured in a knife attack at a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on November 3.

The stabbing happened at the Cityplaza mall in the Tai Koo district.

According to the local hospital authority, four men and one woman were injured, with two in critical condition.

One of the injured, a local councilor, had his ear partially bitten off by the as-yet unidentified male attacker, who was subdued by passersby in the mall.

According to witnesses, the Mandarin-speaking attacker drew a knife after a political argument with people in the mall, which was the site of pro-democracy protests earlier in the day.

Hong Kong Protests: Police Storm Subway System to Tackle Suspected Protesters

Hong Kong Protests: Police and Protesters Clash in 13th Straight Weekend

The local councilor, Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, reportedly was attempting to prevent the attacker leaving the scene when the man bit off a section of his ear. Witnesses said the attacker was badly beaten by passersby who intervened, before police arrested the man.

The injured woman told the South China Morning Post that the attacker drew a knife after arguing with her sister and her husband, who were also injured.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the attacker was a Mandarin-speaking pro-Beijing supporter.

Hong Kong has experienced five months of sometimes violent demonstrations by pro-democracy activists, who first took to the streets to protest against a bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, but evolved into a broader revolt against the way Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.

The pro-democracy protests continued this weekend, days after a high-profile activist, Joshua Wong, was banned from standing in local elections.

Police fired tear gas into crowds of demonstrators in the eastern suburb of Taikoo Shing, home to the Cityplaza where the knife attack occurred.

Image source AP

Pentagon has published the first footage of the raid in northern Syria in which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) group was killed.

The video showed troops firing at militants on the ground as they flew towards the compound where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hiding before they moved in on the ground.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi fled into a tunnel and killed himself by detonating a suicide vest.

After the raid the compound was destroyed with munitions.

General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said the destroyed buildings were left looking like “a parking lot with large potholes”.

He said two children had died with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the tunnel – not three as previously reported.

Kayla Mueller: ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Raped American Hostage

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: ISIS releases message from leader after death reports

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie also could not confirm President Donald Trump’s graphic description of Baghdadi whimpering and crying as he died.

“He crawled into a hole with two small children and blew himself up while his people stayed on the ground. You can deduce what kind of person it is based on that activity,” he told a news conference at the Pentagon.

“That would be my empirical observation of what he did. I’m not able to confirm anything else about his last seconds. I just can’t confirm that one way or another.”

He said four women – who were wearing suicide vests – and one man were killed at the compound.

Gen McKenzie said an unknown number of fighters also died after opening fire on US helicopters.

He added: “I want to make it clear that despite the high-pressure and high-profile nature of this assault that every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties and to protect children we suspected would be in the compound.”

He confirmed that Baghdadi had been identified through his DNA – adding that samples had been on file since the ISIS leader’s detention in an Iraqi prison in 2004.

Gen McKenzie said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains were flown back to a staging base for identification and were then buried at sea within 24 hours of his death “in accordance with the laws of armed conflict”.

At a recent event, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will “crush the heads” of Kurdish fighters if they do not withdraw from a planned safe zone area in northern Syria.

On October 17, Turkey agreed to suspend an offensive for five days to allow the Kurds to retreat from the area.

However, on October 19, both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire.

Turkey views the Kurdish forces as terrorists and wants to create a “safe zone” buffer inside Syria.

Despite the temporary ceasefire, some sporadic violence has continued – particularly around the border town of Ras Al-Ain.

Speaking at an event in the central Turkish province of Kayseri on October 19, President Erdogan said that if Kurdish fighters did not withdraw by October 22 in the evening – as agreed in the ceasefire – “we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists’ heads”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to hold talks next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Gaziantep Attack: Turkey Launches Artillery Strikes on ISIS and Kurdish Targets

Turkey Police Station Attack Kills at Least 6 People in Diyarbakir

On October 19, he said that if those talks did not produce a solution, Turkey would “implement its own plans”.

Turkey’s defense ministry earlier accused Kurdish forces of carrying out 14 “provocative” attacks in the last 36 hours, mostly in Ras Al-Ain, but insisted Turkish forces were fully abiding by the agreement.

But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accused Turkey of violating the ceasefire.

They also accuse Turkish troops of failing to create a safe corridor for the evacuation of civilians and wounded people from the besieged town.

On October 19, the SDF urged US VP Mike Pence, who helped to broker the temporary ceasefire, to pressure Turkey to allow the passage of civilians.

The SDF said in a statement: “Despite the constant communication with the American side and the promise made by them to solve this problem, there has not been any tangible progress in this regard.”

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Thousands of protesters took the streets of Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona in support of Catalonia’s independence from Spain for a second day, leading to clashes with police.

Fires were started and protesters attempted to storm government offices in the regional capital.

The protest was sparked by the sentencing on October 14 of nine Catalan separatist leaders.

A spokesperson for Catalonia’s regional government, Meritxell Budó, said they sympathized and understood the anger of the protesters.

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities say they are investigating who is coordinating the disruption.

Protesters have reportedly been using an app known as Tsunami Democratic, which directs them to protest sites in Catalan cities.

In Barcelona, riot police fired tear gas and charged a crowd of protesters who were trying to access government buildings.

There were three arrests, and local media reported that nine people had been treated by medical services.

Protests were also reported in the Catalan cities of Girona and Tarragona.

Pro-independence leaders – who control the Catalan regional government – say they will keep pushing for a new referendum on secession from Spain.

The protests began after nine Catalan independence leaders were handed jail sentences of between nine and 13 years by Spain’s Supreme Court on October 14.

Image source Wikipedia

Catalonia Holds Snap Elections Following Controversial Independence Referendum

Spain Suspends Catalonia’s Autonomy and Takes Charge of Its Government

Catalonia Declares Independence from Spain

The separatists were convicted of sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017, which Spain said was illegal.

Another three were found guilty of disobedience and fined, but not jailed. All 12 defendants denied the charges.

Joan Tardà, the former deputy leader of a pro-Catalan independence party, has called for peaceful protests.

He tweeted: “There is nothing more lethal to independence than the combination between a violent minority action on the street and an uncontrolled police force.”

On October 14, thousands of protesters blocked roads to Barcelona’s El Prat airport – a major transport hub.

More than 100 flights were canceled as demonstrators fought running battles with riot police at the terminal buildings.

Catalan nationalists have long complained that their region, which has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years, sends too much money to poorer parts of Spain, as taxes are controlled by Madrid.

The wealthy region in Spain’s north-east is home to about 7.5 million people, with their own language, parliament, flag and anthem.

In September, a march in Barcelona in support of Catalonia’s independence from Spain drew crowds of about 600,000 people – one of the lowest turnouts in the eight-year history of the annual rally.

In a recent interview, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman has warned that oil prices could rise steeply if the world does not act to deter Iran.

The prince said failure to act could embolden Iran and lead to war, which he said would ruin the global economy, following an attack on oil facilities which he blames on Tehran.

Iran said the Saudi prince’s remarks would “bring [the Saudis] nothing but shame”.

Speaking to CBS’ 60 Minutes program on September 29, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also said he accepted some responsibility for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

However, he denied personally ordering it.

The prince, who is considered the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is suspected of personally targeting Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critical of the government in Riyadh.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey on October 2, 2018.

Image source: Wikipedia

Saudi Arabia Oil Attacks: Military Response To Iran Is Possible

Jamal Khashoggi Murder Recordings Revealed by Turkish Newspaper

During the interview, the prince said: “I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it [the killing] was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”

However, Mohammed bin Salman denied ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi directly, or having knowledge of it at the time.

Saudi authorities have since blamed a “rogue” operation for his murder and put 11 men on trial.

The crown prince also appeared to offer talks for a political solution to the civil war in Yemen, where government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition are fighting Houthi rebels supported by Iran.

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s regional rival and an opponent of the US, which pulled out of a treaty aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear program after Donald Trump took power.

US-Iran tensions have risen markedly this year, with the US blaming Iran on attacks on six oil tankers in the Gulf between May and July. However, Iran rejects the accusations.

In a recent interview, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir has said all options, including a military response, are open after attacks on two oil facilities, which it has blamed on Iran.

A US assessment claiming Iran was behind the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities was backed up by France, the UK, and Germany this week.

However, Iran has denied any involvement.

The Iran-aligned rebel Houthi movement in Yemen, which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition in the country’s civil war, has said it launched drones at the facilities.

Saudi officials say the range, scale and complexity of the attacks exceeded the capabilities of the Houthis.

Meanwhile, the US re-imposed economic sanctions against Iran last year after abandoning a 2015 nuclear deal, and in May said it would attempt to force all countries to stop buying Iranian oil and put pressure on Iran to negotiate a new nuclear accord.

On September 25, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the UN that the US wanted “a peaceful resolution with the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

He added: “In the end, it’ll be up to the Iranians to make that decision, or whether they’ll choose violence and hate.”

Saudi Arabia Oil Attacks: Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al Jubeir Accuses Iran of Committing Attack on Humanity

French President Emmanuel Macron had attempted to broker an historic meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

However, President Rouhani told delegates at the UN that he refused to meet President Trump while Iran’s punishing economic sanctions were in place. He cast doubt on US intentions, referring to Mike Pompeo’s boast last year that it had imposed “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.

He said: “How can someone believe them when the silent killing of a great nation, and pressure on the lives of 83 million Iranians, especially women and children, are welcomed by American government officials?

“The Iranian nation will never, ever forget and forgive these crimes and these criminals.”

President Rouhani also dismissed the idea of a photo with President Trump, who has staged several photo opportunities with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – including one apparently spontaneous handshake in the Korean peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Saudi Arabia has announced it will respond with “necessary measures” to attacks on two oil facilities as it reiterated the accusation that Iran was behind them.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said the weapons used were Iranian and vowed to release the full findings of the investigation.

However, Iran denies involvement in the attacks.

Earlier, a senior Iranian military official said Iran was ready to destroy any aggressor after the US announced it was sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have said they were responsible for the drone and missile strikes on September 14 that affected the global oil supply.

Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since President Donald Trump abandoned a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities last year and reinstated sanctions.

Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia was in consultation with its allies and would take necessary and suitable measures after its investigation was complete, without giving details of possible actions.

The Saudi minister repeated that the strikes targeting the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oil field had come from the north and not from Yemen but did not give a specific location, and urged the international community to take a stand.

He said: “The kingdom calls upon the international community to assume its responsibility in condemning those that stand behind this act, and to take a firm and clear position against this reckless behavior that threatens the global economy.”

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Saudi defense ministry showed off on September 18 what it said were the remains of drones and cruise missiles proving Iranian involvement.

The US has also accused Iran of being behind the attacks, and unnamed senior officials have told US media that the evidence suggests the strikes originated in the south of Iran.

On September 20, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the US would send a yet-to-be-decided number of troops to Saudi Arabia to boost the country’s air and missile defenses.

President Donald Trump then announced new sanctions against Iran, focusing on the country’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, while signaling that he wanted to avoid military conflict.

Hamza Bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, was killed in a US operation, President Donald Trump has confirmed in a statement released by the White House.

Osama Bin Laden’s son reportedly died in an air strike last month.

Hamza Bin Laden was officially designated by the US as a global terrorist two years ago.

Osama Bin Laden’s son was widely seen as a potential successor. Thought to be about 30, he had sent out calls for attacks on the US and other countries.

Image source: AFP/Getty Images

Osama Bin Laden Will: $29 Million Fortune Left to Al-Qaeda

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Osama bin Laden Pakistani report leaked to Al-Jazeera reveals how he avoided detection for ten years

President Trump said in a brief statement issued by the White House: “Hamza Bin Laden, the high-ranking al-Qaeda member and son of Osama Bin Laden, was killed in a United States counter-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.

“The loss of Hamza Bin Laden not only deprives al-Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group.”

The statement did not specify the timing of the operation.

As recently as February, the US government had offered $1million for information leading to Hamza Bin Laden’s capture.

Hamza Bin Laden was seen as an emerging leader of al-Qaeda. It was reported in August that he had been killed in a military operation in the last two years and the US government was involved, but the exact date and time were unclear.

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Turkish newspaper Sabah has published new details of a recording which reportedly captured the final moments of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi government critic, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last October.

The pro-government Sabah newspaper says the transcript is from a recording taken inside and later obtained by Turkish intelligence.

The transcript includes information such as Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged last words.

The Saudi journalist wrote a column for the Washington Post and was based in the US before his disappearance.

Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée.

The journalist’s mysterious death piled scrutiny on Saudi Arabia, which released conflicting information regarding his disappearance in the aftermath.

Saudi authorities have since blamed a “rogue” operation for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and put 11 men on trial.

The Sabah has consistently made international headlines by carrying details – including some that have been disputed – about Khashoggi’s mysterious death.

The newspaper published two new reports this week into Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the hands of a group they label a “hit squad”.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Canada Confirms It Heard Murder Tape

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Turkey Shared Murder Tapes With Key Foreign Nations

Jamal Khashoggi Case: Saudi Arabia Admits Journalist Was Murdered

Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate Fight, Saudi Arabia Says

The Sabah latest report details information from the alleged recording.

The report includes details such as a forensic expert, part of a team sent from Saudi Arabia, allegedly referring to Jamal Khashoggi as an “animal to be sacrificed” prior to his arrival.

The Sabah report says Jamal Khashoggi, once inside in the consulate, became suspicious and was told he had to return to Riyadh because of an Interpol order.

According to the newspaper, Jamal Khashoggi allegedly refused to comply with the group’s requests, which included texting his son, and was then drugged.

The journalist reportedly then told his killers, in his last words, to not keep his mouth closed because of his asthma, but then lost consciousness.

Jamal Khashoggi was suffocated with a bag put over his head, the Sabah reports, with the sounds of a scuffle allegedly picked up by the recording.

They Turkish newspaper also alleges the tape captured his alleged dismemberment at the hands of the forensic expert.

Reports of the existence of audio recordings from Jamal Khashoggi’s death have been around since last year.

Turkish officials have publicly confirmed their existence and say they have shared them with international governments but is unclear how the Sabah apparently obtained them.

Almost a year on from his death, Jamal Khashoggi’s body has not been recovered despite international pressure.

Earlier this year, a UN expert on extrajudicial killings called for an independent and impartial investigation into his death.

Special rapporteur Agnes Callamard described Jamal Khashoggi’s death as a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and alleges “the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible” and should be investigated.

The Saudi government rejected Callamard’ report and have consistently denied those responsible for the death were acting on official orders.

Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon have been used by Hong Kong riot police to disperse crowds as tens of thousands marched in the city, defying a ban.

Protesters lit fires, threw petrol bombs at riot police and attacked the parliament building.

An event to mark five years since Beijing ruled out fully democratic elections was banned in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

On August 30, several key pro-democracy activists and lawmakers were arrested.

The protest movement grew out of rallies against a controversial extradition bill – now suspended – which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

It has since become a broader pro-democracy movement in which clashes have grown more violent.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong Extradition Protests: Tear Gas Fired at Demonstrators Gathered in Mong Kok

Hong Kong Protests: Tear Gas Fired at Unauthorized Yuen Long Rally

Hong Kong Protests: Hundreds of Demonstrators Storm Parliament Building on Anniversary of Chinese Rule

Demonstrators took to the streets in the Wan Chai district, many joining a Christian march, while others protested in the Causeway Bay shopping district in the pouring rain. Many carried umbrellas and wore face masks.

On the 13th weekend of protests, demonstrators – chanting “stand with Hong Kong” and “fight for freedom” – gathered outside government offices, the local headquarters of China’s People’s Liberation Army and the city’s parliament, known as the Legislative Council.

In the Admiralty district, some demonstrators threw fire bombs towards officers. Earlier, protesters marched near the official residence of embattled leader Carrie Lam, who is the focal point of much of the anger.

Police had erected barriers around key buildings and road blocks, and fired tear gas and jets of blue-dyed water from the water cannon. The colored liquid is traditionally used to make it easier for police to identify protesters.

The recent demonstrations have been characterized as leaderless.

On August 30, police had appealed to members of the public to cut ties with “violent protesters” and had warned people not to take part in the banned march.

Police made a number of arrests on August 31.

During a 24-hour police crackdown, at least three activists – including prominent 23-year-old campaigner Joshua Wong – and three lawmakers were detained.

Joshua Wong, who first rose to prominence as the poster boy of a protest movement that swept Hong Kong in 2014, was released on bail after being charged over the protests which have rocked the territory since June.

Hong Kong is part of China, but enjoys “special freedoms”. Those are set to expire in 2047, and many in Hong Kong do not want to become “another Chinese city”.

Beijing has repeatedly condemned the protesters and described their actions as “close to terrorism”. The protests have frequently escalated into violence between police and activists, with injuries on both sides.

Activists are increasingly concerned that China might use military force to intervene.

On August 29, Beijing moved a new batch of troops into Hong Kong, a move Chinese state media described as a routine annual rotation.

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Tear gas has been fired by Hong Kong riot police at protesters who are demonstrating for the ninth weekend in a row.

On August 3, groups rallied in the Mong Kok district before starting their march. They called on others to join a city-wide strike planned for August 5.

Beijing and the Chinese army have issued stern warnings about the unrest.

Two months of Hong Kong demonstrations sparked by a controversial extradition bill show no signs of abating, with both sides hardening their stance.

Although the government has now suspended the controversial bill, which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, demonstrators want the bill fully withdrawn.

Their demands have broadened to include calls for more democracy and for Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam to resign.

Hong Kong – a former British colony – is part of China but enjoys unique freedoms not seen on the mainland.

Hong Kong Protests: Tear Gas Fired at Unauthorized Yuen Long Rally

Hong Kong Protests: Hundreds of Demonstrators Storm Parliament Building on Anniversary of Chinese Rule

Protesters initially gathered in Mong Kok, a Hong Kong district where violent clashes took place during pro-democracy protests in 2014.

A group of demonstrators briefly blocked access to the Cross Harbour Tunnel, causing traffic chaos, while others set up make-shift barricades on shopping streets.

As the demonstrations dragged into the night, protesters gathered outside the police station in Tsim Sha Tsui district. Officers then fired tear gas at the activists.

The South China Morning Post published a police statement saying the “radical” group had set fires nearby and had thrown bricks into the building.

The march comes after a group of civil servants – ordered to be politically neutral – joined demonstrations in their thousands on August 2.

The rally followed the publication of an anonymous letter on Facebook complaining about “extreme oppression” and listing five key demands – the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; waiving charges against those arrested; an end to descriptions of protests as “rioting”; an independent inquiry into the unrest; and resuming political reforms.

Supporters of Hong Kong’s police force also gathered earlier for a rally in Victoria Park.

Some unions and organizations have reportedly already agreed to take part in the strike planned for August 5. There are also further demonstrations planned for August 4.

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Two short-range ballistic missiles have been fired off North Korea’s east coast, according to South Korea’s military, the second such launch in a week.

They were launched from the Wonsan area on July 31.

Last week’s launch was the first such action since President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in June.

North Korea called last week’s launch a “solemn warning” to Seoul over its planned military exercises with Washington.

Pyongyang has previously expressed anger that the annual drills will go ahead next month- an event it sees as preparation for war.

The missiles were launched at 05:06AM and 05:27 AM local time from the Kalma area near the port of Wonsan.

The missiles flew 155 miles and reached a height of 20 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The South Korean defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said the missiles were identified as a different type from previous models.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe confirmed that there was no impact on Japan’s security following the launch.

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Six days ago, North Korea fired two short range missiles, one of which travelled about 425 miles and the other 268 miles.

That launch was the first since President Trump and Kim Jong-un held an impromptu meeting in June at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), an area that divides the two Koreas, where they agreed to restarted denuclearization talks.

North Korea has recently again voiced anger over planned military exercises between South Korea and the US, an annual event which the allies have refused to cancel but have scaled back significantly.

One analyst said more missile tests could be expected.

North Korea called the drills a “violation of the spirit” of the joint statement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong-un at their first face-to-face talks in Singapore last year.

Pyongyang had warned the exercises could affect the resumption of denuclearization talks.

On July 29, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he hoped these talks could start “very soon”, but that there were no further summits planned.

Last year, Kim Jong-un said North Korea would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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Tear gas has been fired by Hong Kong riot police at an unauthorized protest held by tens of thousands of people to condemn an attack by armed masked men last week.

As a small group of protesters refused to disperse in the northern district of Yuen Long, police fired rubber bullets.

The protest took place where pro-democracy protesters had been attacked by suspected triad gang members.

Police have been accused of turning a blind eye and colluding with the attackers, claims they deny.

There were seven weeks of anti-government and pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong sparked by a controversial bill that would have enabled extraditions to mainland China.

The government has since halted the legislation but protesters have demanded its complete withdrawal, as well as an inquiry into police violence, democratic reform, and that Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam resign.

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Hong Kong clashes near government offices

The July 27 rally had been banned by the police, a highly unusual move in the territory, where protests are usually allowed.

Police say they refused permission because they feared violent clashes between protesters and residents.

The march was planned as a response to last Sunday’s attack, in which about 100 men descended on Yuen Long’s metro station, beating protesters – as well as passersby and journalists – with wooden and metal sticks.

The attack left 45 people injured and was widely blamed on triad gang members. They appeared to target those wearing black, the color people had been told to wear for the protest.

Triads are known to be active in Yuen Long – located in a rural northern district in Hong Kong, near mainland China – and many local villagers have also expressed opposition to the pro-democracy protests.

Tens of thousands defied the police ban and approached Yuen Long on July 27, marching down some of the main roads.

Police observed and filmed the start of the protest, and riot police could be seen on standby.

They said some protesters were holding iron poles and shields, and “even removing fences from roads”.

Some protesters also surrounded and vandalized a police vehicle, “causing danger to the life of the police officers on board”, they said.

Shortly after 17:00 local time, police began firing several rounds of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

The protesters – most wearing masks and hard hats – threw projectiles and swore at police – but also parted to allow ambulances to go through.

Later in the evening, in an attempt to clear several hundred demonstrators, police fired rubber bullets, injuring at least nine people, according to the AFP news agency.

Protesters have been demanding an independent inquiry into police violence, saying police used excessive force in several anti-extradition bill and pro-democracy protests.

Demonstrators and pro-democracy legislators have alleged that the authorities – including the police and pro-government legislators – had advance knowledge of the attack.

Police say suggestions that they colluded with criminal gangs were a “smear”, and that 12 people have so far been arrested, including nine men with links to triads.

There have also been growing tensions between protesters and pro-Beijing groups.

Earlier this week, pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho’s office was ransacked, and his parents’ graves were vandalized.

Junius Ho had come under criticism after video footage showed him shaking hands with white-shirted men on July 27 shortly before the attacks.

He said he did not know about the attack, but defended the men, saying they were simply “defending their home and people”.

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North Korea tested two new missiles on July 25, calling this action a “solemn warning” against what it described as “South Korean warmongers”.

The short-range missiles were fired into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, from Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said his country was forced to develop weapons to “eliminate potential and direct threats”.

Kim Jong-un said the test involved a new tactical guided weapons system.

His comments, reported in state media, come after North Korea criticized a decision by South Korea and the US to hold military drills next month.

North Korea has long regarded the drills as preparation for an invasion.

Though the US and South Korea have refused to cancel the annual military exercises, they have been scaled back significantly.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said one of the new missiles traveled about 420 miles. The US also confirmed that the missiles were “short-range”.

Kim Jong-un said he was “satisfied” with the new weapons system’s response and claimed it would “not be easy to defend against”.

The North Korean leader said that South Korea should “not make a mistake of ignoring the warning”.

South Korea has urged the North to stop acts that are unhelpful to easing tension and said the tests posed a military threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed concerns about the launch, however, calling them a negotiating tactic.

He told Bloomberg Television: “Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side.

“We want diplomacy to work. If it takes another two weeks or four weeks, so be it.”

The test is the first since Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump met at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), an area that divides the two Koreas, on June 30.

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The missile launch also comes after anger from North Korea over planned military exercises between South Korea and the US, an annual event. North Korea warned they could affect the resumption of denuclearization talks.

About 29,000 US soldiers are based in South Korea, under a security agreement reached after the war ended in 1953.

In 2018, Kim Jong-un said North Korea would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Nuclear activity appears to be continuing, however, and satellite images of North Korea’s main nuclear site last month showed movement, suggesting the country could be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.

North Korea also continues to demonstrate its abilities to develop new weapons despite strict economic sanctions. Earlier this week Kim Jong-un inspected a new type of submarine, state media reported, which could be developed to carry ballistic missiles, according to some analysts.

In May, Pyongyang also conducted a similar short-range missile launch, its first such test since its intercontinental ballistic missile launch in 2017.

President Trump responded then by saying he believed Kim Jong-un would not do anything that could jeopardize his country’s path towards better relations.

Donald Trump tweeted that Kim Jong-un “knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me”.

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North Korea says Alek Sigley, who had been detained for several days before being released, had been “spying” for news outlets.

The 29-year-old Australian student was reported missing in late June, but was freed on July 4 after Swedish officials in Pyongyang met the North Korean government.

NK News, one of the websites to publish Alek Sigley’s writing, has rejected North Korea’s claims that he spied for them.

It said Alek Sigley’s columns only “presented an apolitical view of life in Pyongyang”.

Alek Sigley, a fluent Korean speaker, had been living in Pyongyang while studying a Master’s at Kim Il-sung University and running a tourism business.

He has not commented on why he detained. Following his release, he flew to Japan, where his wife lives.

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On July 6, North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA said that Alek Sigley had “on numerous occasions transferred information, including photographs and analysis that he gathered while travelling to every corner of Pyongyang using his status as an international student”.

Alek Sigley had done this “upon request by anti-DPRK [North Korea] news outlets such as NK news”, KCNA added.

The North Korean government decided to deport him on humanitarian grounds after he “honestly admitted that he had been spying… and repeatedly asked for our forgiveness for infringing on our sovereignty”, it said.

North Korea often accuses foreigners detained in its country of espionage or “hostile acts”.

In a statement, NK News, a website specializing in North Korean news and analysis, said it appreciated “the DPRK’s decision to promptly release Sigley on humanitarian grounds”.

The website said it had published six articles from Alek Sigley which showed “vignettes of ordinary daily life in the capital”.“The six articles Alek published represent the full extent of his work with us and the idea that those columns, published transparently under his name between January and April 2019, are ‘anti-state’ in nature is a misrepresentation which we reject.”

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have held a symbolic meeting at the DMZ, the heavily fortified zone dividing the two Koreas.

Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to cross into North Korea after meeting Kim Jong-un at the demilitarized zone.

Critics have dismissed it as pure political theatre, but others say it could set the scene for future talks.

Their last summit ended abruptly with no progress on denuclearization talks.

Speaking to reporters alongside Kim Jong-un at the DMZ, President Trump said it was a “truly historic” moment and that he was “proud to step over the line” between the Koreas.

Kim Jong-un, in a rare statement to the press, said the meeting was a symbol of the “excellent” relationship between him and President Trump.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meeting in June 2018
Image source Wikipedia

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With no time for the all-important backroom diplomacy, it was expected to be largely a photo opportunity. However, the dramatic meeting will be seen as a sign of their ongoing commitment to the denuclearization talks.

Negotiations with North Korea, to try to convince it to abandon its controversial nuclear program, reached a peak last year when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had a historic meeting in Singapore.

They both committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, but without clarifying what that meant.

It was hoped their second meeting, in Hanoi in February 2019, would make some concrete agreement about North Korea handing over its nuclear program in exchange for some of the tight sanctions against it being lifted.

Hwever, those talks ended with no deal, as they failed to agree on the pace at which sanctions should be eased. Since then the negotiations have stalled, though Kim Jong-un and President Trump have exchanged letters recently.

The DMZ, which runs about 2.5 miles wide and 155 miles long, has divided the peninsula since the Korean War ended in 1953.

Though that area, by definition, has no military installations or personnel, beyond it lies one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world.

The Joint Security Area (JSA) located at the Panmunjom village straddles the Military Demarcation Line and is where all negotiations between the two Koreas are held.

Tourists can also go to the JSA when relations between North Korea and South Korea – still technically at war – allow it. No US sitting US president has been inside it. Bill Clinton once described it as the “scariest place on Earth”.

President Donald Trump has revealed that the US military was “cocked and loaded to retaliate” against Iran, but he changed his mind 10 minutes before planned strikes.

The president said he had called off strikes after being told 150 people would die.

Donald Trump tweeted: “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Attacks on three sites were planned in response to the shooting down of a US unmanned drone this week.

The late reversal was first reported by the New York Times on June 20. The newspaper said the operation had been “in its early stages” when President Trump stood the US military down.

On June 21, President Trump said: “I am in no hurry.”

“Our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world.”

The president said Iran had downed the drone on June 17, despite an earlier US military statement that the incident happened at 23:35 GMT on June 19 (04:05 Iran time on June 20).

On June 21, President Trump told NBC News that he decided not to give final approval to the planned strikes because of the predicted death toll.

He said: “I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate.”

Tehran says the unmanned US aircraft entered Iranian airspace early on June 20. The US maintains it was shot down in international airspace.

Tensions have been escalating between the two states, with the US recently blaming Iran for attacks on oil tankers operating in the region.

Iran has announced it will soon exceed international agreed limits on its nuclear program.

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In 2018, the US unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear activities.

“Iran can NEVER have nuclear weapons,” President Trump said in his tweets on the aborted strikes – also revealing that increased economic sanctions against Iran were “added last night”.

The US has now asked the UN Security Council to meet on June 24 to discuss Iran, Reuters reports.

In its initial report, The New York Times said that as late as 19:00 local time on June 20, US military and diplomatic officials had still expected the strikes to take place on agreed targets, including Iranian radar and missile batteries.

However, President Trump refuted this report on June 21, telling NBC that no planes were in the air.

The strikes had been set to take place just before dawn on June 21 to minimize risk to the Iranian military or to civilians, the New York Times report added.

Tweeting on June 21, President Trump said three sites had been targeted.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press quoted a US official as saying the strikes had been recommended by the Pentagon and had been among options presented to senior administration officials.

According to the New York Times, top Pentagon officials warned a military response could result in a spiraling escalation with risks for US forces in the region.

The operation was called off after President Trump spent most of day on June 20 discussing Iran with his national security advisers and congressional leaders, AP reports.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton had pushed for a hard-line stance, but congressional leaders urged caution, the agency says.

Separately, Reuters quoted two Iranian officials as saying Tehran had received a message from President Trump through Oman overnight warning about an imminent US attack.

That report was later denied by a spokesman for Iran’s National Security Council, who said there was no truth to it and no message was sent.

In the US, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said America had no appetite for war with Iran, while the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, called President Trump’s Iran strategy a “self-inflicted disaster”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said a war would be a “catastrophe with unpredictable consequences”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

On June 20, the FAA issued an emergency order prohibiting US airlines from operating in an overwater area of Tehran-controlled airspace nearby in response.

Airlines from other countries, as KLM, Emirates, British Airways and Qantas, have also said they will re-route their flights to avoid parts of Iran.

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Turkey has been threatened with sanctions by the EU if it continues “illegal drilling” in waters near Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.

The warning came at an EU summit in Brussels.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Turkey’s actions “totally unacceptable”.

On June 20, Turkey launched the Yavuz, a second drilling ship for natural gas and oil prospecting off Cyprus.

The Republic of Cyprus is an EU member, but the breakaway north is pro-Turkey.

The European Council called on Turkey to “show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions”.

The statement said: “The European Council endorses the invitation to the [EU] Commission and the EEAS [EU foreign affairs service] to submit options for appropriate measures without delay, including targeted measures.”

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The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated.

Turkey said it was drilling inside its continental shelf, complying with international law.

A Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, had been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and had begun drilling, the Reuters reported.

Turkey is a candidate for EU membership but its negotiations are currently frozen. The EU Commission has said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has backtracked on pledges to improve justice and the rule of law. The Turkish government has purged state institutions since an abortive coup attempt against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said the threatened EU measures “are against companies and individuals, a possible EU accession process freeze and measures with significant economic consequences”.

He said at Brussels summit: “These will take place unless Turkey stops its illegal operations inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.”

Turkey – a key NATO partner for the West – has extensive trade ties with the EU and has not yet been hit with EU sanctions, unlike Russia.

The US has also threatened Turkey with sanctions if President Erdogan goes ahead with a deal to buy S-400 air defense missiles from Russia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for “unprovoked attacks” on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on June 13.

The US had made its assessment based on intelligence about the type of weapons used, he said.

Dozens of crew members were rescued after the explosions at the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, owned by Norway.

Both Iran and the US said they evacuated the crew.

“It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” the secretary of state said at a news conference in Washington.

“This is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise need to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”

“This is only the latest in the series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests.

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Mike Pompeo said.

The blasts in one of the world’s busiest oil routes comes a month after four oil tankers were attacked off the United Arab Emirates.

No group or country has admitted the incident in May, which also caused no casualties.

The US at the time blamed Iran – but Tehran denied the accusations.

Oil prices jumped as much as 4% after the incident.

Image source Al Jazeera

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The Gulf of Oman lies at one end of the strategic Strait of Hormuz – a vital shipping lane through which hundreds of millions of dollars of oil pass.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority said that the Front Altair had been had been “attacked”, and that there were three blasts on board.

Wu I-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s CPC Corp oil refiner, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”, although this has not been confirmed.

Other unverified reports suggested a mine attack.

The ship’s owner, Frontline, said the vessel was on fire – but denied reports in Iranian media that it had sunk.

The operator of the Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.

The tanker was carrying methanol and was not in danger of sinking, a spokesman said.

It is currently located about 80 miles from Fujairah in the UAE and 16 miles from Iran. The cargo remains intact.

The US has given Turkey an ultimatum to choose between buying US fighter jets and Russian anti-aircraft missile systems by the end of July.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan set out the deadline in a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar.

Turkey, Patrick Shanahan said, could not have both America’s F-35 advanced fighter jets and Russia’s S-400 systems.

The two NATO allies have been locked in a row over the S-400 for months.

The US argues that the Russian systems are both incompatible with NATO defense systems and pose a security threat, and wants Turkey to buy its Patriot anti-aircraft systems instead.

Turkey, which has been pursuing an increasingly independent defense policy, has signed up to buying 100 F-35s, and has invested heavily in the F-35 program, with Turkish companies producing 937 of the plane’s parts.

Patrick Shanahan says in his letter that the US is “disappointed” to hear that Turkish personnel have been sent to Russia to train on the S-400.

“Turkey will not receive the F-35 if Turkey takes delivery of the S-400,” he writes.

“You still have the option to change course on the S-400.”

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen

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Patrick Shanahan’s letter includes a schedule for winding down Turkish participation in F-35 pilot training.

The first four F-35s due to be delivered to Turkey have still not left the US, officially to allow Turkish pilots to train in them in America.

On June 4, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was “determined” to proceed with the S-400 deal.

“Unfortunately we haven’t received a positive proposal from the American side on the subject of Patriots like the S-400s from Russia,” he said.

Turkey has the second-largest army in NATO, a 29-member military alliance set up to defend against what was at the time the Soviet Union.

The head of Russia’s state defense conglomerate Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, was quoted as saying on Friday that Russia would start delivering the S-400 to Turkey in “about two months”.

The S-400 “Triumf” is one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems in the world.

The Russian missile has a range of 400km (250 miles), and one S-400 integrated system can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously.

Russia says it can hit aerial targets ranging from low-flying drones to aircraft flying at various altitudes and long-range missiles.

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Three prominent opposition figures from Sudan have been arrested by the country’s security forces after they met the Ethiopian prime minister who was in Khartoum to try to restart peace talks.

Mohamed Esmat was arrested on June 7 soon after his meeting with PM Abiy Ahmed, aides said.

Ismail Jalab, a leader of the rebel SPLM-N group, and his spokesman Mubarak Ardol were detained on June 8.

The move comes days after a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters left dozens dead.

Protest leaders have rejected an offer of talks from the Transitional Military Council (TMC), saying it cannot be trusted after the bloodshed.

Sudan has been controlled by the TMC since protests led to the ousting of long-time President Omar al-Bashir two months ago.

Image source: Anadolu Agency

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The military promised a transition to civilian rule but protesters had maintained a sit-in in Khartoum until security forces swept in on June 3 and opened fire.

The whereabouts of Mohamed Esmat are also not clear.

On June 5, the SPLM-N said its deputy head, Yasir Arman, was arrested at his house in Khartoum. He had returned from exile following the downfall of Omar al-Bashir.

Mohamed Esmat and Ismail Jalab are both leading members of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, an umbrella organization of opposition figures, protest leaders and rebel groups.

Khalid Omar Yousef, an opposition alliance leader, told Reuters after Mohamed Esmat’s arrest: “This amounts to a practical response from the military council that effectively rejects the Ethiopian prime minister’s mediation effort.”

The TMC has not yet commented on the arrests.

According to opposition activists, a feared paramilitary unit, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), killed 108 people in the crackdown, with at least 40 bodies pulled from the River Nile in Khartoum on June 4.

However, officials put the figure at 46. The leader of the RSF claims rogue elements and drug dealers were behind the violence.

The RSF, formerly known as the Janjaweed militia, gained notoriety for brutal atrocities in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan in 2003.

On June 6, the African Union suspended Sudan’s membership “with immediate effect” and warned of further action if power was not transferred to a civilian authority.

The chairman of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for an “immediate and transparent” investigation into the killings.

In his visit to Khartoum on June 7, Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed urged both sides to exercise “bravery” and try to agree steps towards democracy.

Reports said Abiy Ahmed had proposed setting up a transitional council comprised of eight civilians and seven military officers with a rotating presidency. It is not known how the proposal was received.