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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.

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Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic began, has partially re-opened after more than two months of isolation.

Crowds of passengers were pictured arriving at Wuhan train station on March 28.

According to reports, people are being allowed to enter but not leave.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, saw more than 50,000 coronavirus cases. At least 3,000 people in the province died from the disease.

However, numbers have fallen dramatically, according to China’s figures. On March 28, the state reported 54 new cases emerging the previous day – which it said were all imported.

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As it battles to control cases coming from abroad, China has announced a temporary ban on all foreign visitors, even if they have visas or residence permits. It is also limiting Chinese and foreign airlines to one flight per week, and flights must not be more than 75% full.

The new coronavirus is thought to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that “conducted illegal transactions of wild animals”.

Wuhan’s 11 million residents have been shut off from the rest of the world since the middle of January, with roadblocks around the outskirts and drastic restrictions on daily life.

However, roads reopened to incoming traffic late on March 27, according to Reuters.

State media said the subway was open from March 28 and trains would be able to arrive at the city’s 17 railway stations.

All arrivals in Wuhan have to show a green code on a mobile app to prove that they are healthy.

Officials say restrictions on people leaving Wuhan will be lifted on April 8, when domestic flights are also expected to restart.

The new coronavirus emerged in China in December 2019 and more than 3,300 people there have died from the infection – but both Italy and Spain now have higher death tolls.

It is now battling to control a wave of imported cases as infections soar abroad.

This so-called “second wave” of imported infections is also affecting countries like South Korea and Singapore, which had been successful in stopping the spread of disease in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread rapidly in other countries around the world.

Nearly 600,000 infections have been confirmed globally and almost 28,000 deaths, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.

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According to South Korea’s military, North Korea has fired two projectiles into the Sea of Japan.

The projectiles appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles.

They were launched early on March 21 from Pyongan province towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

North Korea launched multiple missiles as part of firing drills earlier this month. The US and China have called on North Korea to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programs.

On March 21, South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said it was monitoring the situation in case there are additional launches.

It described the actions as “extremely inappropriate” at a time when the world was dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The projectiles flew for 255 miles with a maximum altitude of around 30 miles, the South Korean military said.

Japan’s coast guard confirmed a missile had landed outside the waters of its exclusive economic zone.

It comes as North Korea announced it would be holding a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament, on April 19. Analysts say the meeting will involve almost 700 of North Korea’s leaders in one spot.

There have been no reported cases of coronavirus in North Korea, though some experts have cast doubt on this.

North Korea borders China, where the virus emerged, and South Korea, where there has been a major outbreak.

A top US military official said last week he was “fairly certain” there were infections in North Korea.

However, North Korea quarantined around 380 foreigners – mostly diplomats and staff in Pyongyang – in their compounds for at least 30 days. The restrictions were lifted at the beginning of March. Around 80 foreigners, mainly diplomats, were flown out of Pyongyang on March 9.

The US and Taliban militants have signed a “comprehensive peace agreement” to end fighting in Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict.

The US and NATO allies have agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.

President Donald Trump said the US was “working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home”.

Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to follow.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban leaders attended the signing ceremony in Doha in Qatar.

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Under the agreement, the Talibans also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.

The US invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks in New York by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group.

More than 2,400 US troops have been killed during the conflict. About 12,000 are still stationed in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump has promised to put an end to the conflict.

The deal was signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar with Mike Pompeo as a witness.

In a speech, Mike Pompeo urged the militant group to “keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaeda”.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said he hoped Afghanistan could now emerge from four decades of conflict.

Meanwhile Defense Secretary Mark Esper was in the Afghan capital Kabul alongside Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani – whose government did not take part in the US-Taliban talks.

Mark Esper said: “This is a hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The road ahead will not be easy. Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties.”

He said the US would continue to support the Afghan government.

President Ghani said Afghanistan was “looking forward to a full ceasefire”. The government said it was ready to negotiate with the Taliban.

Within the first 135 days of the deal the US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600, with allies also drawing down their forces proportionately.

The move would allow President Donald Trump to show that he has brought troops home ahead of the US presidential election in November.

The deal also provides for a prisoner swap. Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners would be exchanged by March 10, when talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start.

The US will also lift sanctions against the Taliban and work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group.

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Photo Getty Images

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says 18,000 refugees have crossed Turkish borders into Europe after his country “opened the doors” for them to travel.

He also said that the number is expected to hit 25,000 to 30,000 in the coming days.

However, President Erdogan added, Turkey could no longer deal with the amount of people fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, Greece says it has blocked thousands of migrants from entering “illegally” from Turkey.

Greek authorities fired tear gas to attempt to disperse the crowds.

Turkey’s decision followed a deadly attack on Turkish troops by Syrian government forces in northern Syria this week.

According to reports, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in a bombardment in Idlib, the last Syrian province where Syrian rebel groups hold significant territory.

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Syrian government forces, supported by Russia, have been trying to retake Idlib from jihadist groups and Turkish-backed rebel factions.

Turkey is hosting 3.7 million Syrian refugees, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan – but had previously stopped them from leaving for Europe under an aid-linked deal with the EU.

President Erdogan accused the EU of breaking promises.

He said in Istanbul on February 29: “We said months ago that if it goes on like this, we will have to open the doors. They did not believe us, but we opened the doors yesterday.”

The president said that some 18,000 refugees had “pressed on the gates and crossed” into Europe by February 29. He did not provide evidence of these numbers.

“We will not close these doors in the coming period and this will continue. Why? The European Union needs to keep its promises. We don’t have to take care of this many refugees, to feed them,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan added.

He also said that the EU had not given full financial aid agreed in the 2018 Turkey-EU refugee deal.

Greece announced that it had averted more than 4,000 attempts to cross into the country. There were further clashes between migrants and Greek police on February 29.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters: “The government will do whatever it takes to protect its borders.”

President Erdogan also said that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin – a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – to stand aside and let Turkey “do what is necessary” with the Syrian government by itself.

Turkey and Russia are backing opposing sides in the civil war. Turkey is opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad and supports some rebel groups.

Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak has died in Cairo at the age of 91.

Hosni Mubarak spent three decades in office before being ousted by the military in 2011.

The former president was found guilty of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolution. That conviction was overturned and was freed in March 2017.

Hosni Mubarak’s death was confirmed by Egyptian state news on February 25. Earlier in the day, the Al-Watan website reported that he died at a military hospital.

He underwent surgery in late January and was photographed with his grandson as he recovered.

On February 23, however, Hosni Mubarak’s son Alaa said that the former president remained in intensive care.

Born in 1928, Hosni Mubarak entered the air force as a teenager and went on to play a key role in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

He became president less than a decade later, following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, and played a key role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

However, despite the billions of dollars in military aid Egypt received during his time in office, unemployment, poverty and corruption continued to grow.

Discontent boiled over in January 2011, after similar protests in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the president there. Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down 18 days later.

Just over a year after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist politician, won Egypt’s first democratic presidential election.

Mohamed Morsi lasted less than a year in office. Amid mass protests, he was ousted in a military coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

General Sisi went on to win two presidential elections. Mohamed Morsi died in prison in 2019.

In 2012, Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment over the deaths of some of the 900 protesters who were killed by security forces during the uprising a year earlier.

He and his two sons were also convicted of corruption.

However, the more serious charges against Hosni Mubarak were later overturned and he was released in 2017.

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Image source Wikimedia

A Saudi Tornado warplane fighting in Yemen has crashed in the northern province of al-Jawf.

According to Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman confirmed that the fighter jet had “fallen” while carrying out a support mission near Yemeni army units.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed they shot down the plane.

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The coalition has been battling the rebel Houthi movement since 2015.

It intervened after the Houthis ousted the internationally-recognized government from power in the capital Sanaa.

The Houthi rebels said they used ground-to-air missiles to down the warplane on February 14. They also accused the coalition of killing 30 people in retaliatory airstrikes in al-Jawf on the next day.

Saudi Arabia has not provided details of any casualties from the crash, or what caused it.

Yemen has been at war since 2015, when President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his cabinet were forced to flee the capital Sanaa by the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia backs President Hadi, and has led a coalition of regional countries in air strikes against the rebels.

The coalition carries out air strikes almost every day, while the Houthis often fire missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Yemen civil war has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with an estimated 80% of the population – more than 24 million people – requiring humanitarian assistance or protection. Tens of thousands of people have died n Yemen as a result of the conflict.

Image source Wikimedia

President Donald Trump’s new Middle East peace plan has been dismissed by Palestinians as a “conspiracy”.

The peace plan envisages a Palestinian state and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements.

President Trump said Jerusalem would remain Israel’s “undivided” capital, but the Palestinian capital would “include areas of East Jerusalem”.

Reacting to January 28 announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem was “not for sale”.

He added: “All our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain.”

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Thousands of Palestinian protesters held a “day of rage” in the Gaza Strip on January 28, while the Israeli military deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank.

The blueprint, which aims to solve one of the world’s longest-running conflicts, was drafted under the stewardship of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Standing alongside Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump said his proposals “could be the last opportunity” for Palestinians.

Reports said Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to press ahead with annexing 30% of the occupied West Bank, with a cabinet vote due on February 2.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Speaking on Tuesday, President Mahmoud Abbas said it was “impossible for any Palestinian, Arab, Muslim or Christian child to accept” a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.

He said: “We say a thousand times, no, no, no.

“We rejected this deal from the start and our stance was correct.”

The militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also rejected the deal which it said aimed “to liquidate the Palestinian national project”.

The UN said it remained committed to a two-state solution based on the boundaries in place before the 1967 war, when Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu described President Trump’s plan as the “deal of the century”.

Israel “will not miss this opportunity”, he said.

“May God bless us all with security, prosperity and peace!” the Israeli prime minister added.

Image source: Wikipedia

Iran has arrested the person who filmed the footage showing the Ukrainian passenger plane being shot down by a missile.

It is believed the person being detained will face charges related to national security.

Flight PS752 was brought down after it took off from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said it was shot down unintentionally and announced the arrest of several people over the incident.

President Hassan Rouhani said his country’s investigation would be overseen by a “special court”.

He said in a speech: “This will not be a regular and usual case. The whole world will be watching this court.”

President Rouhani also stressed that the “tragic event” should not be blamed on one individual.

He said: “It’s not only the person who pulled the trigger, but also others who are responsible.”

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Iran initially denied that the passenger jet was hit by a missile, but later conceded that the aircraft was hit by its air defense systems.

When the video was shared on social media, it led analysts to say it showed the plane was hit by a missile.

Iranian media reported that the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards had taken a person who posted a video last week of the missile striking the plane into custody.

However, an Iranian journalist based in London who initially posted the footage has insisted that his source is safe, and that the Iranian authorities have arrested the wrong person.

On January 14, Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said that several people had been detained over the downing of the plane.

He added that about 30 people had been arrested for “taking part in illegal gatherings” – an apparent reference to recent anti-government protests.

Separately the New York Times said security camera footage showed two missiles were fired at the plane, more than 20 seconds apart.

The paper said this would explain why the plane’s transponder seemed to have stopped working before the missile strike – it had been disabled by the first missile.

Photo AFP

About 1,000 of protesters have taken to the streets in Iran’s capital, Tehran, to vent anger at officials, calling them liars for having denied shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane.

Protests took place outside at least two universities, with tear gas reportedly fired.

President Donald Trump tweeted support for the “inspiring” protests.

On January 11, Iran admitted downing the jet “unintentionally”, three days after the crash that killed 176 people.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, en route to Kyiv, was shot down on January 8 near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran shortly after take-off, and only hours after Iran had fired missiles at two air bases housing US forces in Iraq.

Those attacks were Iran’s response to the US killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Dozens of Iranians and Canadians, as well as nationals from Ukraine, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany died on the plane.

According to local reports, students gathered outside at least two universities, Sharif and Amir Kabir, initially to pay respect to the victims. Protests turned angry in the evening.

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The semi-official Fars news agency carried a rare report of the unrest, saying up to 1,000 people had chanted slogans against leaders and tore up pictures of Qasem Soleimani.

The students called for those responsible for the downing the plane, and those they said had covered up the action, to be prosecuted.

Chants included “commander-in-chief resign”, referring to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and “death to liars”.

According to Fars, police had “dispersed” the protesters, who were blocking roads. Social media footage appeared to show tear gas being fired.

Social media users also vented anger at the government’s actions.

The protests were, however, far smaller than the mass demonstrations across Iran in support of Qasem Soleimani after he was killed.

President Trump tweeted in both English and Farsi, saying: “To the brave and suffering Iranian people: I have stood with you since the beginning of my presidency and my government will continue to stand with you.

“We are following your protests closely. Your courage is inspiring.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted video of the protests in Iran, saying: “The voice of the Iranian people is clear. They are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude, and brutality of the IRGC [Revolutionary Guards] under Khamenei’s kleptocracy. We stand with the Iranian people who deserve a better future.”

For three days, Iran had denied reports its missiles had brought down the Ukraine jet, with one spokesman accusing Western nations of “lying and engaging in psychological warfare”.

However, on January 11, a statement read on state TV accepted the plane had been shot down.

Brig-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace commander, explained what happened.

The general said a missile operator had acted independently and alone, mistaking the plane for a “cruise missile” as there had been reports that such missiles had been fired at Iran.

Image source: Wikipedia

In a statement read on state TV on January 11, Iran has admitted it “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet.

According to the statement, the flight PS752 had turned towards a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guards, the force set up to defend Iran’s Islamic system, and had a “flying posture and altitude of an enemy target”.

The plane was shot down on January 8, hours after Iran had struck two air bases housing US forces in Iraq.

Those missile strikes were Iran’s response to the US killing of senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. He died in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Iran had initially denied reports its missiles had brought down the plane, with one spokesman accusing Western nations of “lying and engaging in psychological warfare”.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, en route to Kyiv, came down near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran shortly after take-off. Victims included dozens of Iranians and Canadians, as well as nationals from Ukraine, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany.

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Brig-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace commander, said a missile operator had acted independently and alone, mistaking the plane for a “cruise missile” as there had been reports that such missiles had been fired at Iran.

He said: “He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances he took the wrong decision.

“He was obliged to make contact and get verification. But apparently, his communications system had some disruptions.”

General Hajizadeh said the military would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.

He said he had “wished he was dead” after being told of the missile strike.

The general also said a request had been made for a no-fly zone in the area before the incident but, for reasons that are unclear, this was rejected.

He said he had informed the authorities about what had happened on January 8, raising questions about why Iran had denied involvement for so long.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky has demanded Iran “bring the guilty to the courts”, repatriate the remains of the victims, pay compensation, give total access to Ukrainian officials and issue an apology through diplomatic channels.

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei said there was “proof of human error” and that he had asked “relevant authorities to take necessary measures to prevent” such an incident happening again.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said: “Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

The president vowed to prosecute those responsible.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif apologized to the families of the victims but laid part of the blame on the US. “Human error at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to [this] disaster,” he said.

Some video footage on social media has shown protests in central Tehran, with people calling for resignations and accusing officials of dishonesty.

Protests were reported at the Sharif and Amir Kabir universities.

Some demonstrators chanted for the resignation of the commander in chief – Ayatollah Khamenei.

The semi-official Fars news agency carried a rare report of the anti-government unrest, saying up to 1,000 people had gathered, chanting slogans against leaders and tearing up pictures of Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

A number of social media users asked why Iranian officials had not accepted responsibility earlier, appearing only to do so after international pressure.

In retaliation for the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani, Iran has carried out a ballistic missile attack on air bases housing US forces in Iraq.

More than a dozen missiles launched from Iran struck two air bases in Irbil and Al Asad, west of Baghdad.

At this moment, it is unclear if there have been any casualties.

The initial response from Washington has been muted.

President Donald Trump tweeted: “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

Two Iraqi bases housing US and coalition troops were targeted, one at Al Asad and one in Irbil, at about 02:00 local time on January 8. It came just hours after the burial of Qasem Soleimani, who controlled Iran’s proxy forces across the Middle East.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the attack was “a slap in the face” for the US and called for an end to their presence in the Middle East.

Echoing him, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s “final answer” to Qasem Soleimani’s assassination would be to “kick all US forces out of the region”.

Iraq’s PM Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iran warned him that an attack was imminent and only areas with US troops would be targeted. There were no reports of Iraqi casualties, he said.

Just hours after the missile strikes a Ukrainian airliner crashed in Iran shortly after take-off. There is no evidence that the two incidents are linked.

Several airlines have announced they are avoiding both Iranian and Iraqi airspace amid the rising tension.

This is the most direct assault by Iran on the US since the seizing of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the attack was in retaliation for the death of Qasem Soleimani on Friday – killed in a missile strike outside Baghdad airport on the orders of President Trump – and warned US allies that their bases could also be targeted.

Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami said his country’s response to any US retaliation would be proportional to the US action.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack was self-defense and denied seeking to escalate the situation into war.

He tweeted: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.

We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

At least 50 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in a stampede as Iranians gathered for the funeral procession of General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last week.

The deaths in the top military commander’s hometown of Kerman led to the burial ceremony being delayed.

Qasem Soleimani’s burial is the last in a series of funeral events that have brought millions on to the streets in Iran.

His killing has raised fears of a conflict between the US and Iran.

Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds force, was tasked with defending and projecting Iranian interests abroad, and was hailed as a hero by many in his home country. Immediately after his death, Iran threatened retaliation.

To the US, Qasem Soleimani was a terrorist, and in explaining why he ordered the strike, President Donald Trump said he was acting on an “imminent” threat.

The crush in Kerman happened at the start of a funeral procession that had drawn vast numbers of people on January 7, ahead of the planned burial.

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According to officials, quoted on Iran’s Isna news agency, the death toll at 50, with those injured numbering more than 200.

Video online showed people on the ground with their faces covered by clothing.

Iranian media later reported that the burial had resumed. Video footage showed the procession of Qasem Soleimani’s casket. People threw items of clothing which officials touched against the casket before returning them.

Top Iranian officials renewed their threats of revenge. “The martyr Qasem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,” the Revolutionary Guards’ top general, Maj. Gen, Hossein Salami, told crowds in Kerman.

The Guards were set up to defend Iran’s Islamic system and are a major political and military force. The Quds Force is its overseas operations arm.

According to local reports, mourners in Kerman chanted “death to America” and “death to Trump”.

Image source Wikipedia

President Donald Trump has threatened Iraq with severe sanctions after its parliament called on US troops to leave the country.

The president told reporters: “We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”

Tensions are high after the US assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Meanwhile, Iran has vowed “severe revenge”.

The 62-year-old general spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East and was regarded as a terrorist by the US.

Qasem Soleimani’s remains have now returned to Iran, where mourners packed the streets of Tehran on January 6.

Esmail Qaani, the new head of Iran’s Quds force – which Qasem Soleimani led – has vowed to expel the US from the Middle East.

Iran’s state radio quoted Esmail Qaani as saying: “We promise to continue martyr Soleimani’s path with the same force… and the only compensation for us would be to remove America from the region.”

The air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani also claimed the life of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi military figure who commanded the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah group.

Speaking from the presidential plane, President Trump said that if Iraq asked US forces to depart on an unfriendly basis, “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame”.

Some 5,000 US soldiers are in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the ISIS group.

On January 5, the coalition paused its operations against ISIS in Iraq, and Iraqi lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution calling for foreign troops to leave.

The resolution was pushed through by the parliament’s Shia Muslim bloc – which is close to Iran.

Qasem Soleimani Death: Thousands of Mourners Gathered in Ahvaz to Receive General’s Remains

Qasem Soleimani: Iran’s Top General Killed in Baghdad Air Strike Ordered by President Trump

Iraq: US Embassy in Baghdad Attacked by Protesters

Meanwhile, Iran has announced it will no longer abide by restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, under which it agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.

President Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, saying he wanted to force Iran to negotiate a new deal that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and also halt its development of ballistic missiles.

However, Iran refused and had since been gradually rolling back its commitments under the deal.

In a statement, Iran said it would no longer observe limitations on its capacity for enrichment, the level of enrichment, the stock of enriched material, or research and development.

European leaders, from Germany, France and the UK – which were all signatories to the 2015 deal, alongside China and Russia – responded with a joint statement urging Iran to refrain from “further violent action or proliferation”.

Thousands of Iranians have gathered in the city of Ahvaz, southwest of Iran, on January 5 to receive the remains of General Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad.

The mourners beat their chests and chanted “death to America”.

Qasem Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s sphere of influence across the Middle East and he was considered to be the country’s second most powerful man.

The assassination of the top military commander marked a significant escalation between Iran and the US.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who had a close personal relationship with Qasem Soleimani, warned of “severe revenge” for the attack.

President Donald Trump, who authorized the attack on Qasem Soleimani on January 3 – an option refused by both Presidents Bush and Obama as too risky – said in a tweet that the US was ready to strike 52 sites “important to Iran & the Iranian culture”.

Qasem Soleimani: Iran’s Top General Killed in Baghdad Air Strike Ordered by President Trump

Iraq: US Embassy in Baghdad Attacked by Protesters

In a series of tweets likely to raise concerns about a path to war between the two countries, President Trump said the US would strike Iran “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if Iran targeted American bases or troops.

He said the 52 targets identified by the US represented 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for more than a year from late 1979 after they were taken from the US embassy in Tehran.

President Trump warned: “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded on Twitter, saying that the killing of Qasem Soleimani was a breach of international law and that any targeting of cultural sites would be constitute a war crime.

Thousands of black-clad mourners gathered early on Sunday morning in the streets in Ahvaz, where Qasem Soleimani’s body had arrived before dawn.

The Irib state news agency showed footage of Qasem Soleimani’s casket, wrapped in an Iranian flag, being unloaded from a plane as a military band played, before it was flown on to Ahvaz.

The channel showed crowds gathered in the city’s Mollavi Square, waving flags and holding aloft portraits of Qasem Soleimani, who is seen by many in Iran as a hero because of his role as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and his closeness to the supreme leader.

In the capital Tehran, members of parliament chanted “death to America” for a few minutes during a session of the house, the ISNA news agency reported.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Iran’s military commander Qasem Soleimani was killed by an air strike at Baghdad airport on January 3 ordered by President Donald Trump, the Pentagon has confirmed.

The 62-year-old general spearheaded Iran’s Middle East operations as head of the elite Quds Force.

President Trump said the US took its action to stop, not start, a war. However, the killing marks a major escalation in tensions.

According to US officials, 3,000 additional troops will be sent to the Middle East as a precaution.

Qasem Soleimani was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran, behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported directly to the ayatollah and Qasem Soleimani was hailed as a heroic national figure.

Under his 21-year leadership of the Quds Force, Iran bolstered Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militant groups in Lebanon; expanded its military presence in Iraq and Syria; and orchestrated Syria’s offensive against rebel groups in that country’s long civil war.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US wanted to de-escalate the situation, but that the strike was “lawful” and “saved lives”.

Later he thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Saudi Arabia’s “steadfast support” and “for recognizing aggressive threats posed by Iran’s Quds force”, the state department said.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iranians have been holding rallies in Tehran and other cities, denouncing what they call US crimes.

Meanwhile, global oil price rose sharply in the wake of the attack.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei said “severe revenge awaits the criminals” behind the attack. Qasem Soleimani’s death would double “resistance” against the US and Israel, he added.

The ayatollah also announced three days of national mourning. He would lead prayers at a funeral ceremony for the general in Tehran on January 5, Iranian media quoted Qasem Soleimani’s family as saying.

Later, the Supreme National Security Council, Iran’s top security body, said the US would be held responsible for its “criminal adventurism”.

It said in a statement: “This was the biggest US strategic blunder in the West Asia region, and America will not easily escape its consequences.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the attack an “act of international terrorism”.

Image source: Reuters

The US embassy compound in Baghdad has been attacked by protesters angered by recent deadly US air strikes targeting an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia.

US troops fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that breached the outer wall of the embassy, which is in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

A guard post on the street nearby was also set alight.

President Donald Trump accused Iran of “orchestrating” the attack and said it would be “held fully responsible”.

At least 25 fighters died when the US bombed bases associated with the Kataib Hezbollah militia in western Iraq and eastern Syria on December 29.

The US said it was retaliating for a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk on December 20 that killed an American civilian contractor.

Iraq’s PM Adel Abdul Mahdi said on December 30 that the strikes had violated his country’s sovereignty and would force it to review its relations with the US.

Kataib Hezbollah’s commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, warned that the militia’s response “would be very tough on the American forces in Iraq”.

Iran described the attacks as a “clear example of terrorism”.

The protest took place on December 31 after funerals were held in Baghdad for the militia fighters who were killed in the US strikes.

Thousands of mourners – including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several other senior militia and paramilitary leaders – marched towards the Green Zone, where many Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies are located.

They were allowed by Iraqi security forces to enter the zone and gather on a street outside the US embassy compound.

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Waving Kataib Hezbollah and other militia flags, and chanting anti-American slogans, the protesters threw stones at the compound’s main gate, pulled down security cameras, attacked empty guard posts, and started several fires.

The situation later escalated when the embassy’s wall was breached.

The Associated Press reported that a gate used by cars was smashed open and that dozens of people pushed about 16ft into a corridor leading to the main embassy building before being forced to retreat by tear gas fired by US troops.

Iraqi soldiers and riot police were reportedly later deployed in the area, and PM Adel Abdul Mahdi told the protesters to leave the compound immediately.

He added: “Any aggression or harassment of foreign embassies will be firmly prohibited by the security forces.”

The Popular Mobilization, a paramilitary force dominated by Iran-backed Shia militias, reported that 20 protesters were wounded by live rounds and tear-gas canisters.

According to Al-Sumaria website, Kataib Hezbollah meanwhile called for protest in front of the embassy until it was closed and the ambassador was expelled from Iraq.

President Trump tweeted: “Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”

There was no immediate response from the Iranian government.

It was not clear whether civilian staff were inside the compound during the attack.

There were reports that the US ambassador, Matthew Tueller, had been evacuated.

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Image source: Twitter

Twenty nine intelligence officers have been sentenced to death in Sudan for the torture and killing of Ahmad al-Khair, a 36-year-old teacher.

Ahmad al-Khair, a teacher in Khashm al-Qirba, in the eastern state of Kassala, was killed in custody on February 1, during protests that led to the overthrow of the Bashir regime.

These are the first sentences handed down over the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the months before Omar al-Bashir was toppled in April.

The prosecution said the death sentences were a just punishment.

After the sentencing, the judge asked Ahmad al-Khair’s brother, Sa’d, whether he wanted the 29 men to be pardoned – but he said he wanted them to be executed instead.

A lawyer for the defense said he would appeal.

The court found that Ahmad Al-Khair was beaten and tortured to death by the officers at a detention center in the eastern state of Kassala.

Under the former President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan enforced the death penalty, and two people were executed in 2018.

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Ahmad Al-Khair’s case drew widespread attention in the country, and his killing fuelled the protests against the 75-year-old Omar al-Bashir. A huge crowd rallied outside the court in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital, Khartoum, to hear the verdict.

At least 170 people were killed during the months-long crackdown against the protest movement. Omar al-Bashir was eventually overthrown by the military, 30 years after he took power in a coup.

Earlier this month, the former leader was sentenced to two years for corruption. The court ruled that Omar al-Bashir should serve the sentence in a correctional facility, as he was too old to be in prison.

The corruption case was linked to a $25 million cash payment he received from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Omar al-Bashir also faces other charges – including some related to the 1989 coup that brought him to power, along with genocide and the killing of protesters.

Omar al-Bashir claimed the payments were made as part of Sudan’s strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, and were “not used for private interests but as donations”.

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Image NBC News

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has thanked President Donald Trump for intelligence that helped foil “acts of terrorism” on Russian soil, a Kremlin statement announces.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump spoke on the phone on December 29, the statement said.

According to the Kremlin, the information came via intelligence services, but it provided no further details.

Russian media is reporting the discovery of a plot to attack St Petersburg over the New Year period.

According to Tass news agency, two Russian nationals have been arrested and plans to attack a mass gathering were seized, according to a spokesperson from the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.

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President Putin and President Trump have spoken on the phone and in person various times since the latter took office.

Records from the conversations show they have often talked about Syria, as well as nuclear agreements, North Korea and trade.

In December 2017, Vladimir Putin thanked President Trump for another warning from US intelligence agencies, which again apparently prevented a terrorist plot in St Petersburg, according to a White House account.

During that call, the Kremlin said President Putin had promised to reciprocate with information about terrorist threats to the US.

The US and Russian relations plummeted after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from neighboring Ukraine in 2014.

They were also strained when US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Despite this, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have appeared to be on good terms personally – and they have vowed to co-operate on terrorism.

President Trump has indicated he is considering attending the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow next May, after an invitation from President Putin.

Image source www.alaraby.co.uk

Five people have been sentenced to death by a court in Saudi Arabia over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Three others have been jailed over the case.

Jamal Khashoggi, 59, a prominent critic of the Saudi government, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents.

According to the Saudi authorities, the incident was the result of a “rogue operation” and put 11 unnamed individuals on trial.

The prince denied any involvement, but i

In October, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.

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A senior aide to the crown prince, Saud al-Qahtani, was sacked and investigated over the killing but not charged “due to insufficient evidence”, the public prosecution said. Former Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad Asiri was put on trial but acquitted on the same grounds.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court “falls short of the expectations of Turkey and the international community for the clarification of all aspects of this murder and the serving of justice”.

Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, called the Saudi announcement “not acceptable”.

The publisher of the Washington Post, for whom Jamal Khashoggi wrote columns, said: “The complete lack of transparency and the Saudi government’s refusal to co-operate with independent investigators suggests that this was merely a sham trial.”

However, Jamal Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, tweeted: “We affirm our confidence in the Saudi judiciary at all levels, that it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved.”

Jamal Khashoggi, who went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on October 2, 2018, to obtain papers he needed to marry Hatice Cengiz.

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Image source: Wikipedia

President Donald Trump has officially launched a new military service, the US Space Force.

The Pentagon force is focused on warfare in space.

The service, the first in more than 70 years, falls under the US Air Force.

At an army base near Washington, President Trump described space as “the world’s newest war-fighting domain”.

He said: “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital.

“We’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, but very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot.”

“The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground,” President Trump added.

The funding allocation for the new service was confirmed on December 20 when President Trump signed the $738 billion annual military budget.

The launch of the Space Force will be funded by an initial $40 million for its first year.

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Space Force is not intended to put troops into orbit, but will protect US assets – such as the hundreds of satellites used for communication and surveillance.

The new military service comes as US military chiefs see China and Russia making advancements in the military final frontier.

VP Mike Pence previously said the two nations had airborne lasers and anti-satellite missiles that the US needed to counter.

Space Force will build on the work of the existing US Space Command (SpaceCom), which was created in August to handle the US military’s space operations.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said the Space Force would comprise around 16,000 Air Force and civilian personnel.

It will be led by Air Force General Jay Raymond, who currently runs SpaceCom.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The man who opened fire at the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in Moscow has been identified as a 39-year-old loner and gun enthusiast, Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported.

According to Russian police, Yevgeny Manyurov is from Podolsk, about 25 miles south of Moscow. On December 19, the gunman killed an FSB officer and wounded five others with an automatic weapon, before a sniper shot him dead.

One of the wounded is a civilian.

At the moment of the attack, President Vladimir Putin was at a gala evening honoring the FSB at the Kremlin, a couple of miles away.

The shooting happened at the entrance of the Lubyanka, the FSB headquarters which used to house the Soviet KGB.

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On December 19, police searched Yevgeny Manyurov’s flat, which he had shared with his mother, and they detained her for questioning.

Yevgeny Manyurov had worked as a security guard but lost his job recently and never had any visits from friends, Russian media quote his mother as saying. Police found five guns at the flat – legally registered and kept in a safe – along with a large quantity of ammunition.

He once trained as a lawyer and did some legal consulting work, reports say.

Yevgeny Manyurov practiced shooting regularly at a gun club, which was a passion for him, his mother is quoted as saying.

She also said she had heard him speaking English on the phone with some “Arabs”, who had started calling him since he had lost his security job.

According to Kommersant newspaper, when he opened fire, Yevgeny Manyurov “was shouting slogans typical of Islamic State”. The publication says the information came from a security source, who quoted witnesses questioned by police.

In a rare sign of co-operation between the US and Iran, the two countries have conducted a prisoner swap.

The exchange involved Chinese-American researcher Xiyue Wang, who was convicted of spying in Iran and Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani, who was held by the US. Both men deny wrongdoing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was glad as he announced the exchange.

Hours later, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together!”

Xiyue Wang was arrested in Iran in 2016 for “collaborating with foreign governments”.

Massoud Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at a Chicago airport in 2018. He was accused violating trade sanctions by trying to export biological material to Iran.

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The US and Iran have had an increasingly strained relationship in recent years and share no diplomatic links.

Both countries have thanked the Swiss government for its assistance as an intermediary facilitator.

Xiyue Wang was flown in a Swiss government plane from Tehran to Zurich, and then to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he will undergo medical check-ups before heading home.

Massoud Soleimani was also flown to Zurich and then on to Iran.

Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted photos of himself with Massoud Soleimani after his release.

He was the first to announce the news, via Twitter: “Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly.”

In a formal statement, President Donald Trump said Xiyue Wang had been “held under the pretence of espionage”.

The statement said: “Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas.”

Hua Qu, Mr

Xiyue Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, wrote in statement: “Our family is complete once again. Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue.

“We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”

Princeton University, where Xiyue Wang was studying as a postgraduate, said in a statement it was “overjoyed” with the news of his release and was looking forward to “welcoming him back to campus”.

Xiyue Wang was arrested in Iran in August 2016 as he was leaving the country.

He had been doing research in Iran for a university dissertation and was accused of seeking to gather “highly confidential articles” for US and British academic institutions.

Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 years in jail for spying.

Massoud Soleimani was detained in October 2018 on accusations of attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of trade sanctions on the country over its nuclear program.

US-Iran tensions have risen significantly in the last two years.

After President Donald Trump took power, the US pulled out of a 2015 treaty that aimed to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is peaceful, but the US voiced concerns about potential weapon building.

President Donald Trump also reinstated sanctions on Iran, which have led to its currency plummeting and inflation soaring.

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Image source: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has cut the red ribbon at the new town, Samjiyon, near Mount Paektu.

The North Korean media called the town as the “epitome of modern civilization”.

It is hailed as one of the country’s most important construction projects.

State media KCNA said Samjiyon – which is able to accommodate 4,000 families – boasts new apartments, a ski slope, and a stadium amongst other facilities.

However, forced labor is said to have gone into the construction of the new town.

Samjiyon – even if it lives up to state media billing – will be an outlier in North Korea, where the majority of people live in poor conditions.

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According to non-governmental organization the National Committee on North Korea, many “suffer from shortages of food, fuel, electricity, running water and other necessities”.

However, Samjiyon has not exactly been built from the ground up.

A town already existed before the reconstruction. Some buildings were remodeled, while many more were torn down and replaced with new buildings.

State media previously reported that more than 450 new buildings would be constructed, including industrial and recreational facilities.

KCNA said Samjiyon had undergone a “drastic change”, describing it as a “utopia town under socialism”.

It is not clear if anyone has moved in, but Samjiyon was previously home to some residents – though it is also unclear how many.

It is not known how much money has gone into construction of the town.

Construction happened at a time when North Korea is under tough sanctions, and its completion shows how much importance the government placed on the project.

The town is important for its proximity to Mount Paektu – considered to be a sacred mountain in North Korea and said to be the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s father.

Samjiyon has also been presented as a model for other towns in the country to look up to.

In his annual new year’s address this year, Kim Jong-un directly referenced Samjiyon, calling it an “ideal socialist village”.

He said in his speech: “The whole party, the entire army, and all the people should turn out to transform Samjiyon into a model of modern mountainous city, an ideal socialist village.”

Samjiyon opening is just one part of a bigger scheme. It’s the second stage of a three-stage plan to boost the entire county the town is located in.

The three-stage construction project is expected to be complete by October 2020.

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Image source kremlin.ru

North Korea has accused Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe of mislabeling its latest weapons test, branding him an “imbecile” and “political dwarf”.

The Japanese prime minister condemned North Korea for “repeated launches of ballistic missiles” after two projectiles were fired on November 28.

However, North Korea insisted it was testing a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher”.

On November 30, state media said Japan “may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant future”.

North Korea is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.

It is under various sets of sanctions over its missile and nuclear programs. Lifting the sanctions has been a key aim of North Korea in talks with the US – Japan’s ally – but these have stalled since a summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump broke down in February.

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North Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.North Korea Launches New Ballistic Missile over JapanNorth Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.

Condemning the launch, PM Shinzo Abe said: “North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country but also the international community.”

North Korea issued images said to be of Kim Jong-un inspecting the launch.

The KCNA state media said on November 30: “It can be said that Abe is the only one idiot in the world and the most stupid man ever known in history as he fails to distinguish a missile from a multiple launch rocket system while seeing the photo-accompanied report.”

It added: “Abe may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant future and under his nose. Abe is none other than a perfect imbecile and a political dwarf.”

Negotiations between North Korea and the US remain stalled since the collapse of February’s summit in Hanoi.

President Trump and Kim Jong-un did meet again in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Koreas in June and agreed to restart working-level talks.

These began in October, but failed to make any progress.

North Korea has demanded the US change its approach by the end of the year, and was lukewarm in response to a tweet by President Trump hinting at another meeting with Kim Jong-un.

In May, Shinzo Abe said he was ready to meet Kim Jong-un “without conditions”, raising hopes of renewed negotiations on the nuclear issue as well as on the lingering historical issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens.

The Japanese were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to help train its spies. Japan believes 17 citizens were abducted, only five of whom have since been repatriated.

However, PM Abe’s offer has not come to fruition. North Korea said this month that the Japanese leader would never set foot in Pyongyang after he condemned an earlier weapons test.

Image source: aljazeera.com

At least two people were killed and another three injured in a stabbing attack at London Bridge, police has announced.

Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick told a press conference the stabbing attack, which has been declared a terrorist incident, began at an event at Fishmonger’s Hall.

Within five minutes of being called officers confronted the suspect – who was shot dead by police – she said.

The suspect was wearing what is thought to have been a hoax explosive device.

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Dozens of people were in attendance, including students from Cambridge University and former prisoners.

Cambridge University said it was “gravely concerned” about reports of its students and staff being caught up in the attack and was urgently seeking further information.

Cressida Dick said police were working at “full tilt” to understand what had happened and whether anyone else was involved.

Officers were still working to identify the dead, she said.

Of the injured people, one is critical but stable, a second is stable and a third has less serious injuries, the head of the NHS, Simon Stevens said.

Details of what happened are still emerging, but videos on social media appear to show passers-by holding down the suspect on London Bridge.

Another man in a suit could be seen running from him, having apparently retrieved a large knife.

Footage then shows an officer arriving, seeming to indicate to the group to move, and firing a shot.

The actions of the public have been widely praised, including by PM Boris Johnson.