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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.

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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Ahmed Mohamed Meets Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum

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.

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Brenton Tarrant, who was accused of killing 51 people in New Zealand’s Christchurch mosques attack has been charged with terrorism, police have said.

The Australian was charged with “engaging in a terrorist act”, police said in a statement on May 21.

Brenton Tarrant is already facing charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder following the 15th of March attack on two mosques in the South Island city.

He is next due in court in June.

It is the first time a person has been charged in New Zealand with an act of terror under this law.

New Zealand Police – who met with victims’ families and other survivors to inform them of the charge before it was announced – said they consulted with legal experts and prosecutors before deciding to lay the additional charge.

On March 15, 50 people lost their lives in the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch. One died in hospital later.

New Zealand Mosque Attack: 49 Killed and 48 Wounded in Country’s Deadliest Attack

The Christchurch attack was New Zealand’s deadliest mass shooting and brought an outpouring grief and support for the victims and their families.

Two weeks after the attack, more than 20,000 people gathered for a memorial service to honor those who lost their lives.

Last month, New Zealand’s parliament voted to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons to prevent any such thing happening again.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is spearheading an effort to get world’s governments and tech companies to improve their efforts to tackle extremist content online.

The “Christchurch Call” was launched in response to the suspect live-streaming the attack, which was then watched many thousands of times.

The call has already been backed by Australia, India, Germany and Sweden, as well as tech giants Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter. However, the US declined to take part.

A ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has been agreed between Palestinian militants and Israel after a weekend during which Palestinians launched hundreds of rockets into Israel prompting retaliatory air and artillery strikes.

At least four Israelis and 23 Palestinians were killed.

Israel has not confirmed the ceasefire. However, reports say emergency measures have been lifted in southern Israel.

The violence flared up on May 3 during a protest against the blockade of Gaza.

A TV station run by Hamas – the militant movement which controls Gaza – announced that both sides had agreed the ceasefire, beginning at 04:30 local time.

Egypt is said to have brokered it – assisted by the UN and Qatar.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not mentioned the ceasefire. However, the Times of Israel said that protective restrictions imposed on residents in southern Israel since the flare up began were being lifted, including schools reopening.

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Israel Targets Hamas Sites in Gaza in Retaliation for Rocket Strikes

On May 6, the IDF said militants had fired 690 rockets into southern Israel during the past 48 hours – 240 of which had been intercepted by the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

In response, the IDF said, Israel had targeted 350 sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

On May 5, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to “continue its massive strikes on terror elements” in Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu says the country’s forces around the strip would be “stepped up with tank, artillery and infantry forces”.

Israel had also closed all schools within 25 miles of the Gaza strip and opened some shelters to the public.

The May 6 agreement comes as the holy month of Ramadan begins for Palestinian Muslims and as Israel prepares to mark its memorial day and independence day.

Four people have so far died from the violence in Israel.

The Gaza health ministry says 23 Palestinians have died across the weekend. Most of the deaths came on Sunday. The Islamic Jihad group said seven of the dead were its members.

Civilians, including a 12-year-old boy and two pregnant women, were also among those reportedly killed.

Israel has contested the account of the death of one woman and her 14-month-old niece on Saturday. They blamed their deaths on a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen a “strike drill” testing various missile components on May 4, state media has confirmed.

“A number of short-range projectiles” were also fired from the Hodo peninsula into the Sea of Japan, the state media said.

Kim Jong-un gave the order of firing to “increase the combat ability” of North Korea, the announcement said.

President Donald Trump tweeted he believed Kim Jong-un would not jeopardize the path towards better relations.

He added that Kim Jong-un “knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!

President Trump tweeted on May 4: “Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong-Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea and will do nothing to interfere or end it.”

Donald Trump walked away from what he described as a bad deal offered by the North Korean at a summit meeting in Hanoi in February.

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In its report on May 5, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim Jing-un had stressed the need to “defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance” of North Korea in the face of threat and invasion.

The aim of the drill, which was testing “large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers”, was to “inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance,” the report said.

Kim Jong-un told troops to bear in mind “the iron truth that genuine peace and security are ensured and guaranteed only by powerful strength”.

It is believed that latest test is intended to increase pressure on Washington to move nuclear talks forward.

Last month, North Korea said it had tested what it described as a new “tactical guided weapon”.

That was the first test since the Hanoi summit.

Analysts say a short-range solid fuel ballistic missile was fired on May 4, making this the most serious test since North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

However, the test does not violate North Korea’s promise not to test long-range or nuclear missiles.

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At least 290 people died in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in a wave of bombings that was carried out with the support of an international network, officials said.

The Sri Lankan government has blamed a little-known local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamath, although no-one has yet admitted carrying out the bombings.

Another 500 people were injured in the suicide attacks on churches and hotels.

Twenty four people have been arrested in a series of raids and President Maithripala Sirisena’s office declared a state of national emergency.

Sri Lanka Attacks: At Least 137 Killed in Churches and Hotels Explosions on Easter Sunday

The state of emergency declaration, which comes into effect from midnight on April 22, will give police and military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.

On April 22, another blast rocked a street near a church in the capital, Colombo. Police were attempting to defuse explosives in a vehicle used by the attackers when it blew up. It is not yet known if anyone was hurt.

Sri Lankan authorities were warned about a bomb threat from National Thowheed Jamath a full two weeks before the attacks, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said at a press conference.

He said that the warnings were not passed on to PM Ranil Wickremesinghe or his cabinet. The prime minister acknowledged that security services had been “aware of information” but had not acted on the information.

Rajitha Senaratne said that authorities believed the bombers had international support.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” he said.

“There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded,” he added.

A later statement said President Maithripala Sirisena would ask for foreign help to track down the international links to the attackers.

“The intelligence reports that foreign terrorist organizations are behind the local terrorists. Therefore, the president is to seek the assistance of the foreign countries,” his office said.

A curfew is to be imposed from 20:00 April 22 until 04:00 on April 23, the government said. A national day of mourning has been scheduled for April 23.

Sri Lanka’s National Security Council said a “conditional state of emergency” from midnight would target “terrorism” and would not limit freedom of expression.

In another development, the US State Department issued revised travel advice urging greater caution, adding: “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka.”

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time on April 21with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services. Blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital, Colombo.

Police did not release a breakdown of how many people were killed and wounded at each location.

All the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, officials said.

Police then carried out raids on two addresses and there were explosions at both. One was in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and the other was near the Colombo district of Dematagoda in which three officers were killed.

An improvised explosive device – a 6ft-long plastic pipe packed with explosives – was also found and defused near the airport in Colombo.

Police also recovered 87 low-explosive detonators from the Bastian Mawatha private bus station in Pettah.

More than 130 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in a series of explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police and hospital sources say.

At least seven explosions were reported. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services. According to authorities, 137 are reported dead folowing the blasts.

The Shangri-La, Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and a fourth hotel, all in Colombo, were also hit.

Easter Sunday is one of the major feasts in the Christian calendar.

No group has yet said it was responsible.

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

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St Sebastian’s church in Negombo was severely damaged. Images on social media showed its inside, with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews. At least 67 people are reported to have died there.

There were heavy casualties too at the site of the first blast in St Anthony’s, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.

Hospital sources in Batticaloa said at least 27 people had died there.

A hotel official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister’s official residence, told AFP the explosion there had ripped through a restaurant, killing at least one person.

A seventh explosion was later reported at a hotel near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, with police sources reporting two deaths.

News is coming in of a possible eighth explosion, in the Colombo district of Dematagoda, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a statement calling for people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is chairing an emergency meeting. He said: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong.”

In the years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.

The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils. The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.

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Thousands of protesters in Sudan have demanded the full dismantling of the “deep state” left behind by ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

On April 11, President Omar al-Bashir was toppled by the army after 30 years in power and a military council has pledged elections in two-years time.

From December 2018 onwards, Omar al-Bashir faced large-scale protests which demanded his removal from power.

However, protesters remain camped outside army HQ in the capital, Khartoum, demanding a civilian administration.

Reports on April 15 said there had been efforts to disperse the sit-in but protesters joined hands and troops stepped back from a confrontation.

The crowd chanted “Freedom” and “Revolution”, and appealed to soldiers to protect them, witnesses said.

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Ahmed Mohamed Meets Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) which has spearheaded the protests, urged supporters to foil any attempt to disperse the sit-in.

“We hope that everyone will head immediately to the areas of the sit-in to protect your revolution and your accomplishments,” the group said in a statement.

The SPA was formed in 2016 and includes an array of professional groups including doctors, lawyers, journalists, university professors and engineers.

The pro-opposition umbrella group says it was established to counter Sudan’s mainstream trade unions which stood accused of being pro-government.

In 2018, with inflation rising and the value of the national currency falling, the SPA was at the forefront of campaigning for a national minimum wage.

On April 14, the transitional military council sought to appease protest leaders, telling them that key figures from the former government had been arrested. It is not clear who those officials are.

A military spokesman also promised not to disperse protesters and said the council was “ready to implement” whatever civilian government the opposition parties agreed.

In another development, 13 people were reportedly killed in an armed attack on protesters in the troubled region of South Darfur over the weekend.

“Gunmen” attacked the anti-government protest at a camp for displaced people about 10 miles east of the regional capital, Nyala, according to the privately owned Darfur 24 news website.

Omar al-Bashir has been indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court. He denies any wrongdoing.

Coup leader Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf announced the military would oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections and imposed a three-month state of emergency.

North Korea has labeled a break-in at its Madrid embassy last month as a “grave terrorist attack”.

In its first official comment, the North Korean government called for an investigation and said it was closely watching rumors that the FBI had played a role.

On March 27, the Cheollima Civil Defense (CDC), a group committed to ousting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said it carried out the raid.

The group took computers and data and said it gave its evidence to the FBI.

At least two international arrest warrants have been issued for the main suspects.

Spanish authorities say one suspect, named as Adrian Hong Chang, gained access by asking to see the commercial attaché, whom he claimed to have met previously to discuss business matters. His accomplices burst in once he was inside.

The CDC is accused of interrogating the attaché and trying to persuade him to defect. When he refused, they left him tied up in the basement.

Two other members of the break-in group were named as US citizen Sam Ryu, and a South Korean, Woo Ran Lee.

Embassy staff were held hostage for several hours. One woman managed to flee, escaping through a window and screaming for help. Concerned neighbors quickly called the police.

When officers arrived, they were greeted by Adrian Hong Chang, posing as a North Korean diplomat in a jacket with a Kim Jong-un lapel badge.

He told the police that all was well, and nothing had happened.

Most of the group later fled the embassy in three North Korean diplomatic vehicles. Adrian Hong Chang and some others left later via the back entrance using another vehicle.

They split up into four groups and headed to Portugal. Adrian Hong Chang – a Mexican citizen who lives in the US – allegedly contacted the FBI to give his version of events five days later.

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CDC, also known as Free Joseon, is committed to overthrowing North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty.

A video posted on the group’s website and YouTube page purports to show one of the intruders smashing portraits of North Korea’s leaders inside the Madrid embassy.

The Cheollima Civil Defense first came to prominence after taking credit for getting Kim Jong-un’s nephew, Kim Han-sol, safely out of Macau after the assassination of his father.

Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother, was murdered at an airport in Malaysia in 2017.

Kim Han-sol has expressed his desire to go back to North Korea, and has referred to his uncle as a “dictator”.

Sources close to the investigation reportedly told Spanish newspaper El País that the operation was planned perfectly, as if by a “military cell”.

According to El País and El Confidencial, the attackers seemed to know what they were looking for. Spanish authorities suspect US intelligence agencies and their allies could have been involved in the attack.

El País even reports that two of the group have links to the CIA.

The US has denied any involvement in the raid.

Reports say the attackers could have been looking for information on North Korea’s former ambassador to Madrid, Kim Hyok-chol, who was expelled from Spain in September 2017 over North Korea’s nuclear testing program.

At least three people have been shot dead in a tram attack in the central Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18.

Authorities say the incident appears to be a terrorist attack.

Five others were injured in the incident.

Utrecht police have arrested Gokmen Tanis, a 37-year-old Turkish man, in connection with the shooting.

“We have just been informed that the suspect has been arrested,” police chief Rob van Bree told reporters.

It is not yet clear where Gokmen Tanis was detained.

Schools were closed and security was increased while counter-terrorism police worked to locate the suspect.

A picture of the suspect was posted on social media by police, who warned people against approaching him.

A number of raids were reportedly carried out and counter-terrorism officers were pictured surrounding a building near the 24 Oktoberplein junction, where the tram attack took place.

New Zealand Mosque Attack: 49 Killed and 48 Wounded in Country’s Deadliest Attack

PM Mark Rutte earlier said the country had been “jolted by an attack”, which he described as “deeply disturbing”.

The tram attack happened at about 10:45 local time . One witness told local media that “a man started shooting wildly”.

Another witness told Dutch public broadcaster NOS that he had helped an injured woman after the tram came to a stop.

Meanwhile, the threat level has been reduced following the arrest. It was earlier raised to its highest point in the province of Utrecht. Paramilitary police were seen in airports and mosques.

Utrecht University closed all of its buildings and trains were not allowed to run into the city’s central station. Some public transport services have now reopened.

Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, has a population of about 340,000.

Crime levels are low and gun killings are rare, which is the case for much of the country.

49 people have been killed and other 48 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the country’s deadliest attack.

New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern described it as a terrorist attack and one of the country’s “darkest days”.

A gunman identifying himself as an Australian live-streamed the rampage at Al Noor mosque to Facebook. He had espoused racist, anti-immigrant views.

According to police, a man in his late 20s has been arrested and charged with murder.

Two other men and one woman were also detained.

No names have been made public. Firearms and explosive devices were recovered, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

The gunman live-streaming the attack from a head-mounted camera said he was a 28-year-old Australian called Brenton Tarrant. The footage showed him firing at men, women and children from close range inside the Al Noor mosque.

Facebook had removed the suspect’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any copies of the footage. The live-stream of the attack lasted for 17 minutes.

The suspect who was charged appeared to have published a document online outlining his intentions as well as details about the plan for the attack. He is due in court on March 16.

Australian PM Scott Morrison described the man as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist. New Zealand Police Commissioner Bush confirmed that the man had not been known in advance to either New Zealand or Australian security services.

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The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at 13:40 on March 15.

A gunman drove to the front door, entered and fired indiscriminately for about five minutes.

One unnamed survivor told TV New Zealand that he had seen the gunman shoot a man in the chest. The attacker reportedly targeted the men’s prayer room in the mosque, then moved to the women’s room.

The gunman is then said to have driven about 3 miles to another mosque in the suburb of Linwood where the second shooting occurred.

One witness described how one of the worshippers had managed to disarm the man, who ran to a waiting car outside.

It is not clear where the arrests were made. Police also defused “a number of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] attached to vehicles”, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

He said a number of firearms had been recovered from both mosques, and explosive devices were found in a car belonging to one of the suspects.

Authorities advised all mosques in Christchurch to shut down until further notice.

According to the latest census figures, Muslims make up about 1.1% of New Zealand’s population of 4.25 million.

Numbers rose sharply as New Zealand took in refugees from various war-torn countries since the 1990s.

Social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.

The man says he began planning an attack after visiting Europe in 2017 and being angered by events there.

The document is called “The Great Replacement” – a phrase that originated in France and has become a rallying cry for European anti-immigration extremists.

Although New Zealand police said they had charged a man in his late 20s with murder, they did not identify the man.

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According to recent reports, North Korea may be preparing to launch a missile or a satellite.

Satellite images suggest an increased activity around a site known as Sanumdong, where North Korea assembled most of its ballistic missiles and rockets.

It comes after reports earlier this week that North Korea’s main rocket launch site at Sohae had been rebuilt.

Last year, North Korea started to dismantle Sohae began but stopped as US talks stalled.

On March 8, President Donald Trump said he would be disappointed if North Korea was to resume weapons testing.

He said: “I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding. But we’ll see what happens.

“I would be very disappointed if I saw testing.”

According to analysts, it is more likely at this stage that North Korea is preparing to launch a satellite rather than test a missile.

However, the US said earlier this week that this would still be inconsistent with the commitments Kim Jong-un has made to President Trump.

Large vehicles have been seen moving around Sanumdong, activity which has in the past indicated that Pyongyang was at least preparing to move some kind of missile or rocket to a launch area.

The satellite images were published by the public radio network NPR.

A much anticipated meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Hanoi last week ended without a deal over differences in how much North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program before it was granted some sanction relief.

The Sohae launch facility at the Tongchang-ri site has been used for satellite launches and engine testing but never for ballistic missile launches.

This week’s satellite images, coming from several US think tanks and testimony from the South Korean intelligence service, appear to show rapid progress has been made in rebuilding structures on the rocket launch pad.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said North Korea could yet face more sanctions if there is no progress on denuclearization.

A historic first meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018 in Singapore produced a vaguely worded agreement on “denuclearization” but little progress.

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who attempted to collect a foreign aid at the border, as President Nicolás Maduro blocked the humanitarian transport from crossing from Colombia and Brazil.

On February 23, a number of people were shot with live ammunition, human rights groups say. At least two people were killed.

The opposition wants the aid to go to people hit by the economic crisis, but President Maduro sees it as a security threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks on civilians, which he blamed on “Maduro’s thugs”.

He said in a tweet following the clashes: “Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice.”

Mike Pompeo also described the burning of some of the aid as “sickening”.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president and helped to organize the aid, condemned the action by security forces.

Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized as leader by dozens of nations, will meet Vice President Mike Pence on February 25 in Bogota, Colombia.

Mike Pence is travelling there to meet leaders of the regional Lima Group, in spite of a travel ban imposed on him by President Maduro’s government.

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On February 23, Juan Guaidó posted a tweet which implored the international community to be “open to all options” in order to “liberate” Venezuela from Nicolas Maduro – who is continuing to resist all calls to stand down.

Juan Guaidó organized the collection of hundreds of tonnes of foreign aid at the country’s borders. He gave the government a deadline of Saturday to allow the aid to be brought into Venezuela or vowed to have volunteers march it in themselves.

In response, President Maduro partly closed the country’s borders with Brazil and Colombia, citing threats to security and sovereignty. On February 23, Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the aid stores, which included food and medicine.

Images from crossing points across Venezuela showed security forces firing tear gas at volunteers. Protesters burned outposts and threw projectiles at soldiers and riot police.

Rights groups say at least two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot dead in the clashes in Santa Elena de Uairen, near the country’s border with Brazil. Another two were reported to have been killed on February 22.

Amnesty International has described the use of firearms against protesters as a serious human rights violation and a crime under international law.

There have also been reports of several aid trucks being burned – something Juan Guaidó said was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

At about 19:00 local time on February 23, Colombia’s government estimated the number injured at border crossings to be about 300. Journalists at the scene have reported severe injuries among protesters, including several who appeared to have lost their eyes.

Venezuelan troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who attempted to collect a foreign aid at the border, as President Nicolás Maduro blocked the humanitarian transport from crossing from Colombia and Brazil.

On February 23, a number of people were shot with live ammunition, human rights groups say. At least two people were killed.

The opposition wants the aid to go to people hit by the economic crisis, but President Maduro sees it as a security threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks on civilians, which he blamed on “Maduro’s thugs”.

He said in a tweet following the clashes: “Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice.”

Mike Pompeo also described the burning of some of the aid as “sickening”.

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president and helped to organize the aid, condemned the action by security forces.

Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized as leader by dozens of nations, will meet Vice President Mike Pence on February 25 in Bogota, Colombia.

Mike Pence is travelling there to meet leaders of the regional Lima Group, in spite of a travel ban imposed on him by President Maduro’s government.

On February 23, Juan Guaidó posted a tweet which implored the international community to be “open to all options” in order to “liberate” Venezuela from Nicolas Maduro – who is continuing to resist all calls to stand down.

Juan Guaidó organized the collection of hundreds of tonnes of foreign aid at the country’s borders. He gave the government a deadline of Saturday to allow the aid to be brought into Venezuela or vowed to have volunteers march it in themselves.

In response, President Maduro partly closed the country’s borders with Brazil and Colombia, citing threats to security and sovereignty. On February 23, Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the aid stores, which included food and medicine.

Images from crossing points across Venezuela showed security forces firing tear gas at volunteers. Protesters burned outposts and threw projectiles at soldiers and riot police.

Rights groups say at least two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were shot dead in the clashes in Santa Elena de Uairen, near the country’s border with Brazil. Another two were reported to have been killed on February 22.

Amnesty International has described the use of firearms against protesters as a serious human rights violation and a crime under international law.

There have also been reports of several aid trucks being burned – something Juan Guaidó said was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

At about 19:00 local time on February 23, Colombia’s government estimated the number injured at border crossings to be about 300. Journalists at the scene have reported severe injuries among protesters, including several who appeared to have lost their eyes.

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Moscow has condemned foreign powers for backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó who declared himself interim president, calling it a bid to “usurp power”.

Russia said that the move violated international law and was a “direct path to bloodshed”.

On January 23, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim leader – a move recognized by the US and several other nations.

Meanwhile, President Nicolás Maduro, who retains some other nations’ support, broke off relations with the US in response.

Nicolas Maduro has been in office since 2013. He was sworn in for a second term earlier this month, after winning a May 2018 election marred by an opposition boycott and widespread claims of vote-rigging.

President Nicolas Maduro’s Istanbul Lunch Sparks Outrage in VenezuelaJuan Guaidó is the head of the National Assembly, who has said articles within Venezuela’s constitution allow him to assume interim power because he believes Nicolas Maduro’s election, and therefore presidency, is invalid.

The opposition leader has vowed to lead a transitional government and hold free elections.

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President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new head of state minutes after his declaration in the capital, Caracas, on January 23.

President Trump urged other nations to follow suit – but the move has divided much of the international community.

Seven South American nations, as well as Canada and the UK, have now backed President Trump’s call.

The EU has stopped short of recognition, but called for “free and credible elections” and said Juan Guaidó’s freedom and safety should be respected.

Mexico, Bolivia and Cuba all expressed support for Nicolas Maduro, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted: “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we are standing by you.”

China, a major investor in Venezuela, said it opposed any outside interference.

Russia sees Venezuela as one of its closest allies in the region. It has lent billions of dollars and has backed its oil industry and its military. Russia has also taken part in military exercises in Venezuela.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We consider the attempt to usurp sovereign authority in Venezuela to contradict and violate the basis and principles of international law.

“Maduro is the legitimate head of state.”

A Russian foreign ministry statement said Juan Guaidó’s declaration was a “direct path to lawlessness and bloodshed”, adding: “Only Venezuelans have the right to determine their future.

“Destructive outside interference, especially in the current extremely tense situation, is unacceptable.”

Russia also warned that any US military interference would amount to “adventurism which is fraught with catastrophic consequences”.

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Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling in China in a ruling which will worsen a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Last year, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was originally given a 15-year jail term but after an appeal the court said the sentence was too lenient.

Today’s ruling comes weeks after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, a top official at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on a request from the US.

Canada condemned the latest ruling.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said: “It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply the death penalty, as in this case facing a Canadian.”

China was angered by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, 46, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the case has soured its relations with both Canada and the US. She was granted bail in December.

Huawei Dispute: Two Canadians Detained in China

Meng Wanzhou: Huawei CFO Arrested in Canada

Huawei denies spying for Chinese government

China has since detained two Canadian nationals, accusing them of endangering national security.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who is believed to be 36, was arrested in 2014 and accused of planning to smuggle almost 500lb of methamphetamine from China to Australia.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2018. However, following an appeal, a high court in the north-eastern city of Dalian on January 14 sentenced the Canadian national to death.

The court also ruled that all of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s financial assets must be confiscated.

“I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,” he said just before the verdict was announced, the AFP news agency reports.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg has 10 days to appeal.

China has denied that it is using its legal system to take hostages as bargaining chips in the Huawei case.

Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on December 1, but was granted bail by a Canadian court several days later.

A judge in Vancouver ruled that Meng Wanzhou would be under surveillance 24 hours a day and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

Meng Wanzhou is accused in the US of using a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom to evade sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2014.

She denies any wrongdoing and says she will contest the allegations.

President Donald Trump has said he is willing to intervene in the case.

Meng Wanzhou’s arrest came against the background of an increasingly acrimonious trade dispute between the US and China.

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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have made an unannounced Christmas visit at the al-Asad airbase in Iraq.

The first family traveled there “late on Christmas night” to thank troops for “their service, their success and their sacrifice”, the White House said.

President Trump said the US had no plans to pull out of Iraq, Reuters reports.

The trip came days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit over divisions about strategy in the region.

The US still has some 5,000 troops in Iraq to support the government in its fight against what remains of the ISIS.

President Trump, the First Lady and National Security Adviser John Bolton traveled on Air Force One to al-Asad airbase, west of the capital Baghdad, to meet military personnel in the base’s restaurant.

The president spent about three hours at the base in what is his first visit to the region.

During the visit President Trump got a standing ovation from troops as he entered a dining hall and walked around greeting them, posing for selfies with them and signing autographs.

He tweeted: “.@FLOTUS Melania and I were honored to visit our incredible troops at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!”

The president had planned to spend Christmas at his private golf club in Florida, but stayed behind in Washington because of the current partial government shutdown.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” he told American servicemen and women at the base.

“We’re respected again as a nation.”

President Trump said the US could use Iraq as a forward base if “we wanted to do something in Syria”, Reuters news agency reports.

He defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria during the visit, saying: “A lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking.

US Withdraws Ground Troops from Syria

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Vladimir Putin Orders Russian Troops Withdrawal from Syria

“I made it clear from the beginning that our mission in Syria was to strip Isis [another name for IS] of its military strongholds.

“Eight years ago, we went there for three months and we never left. Now, we’re doing it right and we’re going to finish it off.”

President Trump said there would be no delays in the withdrawal and added that the US “cannot continue to be the policeman of the world”.

He also said that security considerations had prevented him from visiting US troops in the region several weeks ago.

President Trump announced the decision to pull US troops out of Syria last week.

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Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has quit over President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria.

He brought his departure forward from February.

Before President Trump’s announcement he had insisted that the US would continue working against ISIS in Syria.

President Trump described Brett McGurk’s resignation as a “nothing event”.

The president tweeted: “Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”

US Withdraws Ground Troops from Syria

Brett McGurk’s decision to quit follows the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on December 20.

General Jim Mattis had also opposed withdrawing troops from Syria as well as reducing the US presence in Afghanistan.

Brett McGurk, 45, is an experienced diplomat who was appointed to his current role in 2015 under the Obama administration.

In early December, the envoy told reporters: “We want to stay on the ground and make sure that stability can be maintained in these areas.”

He added: “It would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”

In his resignation letter, seen by AP news agency, Brett McGurk said that ISIS militants in Syria were on the run but not yet defeated. He said that withdrawing US forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to ISIS.

In an email to staff quoted by the New York Times, Brett McGurk said President Trump’s decision to pull out troops “came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy”. It “left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered”, he said.

Brett McGurk went on to say: “I ultimately concluded I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.”

US troops are being withdrawn from Syria, after President Donald Trump said the ISIS group had been “defeated”, the Trump administration has announced.

However, the Pentagon said it was transitioning to the “next phase of the campaign” but did not give details.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of ISIS, but pockets of fighters remain.

It had been thought defense officials wanted to maintain a US presence to ensure ISIS did not rebuild.

There are also fears a US withdrawal will cede influence in Syria and the wider region to Russia and Iran.

Both the Pentagon and the WhiteHouse statement said the US had started “returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign”.

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The Pentagon said it would not provide further details of what that next phase is “for force protection and operational security reasons”.

The White House said the US and its allies stood “ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support and any means of infiltrating our borders”.

Israel said it had been told the US had “other ways to have influence in the area” but would “study the timeline [of the withdrawal], how it will be done and of course the implications for us”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state-controlled Channel One TV that the US decision could result in “genuine, real prospects for a political settlement” in Syria.

Pulling troops out of Syria had long been promised by President Trump.

The state department abruptly canceled its daily briefing on December 19 after the withdrawal was announced.

One of President Trump’s supporters, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the armed services committee, called it a “huge Obama-like mistake”.

In a series of tweets, Lindsey Graham said ISIS was “not defeated”, and warned withdrawing US troops puts “our allies, the Kurds, atrisk”.

This week Turkey said it was preparing to launch an operation against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria, which has been an ally of the US in its fight against ISIS.

Cherif Chekatt, who attacked Strasbourg’s Christmas market on December 11, has been shot dead by police, France’s interior minister has announced.

A police unit came across Cherif Chekatt in a Strasbourg street and shot him after the suspect opened fire.

Three people have died following the shooting at the Christmas market and several more were seriously injured. Previous reports had said that four people had been killed in the attack.

Cherif Chekatt, 29, had a string of criminal convictions in France and Germany and had become a radical Islamist in jail.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said three members of the National Police saw a suspicious individual on rue du Lazaret, in the Neudorf area of Strasbourg at 21:00 local time.

The officers stopped the man, who turned round and fired on the police. Police fired back and “neutralized”the attacker, said Christoph Castaner, who later went to the scene.

Hundreds of French police and security forces had been searching for the gunman.

A large police operation had taken place in Neudorf earlier on December 13, but ended apparently without results.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the attack. They include Cherif Chekatt’s parents and two of his brothers.

Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries said that finding Cherif Chekatt meant the worried people of his city would now be able to return to a normal life.

On December 11, at about 20:00 local time, a man opened fire close to the famed Christmas market near Place Kléber, which attracts thousands of visitors.

France’s anti-terror prosecutor, Rémy Heitz, said the man had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) as he opened fire.

The suspect was armed with a gun and a knife and escaped the area after commandeering a taxi, Rémy Heitz said.

As the attacker fled he came into contact with four soldiers, Rémy Heitz said, and began firing at them. The soldiers fired back, apparently hitting him in the arm.

The gunman boasted to the taxi driver that he had killed 10 people, and also said he had been injured during a firefight with soldiers.

Cherif Chakett ordered the taxi driver to drop him near the police station in Neudorf. When he got out of the vehicle, he fired at police officers before escaping.

Cherif Chekatt was born in Strasbourg and was already known to the security services.

The man was the subject of a “fiche S”, a watch list of people who represent a potential threat to national security.

Cherif Chekatt had 27 convictions for crimes including robbery spanning France, Germany and Switzerland, and had spent considerable time in prison as a result.

On December 11, in the morning, police were seeking him in connection with another case, but did not find him at home.

A search of his apartment in Neudorf revealed a grenade, a rifle, four knives – two of which were hunting knives – and ammunition.

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shooting: Three Dead and 11 Wounded, Gunman at Large

Three people died in the Christmas market attack.

The death of Kamal Naghchband, originally from Afghanistan, was announced on December 13. The father of three died in hospital. His mosque announced that his funeral will take place after Friday prayers.

According to Le Figaro, a retired bank worker aged 61, from Strasbourg, was also killed in the attack.

The third victim is believed to be a Thai tourist who was on holiday with his wife. Anupong Suebsamarn, 45, has been named by Thai media as one of the dead.

Two people have been killed and 11 others wounded in a shooting at the famed Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.

The gunman, who was identified by security services, is on the run and is being hunted by police. According to police, the suspect had been injured in an exchange of gunfire with a soldier.

The shooting happened in one of Strasbourg’s central squares, Place Kléber.

France’s counter terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation.

Confirming the death toll had risen to two, the French interior minister, Christophe Castaner, who is on his way to Strasbourg, called it a “seriouspublic security incident”.

Seven of the injured are said to be in a serious condition.

Police said the gunman was already known to the security services as a possible terrorist threat.

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According to France’s BFM TV the suspect had fled his apartment in the Neudorf district of the city in the morning as it was being searched by police in connection with a robbery.

Grenades were found during the search.

Residents in Neudorf have been urged to stay indoors amid unconfirmed reports he has been tracked down and cornered by police in the area.

The European Parliament, which is close to the scene, is currently in lockdown. The parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, tweeted to say it would”not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks”.

The attack unfolded at around 20:00 local time close to the city’s famed Christmas market.

Emmanuel Foulon, a press officer for the European Parliament, wrote that there was “panic” in the center following the sound of gunfire andthat police with guns were running through the streets.

Saudi Arabia has refused Turkey’s extradition request for suspects in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said: “We do not extradite our citizens.”

Just over a week ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded the extradition and on December 5 a Turkish court issued arrest warrants.

The Saudis have charged 11 people with the murder, which took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Arrest warrants were issued in Turkey for former Saudi intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and former royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

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Adel al-Jubeir criticised the way Turkey has shared information with Saudi Arabia.

He said: “The Turkish authorities have not been as forthcoming as we believe they should have been.

“We have asked our friends in Turkey to provide us with evidence that we can use in a court of law. We have not received it in the manner that it should have been received.”

President Erdogan says the order to kill Jamal Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government but insists he does not want to damage the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi government denies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing.

The Saudi public prosecutor has said Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate as a result of a “rogue operation” on the orders of an intelligence officer.

Jamal Khashoggi was given a lethal injection after a struggle. The journalist’s body was then dismembered inside the consulate in Istanbul and the body parts were handed over to a local”collaborator” outside the grounds, the prosecutor said.


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Image source Pixabay

Dramatic Yellow Vest protests took place over several hours in the French capital, Paris.

Protesters have scaled the Arc de Triomphe, as clashes with riot police continued during a third weekend of rallies.

Riot police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon on the Champs-Elysées, while masked protesters hurled projectiles and set buildings on fire.

At least 110 people were injured, including 17 members of the security forces, and 270 arrests were made.

One building was set on fire on a major avenue near the Arc de Triomphe and protesters stole an assault rifle from a police vehicle in the center of Paris.

Stores and subway stations were closed as a result of the violence. However, protesters insisted the movement was peaceful.

Protests over fuel tax have grown into general anger at higher living costs.

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President Emmanuel Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.

One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down an iron gate at the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre museum, which fell on several people.

An assault rifle was also stolen from a police vehicle although it was unclear if it was loaded, AFP quotes a police source as saying.

According to the French interior ministry, at least 75,000 people had turned out across France for the latest “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) rallies – so called because the protesters donned the high-visible vest required to be carried in every vehicle by law.

Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set ablaze, the interior ministry said.

Responding to the day’s events from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, President Macron said the protests “had absolutely nothing to do with a peaceful demonstration of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent.”

President Macron said those responsible did not want change, but instead intended to “wreak chaos”.

Earlier this week, he tried to strike a conciliatory tone, saying he was open to ideas about how the fuel tax could be applied.

However, President Macron’s speech does not appear to have gone far enough in assuaging people of the view that he is out of touch with ordinary people.

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President Donald Trump has decided to cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the naval clash between Ukraine and Russia in Kerch Strait.

On November 25, Russian border guards fired on three Ukrainian ships and seized their crews off the Crimean Peninsula.

President Trump said he would not meet President Putin at a G20 summit in the coming days, “based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned”.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed the crisis “entirely” on Russia.

Angela Merkel said she would raise the issue with Vladimir Putin at the G20 meeting, which is due to be held in Argentina between November 30 and December 1.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged NATO to send ships to the area. He has implemented martial law across Ukraine’s border regions for 30 days in response to the crisis.

Image NBC News

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On November 29, President Poroshenko announced that Russians living in Ukraine would soon face restrictions on bank withdrawals, changing foreign currency and travelling abroad.

The incident happened on November 25, when two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug were sailing from Odessa to the port of Mariupol, in the Sea of Azov – which is shared between Russia and Ukraine.

The ships were stopped from entering the Kerch Strait and confronted by FSB border guards. After a lengthy standoff, during which the Ukrainian tug was rammed, the vessels began turning back towards Odessa, the Ukrainian government says.

The Russians opened fire, wounding at least three sailors, and seized the Ukrainian flotilla.

The Kerch Strait separates Russia from Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014.

However, Ukraine says Russia is deliberately blockading Mariupol and another Ukrainian port on the Sea of Azov, Berdyansk.

The 24 captured Ukrainian sailors have now been given two months in pre-trial detention by a court in Crimea.

Ukraine’s parliament has voted to bring in martial law, after Russia seized three of its naval vessels and 23 crew members on November 25.

The ships were sailing off the coast of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, when they were captured.

Russia opened fire, before its special forces stormed the vessels. Between three and six Ukrainians were injured.

Ukraine said it was an “act of aggression” from Russia. However, Moscow said the ships had illegally entered its waters.

Image source Wikimedia

Donald Trump Warsaw Speech: “Russia Has to Stop Destabilizing Ukraine”

Ukraine Bans All Russian Planes from Using Its Airspace

Ukraine and Russia to Cease Direct Flights

On November 26, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was proposing that parliament back a 30-day martial law – half the length of that recommended by the country’s security and defense council.

President Poroshenko said he did not want the measure to affect presidential elections set for March 31, 2019.

The Sea of Azov on November 25 clash is the first time Russia and Ukraine have come into open conflict in recent years, although Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists and Russia volunteers in the east since 2014.

A number of Western countries condemned Russia’s actions.

In New York, the UN Security Council met to discuss the crisis – but failed to agree a Russian-proposed agenda amid sharp disagreements between Moscow and the West.