Man shouting 'You die!' kills 33 in Japan anime studio fire
Animation Studio building destroyed in an attack is seen Friday, July 19,
2019, in Kyoto, Japan. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Tokyo (AP) — A man screaming "You die!" burst
into an animation studio in Kyoto, doused it with a flammable liquid and set
it on fire Thursday, killing 33 people in an attack that shocked the country
and brought an outpouring of grief from anime fans.
Thirty-six others were injured, some of them
critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the
roof in a desperate — and futile — attempt to escape what proved to be
Japan's deadliest fire in nearly two decades. Others emerged bleeding,
blackened and barefoot.
The suspect, identified only a 41-year-old man who did
not work for the studio, was injured and taken to a hospital. Police gave no
details on the motive, but a witness told Japanese TV that the attacker
angrily complained that something of his had been stolen, possibly by the
Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation,
which does work on movies and TV productions but is best known for its
mega-hit stories featuring high school girls. The tales are so popular that
fans make pilgrimages to some of the places depicted.
The blaze started in the three-story building in
Japan's ancient capital after the attacker sprayed an unidentified liquid
accelerant, police and fire officials said.
"There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting,
some asking for help," a witness told TBS TV. "Black smoke was rising from
windows on upper floors. Ten there was a man struggling to crawl out of the
Japanese media reported the fire might have been set
near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out.
The building has a spiral staircase that may have
allowed flames and smoke to rise quickly to the top floor, NHK noted. Fire
expert Yuji Hasemi at Waseda University told NHK that paper drawings and
other documents in the studio also may have contributed to the fire's rapid
Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third
floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they had apparently
collapsed, Kyoto fire official Kazuhiro Hayashi said. Two were found dead on
the first floor, 11 others on the second floor, he said.
A witness who saw the attacker being approached by
police told Japanese media that the man admitted spreading gasoline and
setting the fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the man
had burns on his arms and legs and complained that something had been stolen
She told Kyodo News that his hair got singed and his
legs were exposed because his jeans were burned below the knees.
"He sounded he had a grudge against the society, and he
was talking angrily to the policemen, too, though he was struggling with
pain," she told Kyodo News. "He also sounded he had a grudge against Kyoto
NHK footage also showed sharp knives police had
collected from the scene, though it was not clear if they belonged to the
Survivors said he was screaming "You die!" as he dumped
the liquid, according to Japanese media. They said some of the survivors got
splashed with the liquid.
Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in
1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include
"Lucky Star" of 2008, "K-On!" in 2011 and "Haruhi Suzumiya" in 2009.
The company does not have a major presence outside
Japan, though it was hired to do secondary animation work on a 1998 "Pokemon"
feature that appeared in U.S. theaters and a "Winnie the Pooh" video.
"My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such
violence have to be used?" company president Hideaki Hatta said. Hatta said
the company had received anonymous death threats by email in the past, but
he did not link them to Thursday's attack.
Anime fans expressed anger, prayed and mourned the
victims on social media. A crowd-funding site was set up to help the company
Fire officials said more than 70 people were in the
building at the time.
The death toll exceeded that of a 2016 attack by a man
who stabbed and killed 19 people at a nursing home in Tokyo.
A fire in 2001 in Tokyo's congested Kabukicho
entertainment district killed 44 people in the country's worst known case of
arson in modern times. Police never announced an arrest in the setting of
the blaze, though five people were convicted of negligence.
Morocco: 3 sentenced to death in Scandinavian women slayings
Security forces stand guard outside a court room
before the start of a final trial session for suspects charged in connection
with killing of two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco's Atlas Mountains, in
Sale, near Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab
Sale, Morocco (AP) — Three men were convicted of
terrorism and sentenced to death by a Moroccan court Thursday for the brutal
slaying of two Scandinavian women hiking in the Atlas Mountains.
A fourth suspect who fled the scene was given life in
After several hours of deliberation, the court handed
19 accomplices jail terms ranging from five to 30 years. All have 10 days to
Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, and Louisa Vesterager
Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, were fatally stabbed in December. The slayings
were recorded on video and posted online.
None of the 23 reacted as the sentences were read out
Thursday, but their families rushed out of the crowded courtroom crying.
The men claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.
All 23 addressed the court before the verdicts, most
begging for leniency.
The main defendants, who asked Allah for forgiveness,
were carpenters Jounes Ouzayed and Rashid Afatti, and street merchant
Abdessamad Al Joud. They were sentenced to death.
The man who fled the scene is Khaiali Abderahman, who
Morocco only rarely carries out death sentences. The
last execution was in 1993 of Mustapha Tabet, a once-powerful Casablanca
police commissioner, convicted of raping and abusing hundreds of victims.
In closing arguments in June, the prosecutor asked the
court to sentence the top suspects to death, and described the three main
defendants as "human beasts."
A Swiss-Spanish convert to Islam, Kevin Zoller, who had
pleaded innocent, received a 20-year sentence. Prosecutors said he had links
to the men who orchestrated the women's killings and direct contact with IS
members in Syria via the encrypted messaging service Telegram.
Another Swiss man was sentenced in April to 10 years in
prison, convicted on charges including "deliberately helping perpetrators of
terrorist acts" and training terrorists, the state-run news agency MAP said
at the time.
The lawyer for Vesterager's family said he was "100%
satisfied" with the verdicts. Khalid El Fataoui noted that Louisa
Vesterager's mother had asked the court in a letter at an earlier hearing
this month to sentence the killers to death.
"We obtained what she asked for."
The court also ordered the four main defendants to pay
the equivalent of $209,000 in damages to the family of the Norwegian victim,
but refused a demand from the Danish victim's family for the Moroccan state
to pay damages.
El Fataoui said he would appeal.
India reschedules launch of its moon mission for Monday
2019, photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows
its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII-M1 at its launch
pad in Sriharikota, an island off India's south-eastern coast. (Indian Space
Research Organization via AP)
Chennai, India (AP) — India's space agency said
it will launch a spacecraft to the south pole of the moon on Monday after
stopping an attempt this week.
The Indian Space Research Organization said the
Chandrayaan-2 launch is now set at 2:43 p.m. on Monday. It said Thursday
that the cause of the previous technical snag had been identified and
The earlier launch attempt on Monday was called off
less than an hour before the 640-ton, 14-story rocket launcher lifted off.
Chandrayaan, the Sanskrit word for "moon craft," is
designed to land on the lunar south pole and send a rover to explore water
deposits that were confirmed by a previous mission that orbited the moon.
Dr. K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research
Organization, said that the around $140 million Chandrayaan-2 mission was
the nation's most prestigious to date, in part because of the technical
complexities of landing on the lunar surface — an event he described as "15
If India did manage the landing, it would be only the
fourth country to do so after the U.S., Russia and China.
Navy brass, low budget blamed for Argentina sub tragedy
file photo provided by the Argentine Navy shows an ARA San Juan, a
German-built diesel-electric vessel, near Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(Argentina Navy via AP)
Buenos Aires, Argentina (AP) — An Argentine
legislative commission has concluded that the sinking of a submarine with
all 44 crewmembers was caused by the inefficiency of naval commanders and
budget limitations, discarding theories the vessel was attacked or hit by a
In a report released Thursday, the legislators also
questioned the handling of the crisis by Defense Minister Oscar Aguad and
President Mauricio Macri, who the commission said showed a "low level of
involvement with everything related to the tragedy."
The ARA San Juan disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017, in the
South Atlantic as it sailed back to its base at the port of Mar del Plata
after participating in a training exercise. The wreckage wasn't found until
almost a year later at a depth of 800 meters (2,625 feet) east of
Patagonia's Valdes Peninsula. The discovery was made by a ship from the U.S.
company Ocean Infinity, which had been hired to search.
"The hypotheses that the submarine was attacked by a
foreign warship, hit by a fishing vessel or was performing secret tasks
outside of jurisdictional waters have been discarded," said the commission,
which was made up of lawmakers from different parties, including the
The report pointed to budget limitations in recent
years as contributing to the disaster as well as "the failure to update
technologies and maintain a minimal level of maintenance based on hours of
use that produced a growing deterioration" of the submarine.
The navy "tried to continue to fulfill its ordered
missions with increasingly reduced budgets. It accepted as normal operating
under conditions that were far from optimal for the task," the report said.
The government did not immediately comment on the
The night before the submarine disappeared, the crew
reported that the entry of water into the ventilation system had started a
fire in one of the battery tanks. The vessel surfaced and continued sailing.
Its captain reported the next day that the situation was controlled and that
he was preparing to descend to 40 meters (131 feet) to assess the damage and
reconnect the batteries.
Nothing more was heard from the submarine.
"Fires in the battery tanks of submarines are very
serious accidents ... the issue was underestimated by the entire chain of
command" of the navy, the commission said.
The report said the then-commander of the submarine
force, Claudio Villamide, "did not seek advice from qualified technical
personnel." It said the naval chain of command "did not transmit to
political leaders information in a detailed and complete form."
The commission said the defense minister was aware of
the state of the fleet and the risks facing the submarine when it
participated in the exercise.
Regarding the search operation, it said, "there was
evidence of a lack of leadership in the face of the crisis as well as
concealment of the circumstances of the tragedy from family members and
The report was presented in Argentina's Senate in the
presence of family members of the crew, whose remains still lie at the
bottom of the sea. Experts who participated in the search that located the
wreck have said raising it to the surface would be too risky and expensive.
"This is historic, that a legislative commission is so
expeditious and clear in investigating" the tragedy, said Luis Tagliapietra,
father of one of the crewmembers. "I think that the responsibilities are
The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class
submarine that sank was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently
refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the $12 million retrofitting, the
vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts
said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems
produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the
cutting phase can put the safety of the vessel and crew at risk.
Building collapses in India; 10 dead, several feared trapped
work at the site of a building that collapsed in Mumbai, India, Tuesday,
July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
Mumbai, India (AP) — A four-story dilapidated
residential building collapsed Tuesday in Mumbai, India's financial and
entertainment capital, killing at least 10 people, an official said.
Rescuers were searching for several others feared trapped in the rubble.
"The building crashed with a heavy sound and we thought
there was an earthquake," a local resident told the New Delhi Television
news channel or NDTV.
Fire official Ashok Talpade said dozens of rescuers
were at the site in Dongri, a crowded residential section of Mumbai, and had
pulled out nine survivors who were taken to a hospital. The survivors
included a child was allowed to go home after being treated.
A 16-year-old girl trapped under a heavy door was taken
out by rescuers after cutting through iron beams and clearing the debris
using hydraulic cutters, the NDTV reported.
Talpade said police were using sniffer dogs in the
Television images showed people forming a human chain
to remove the rubble using their hands.
"The problem is that the building is in a very narrow
lane," said S.N. Pradhan, head of the National Disaster Response Force. "It
is only one to two feet wide. NDRF vehicles with rescue equipment can't get
to the building. So the team has marched on foot to the site and has carried
all the rescue equipment needed to the site on their own."
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet
said:'Collapse of a building in Mumbai's Dongri is anguishing. My
condolences to the family of those who list their lives."
Maharashtra state's top elected official, Devendra
Fadanavis, said the building was nearly 100 years old and 15 families were
Talpade said the families had been asked to vacate the
dilapidated building some time ago but continued to live there.
Waris Pathan, an opposition lawmaker, said the building
was a death trap, with authorities saying they had no money to rebuild the
Building collapses are common in India during the
June-September monsoon season, when heavy rains weaken the foundations of
structures that are poorly constructed. Mumbai was lashed by heavy rains
early this month.
On Sunday, a three-story building collapsed in a hilly
area in the northern Indian town of Solan following heavy rains, killing 14
Von der Leyen confirmed as new European Commission president
Ursula von der Leyen talks to journalists during a news conference following
her election as new European Commission President at the European Parliament
in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (AP
Brussels (AP) — Ursula von der Leyen was
confirmed as the European Commission president Tuesday, becoming the first
woman to hold one of the most prestigious positions in the European Union
and who will be one of the most prominent faces from the bloc on the world
The European Parliament voted 383-327 with 22
abstentions to approve von der Leyen's nomination. The confirmation
required an absolute majority of 374 votes and the outgoing German defense
minister scraped through with barely nine votes to spare in a cliffhanger
"A majority is a majority in politics," she said when
questioned about her narrow escape.
Von der Leyen will replace Jean-Claude Juncker when his
term expires at the end of October.
She was put forward as a last-minute candidate by EU
leaders as part over an overall appointments package, sidestepping
parliamentary wishes. Many legislators felt cold-shouldered and said they
would oppose her out of principle, not over personal considerations.
"There was a great deal of resentment," she said.
Von der Leyen insisted the challenges facing the EU,
from climate to migration and internal division, were such that there was no
time to look back.
"My message to all of you is: let us work together
constructively," she said.
Earlier in the day, Von der Leyen set out her political
objectives on a greener, gender-equal Europe where the rule of law continues
to hold sway.
Her approval was a key part in the package of top jobs
that EU leaders agreed upon early this month. Under the deal, the
free-market liberal Renew Europe group got Belgian Prime Minister Charles
Michel as European Council president and the Socialists won the top
parliament job. France's Christine Lagarde was put forward as head of the
European Central Bank.
Von der Leyen told lawmakers in Strasbourg that the
gender element as embodied by herself and Lagarde will be an essential part
of her job.
"I will ensure full gender equality" in her team of 28
commissioners. "I want to see as many men as women around the college
table," she said.
Pointing out that since its inception in 1958, less
than 20% of commissioners had been women, she said: "We represent half of
our population. We want our fair share."
The gender breakthrough was welcome across much of the
"It is a great day for Europe to have a woman elected
to lead the European Commission," said Dacian Ciolos, leader of the liberal
Renew Europe group.
The rest of the commission team, which prepares a wide
range of legislation from climate change to farm subsidies and digital
rules, will be proposed by the EU member states, which have the right to one
Von der Leyen insisted that, despite euroskeptic
governments like Italy, Poland and Hungary, she would only work with
"I want a commission that is working to strengthen
Europe to position Europe in this world in its appropriate role," she said.
"None of us on its own will be as successful in
tackling the problems as we are together — 28 member states," she said.
Officials in the von der Leyen camp had long
acknowledged that the vote would be a cliffhanger. She was set to get the
majority of votes from her EPP Christian Democrats, the S&D socialists and
the RE liberals. They were part of a grand coalition sharing out the top
Still, with dissent even within those groups, it long
was too close to call.
During her address to the parliament, von der Leyen set
out her political lines for the next few years and immediately addressed
what she sees as the biggest challenge: climate change.
"I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral
continent in the world by 2050," she said, adding she would work out "a
green deal for Europe in the first 100 days" of her office. It would include
rules to improve on the current goal of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.
"It will need investment on a major scale," and funds
would be available for nations, mainly in eastern Europe, still depending on
polluting fossil fuels, she said.
She said that she would set up a climate division
within the European Investment Bank to "unlock 1 trillion euros of
investment over the next decade."
Despite the need for votes to get the absolute
majority, she did insist that her European Commission would continue to be
at least as tough as now on countries like Poland and Hungary, which have
been accused of disrespecting Western democratic values when it comes to the
rule of law.
"There can be no compromise when it comes to respecting
the rule of law. There never will be. I will ensure that we use our full and
comprehensive toolbox at European level," she said.
Facebook's currency plan gets hostile reception in US Congress
28, 2018, file photo shows a Facebook logo at the company's headquarters in
Menlo Park, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Washington (AP) — Under sharp criticism from
senators, a Facebook executive on Tuesday defended the social network's
ambitious plan to create a digital currency and pledged to work with
regulators to achieve a system that protects the privacy of users' data.
"We know we need to take the time to get this right,"
David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, told the Senate
Banking Committee at a hearing.
But that message did little to assure senators. Members
of both parties demanded to know why a company with massive market power and
a track record of scandals should be trusted with such a far-reaching
project, given the potential for fraud, abuse and criminal activity.
"Facebook is dangerous," asserted Sen. Sherrod Brown of
Ohio, the committee's senior Democrat. Like a toddler playing with matches,
"Facebook has burned down the house over and over," he told Marcus. "Do you
really think people should trust you with their bank accounts and their
Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona said "the
core issue here is trust." Users won't be able to opt out of providing their
personal data when joining the new digital wallet for Libra, McSally said.
"Arizonans will be more likely to be scammed" using the currency, she said.
The litany of criticism came as Congress began two days
of hearings on the currency planned by Facebook, to be called Libra.
Meanwhile, a House Judiciary subcommittee extended its bipartisan
investigation of the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.
On the defensive from bursts of aggressive questioning,
Facebook's Marcus indicated the currency plan is a work in progress. "We
will take the time" to ensure the network won't be open to use by criminals
and illicit activity like money laundering and financial fraud. "We hope
that we'll avoid conflicts of interest. We have a lot of work to do," Marcus
He said the new venture would be headquartered in
Switzerland, not to avoid oversight but because the country is a recognized
international financial center.
The grilling followed a series of negative comments and
warnings about the Libra plan in recent days from President Donald Trump,
his treasury secretary and the head of the Federal Reserve.
But some senators emphasized the potential positive
benefits of Facebook's plan, meant to bring money transacting at low cost to
millions around the globe who don't have bank accounts. Facebook had its
strong defenders of the project, too, on the panel.
"To strangle this baby in the crib is wildly
premature," said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
In that vein, Marcus said Libra "is about developing a
safe, secure and low-cost way for people to move money efficiently around
the world. We believe that Libra can make real progress toward building a
more inclusive financial infrastructure."
The planned digital currency is to be a blend of
multiple currencies, so that its value will fluctuate in any given local
currency. Because Libra will be backed by a reserve, and because the group
of companies managing it will encourage a competitive system of exchanges,
the project leaders say, "anyone with Libra has a high degree of assurance
they can sell it for local (sovereign) currency based on an exchange rate."
Promising low fees, the new currency system could open
online commerce to millions of people around the world who lack access to
bank accounts and make it cheaper to send money across borders. But it also
raises concerns over the privacy of users' data and the potential for
criminals to use it for money laundering and fraud.
To address privacy concerns, Facebook created a
nonprofit oversight association, with dozens of partners including PayPal,
Uber, Spotify, Visa and MasterCard, to govern Libra. As one among many in
the association, Facebook says it won't have any special rights or
privileges. It also created a "digital wallet" subsidiary, Calibra, to work
on the technology, separately from its main social media business. While
Facebook owns and controls Calibra, it won't see financial data from it, the
Senators demanded to know exactly what that separation
"Facebook isn't a company; it's a country," said Sen.
John Kennedy, R-La. Kennedy and other conservative senators took the
occasion to air long-standing grievances against Facebook, Twitter and
Google for a perceived bias against conservative views.
Facebook's currency proposal has also faced heavy
skepticism from the Trump administration.
Trump tweeted last week that the new currency, Libra,
"will have little standing or dependability." Both Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jerome Powell have expressed serious concerns recently
that Libra could be used for illicit activity.
The Treasury Department has "very serious concerns that
Libra could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financers," Mnuchin
told reporters at the White House on Monday. "This is indeed a national
Also Tuesday, across the Capitol in the House, the
chairman of a Judiciary Committee panel investigating the market power of
big tech companies said Congress and antitrust regulators wrongly allowed
them to regulate themselves. That enabled companies like Facebook, Google,
Amazon and Apple to operate out of control, dominating the internet and
choking off online innovation, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said at the
start of a hearing.
"The internet has become increasingly concentrated,
less open, and growingly hostile to innovation and entrepreneurship," he
As concerns have mounted over data privacy and market
dominance of Big Tech, an increasing number of lawmakers from both parties
are calling for tighter regulation of customarily free-wheeling companies or
even breaking them up. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade
Commission are pursuing antitrust investigations of the four major
Executives of the companies, testifying at the
Judiciary hearing, pushed back against lawmakers' accusations that they
operate as monopolies, laying out ways in which they say they compete fairly
yet vigorously against rivals in the marketplace.
And Google executive Karan Bhatia, at a Senate
Judiciary subcommittee hearing on online bias, insisted that the company's
search engine does not filter on the basis of political views. "We surface
the results that are most responsive," he said. "We don't use political
(markers) to blacklist or whitelist."
US fears Iran seized UAE-based tanker in Strait of Hormuz
supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting
with a group of clerics, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Office of
the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A small oil
tanker from the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz
entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker three days ago, leading
the U.S. to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the
Iranian state media quoted its Foreign Ministry
spokesman early Wednesday as saying the Islamic Republic had aided a foreign
oil tanker with a malfunction, but the report didn't explain further. Oil
tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions
between the U.S. and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world
The Panamanian-flagged Riah turned off its transponder
late Saturday night but an Emirati official said it sent no distress call.
The concern over its status comes as Iran continues its own high-pressure
campaign over its nuclear program after President Donald Trump unilaterally
withdrew America from the accord over a year ago.
Recently, Iran has inched its uranium production and
enrichment over the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, trying to put more
pressure on Europe to offer it better terms and allow it to sell its crude
However, those tensions also have seen the U.S. send
thousands of additional troops, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced
fighter jets into the Mideast. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iran
shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone has added to the fears of
an armed conflict breaking out.
The 58-meter (190-foot) Riah typically made trips from
Dubai and Sharjah on the UAE's west coast before going through the strait
and heading to Fujairah on the UAE's east coast. However, something happened
to the vessel after 11 p.m. on Saturday, according to tracking data.
Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told The
Associated Press on Tuesday that the tanker hadn't switched off its tracking
in three months of trips around the UAE. "That is a red flag," Raja said.
A U.S. defense official later told the AP that the Riah
was in Iranian territorial waters near Qeshm Island, which has a
Revolutionary Guard base on it.
"We certainly have suspicions that it was taken," the
official said. "Could it have broken down or been towed for assistance?
That's a possibility. But the longer there is a period of no contact ...
it's going to be a concern."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the
matter did not directly involve U.S. interests.
An Emirati official, speaking on condition of anonymity
to discuss an ongoing security matter, said the vessel "did not emit a
"We are monitoring the situation with our international
partners," the official said.
Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry
spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying Iran had helped an unnamed tanker by
towing it to an Iranian port, without elaborating. The report did not
identify the ship, nor explain the malfunction and the lack of a distress
call or any crew contact with home.
The ship's registered owner, Dubai-based Prime Tankers
LLC, told the AP it had sold the ship to another company called Mouj Al-Bahar.
A man who answered a telephone number registered to the firm told the AP it
didn't own any ships. The Emirati official said the ship was "neither UAE
owned nor operated" and carried no Emirati personnel, without elaborating.
Separately Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei said his country will retaliate over the seizure of an Iranian
supertanker carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil. The vessel was
seized with the help of British Royal Marines earlier this month off
Gibraltar over suspicion it was heading to Syria in violation of European
Union sanctions, an operation Khamenei called "piracy" in a televised
"God willing, the Islamic Republic and its committed
forces will not leave this evil without a response," he said. He did not
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday
that Britain will facilitate the release of the ship if Iran can guarantee
the vessel will not breach European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Iran previously has threatened to stop oil tankers
passing through the strait, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through
which 20% of all crude oil passes, if it cannot sell its own oil abroad.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad
Zarif seemed to suggest in a television interview that the Islamic
Republic's ballistic missile program could be up for negotiations with the
U.S., a possible opening for talks as tensions remain high between Tehran
and Washington. Zarif suggested an initially high price for such
negotiations — the halt of American arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates, two key U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf.
Iran's ballistic missile program remains under the
control of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only
Zarif brought up the ballistic missile suggestion
during an interview with NBC News that aired Monday night while he is in New
York for meetings at the United Nations. He mentioned the UAE spending $22
billion and Saudi Arabia spending $67 billion on weapons last year, many of
them American-made, while Iran spent only $16 billion in comparison.
"These are American weaponry that is going into our
region, making our region ready to explode," Zarif said. "So if they want to
talk about our missiles, they need first to stop selling all these weapons,
including missiles, to our region."
Iran's mission to the United Nations later called
Zarif's suggestion "hypothetical."
"Iran's missiles ... are absolutely and under no
condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period," the mission said.
However, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seized on
Zarif's comments in comments at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday at the White House
as a sign the U.S. maximalist campaign against Iran was working.
"For the first time, the Iranians have said that
they're prepared to negotiate about their missile program," he said. "So we
will have this opportunity, I hope."
Trump during his time in the White House has pointed to
arms sales to the Mideast as important to the American economy, so it
remains unclear how he'd react to cutting into those purchases. In pulling
out of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump in part blamed the accord not addressing
Iran's ballistic missile program. The U.S. fears Iran could use its missile
technology and space program to build nuclear-capable intercontinental
ballistic missiles, something Tehran denies it wants to do.
Ayham Kamel, an analyst for the Eurasia Group, said
Zarif's comments were aimed at show flexibility for possible.
"I think there's probably some space before we get to
any serious negotiation but several regional powers are already paving the
way for some form of talks between the two sides," he said.
Hong Kong police fight with protesters amid rising tensions
is tackled by policemen after a scuffle inside a shopping mall in Sha Tin
District in Hong Kong, Sunday, July 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Dake Kang and Katie Tam
Hong Kong (AP) — Police in Hong Kong fought with
protesters on Sunday as they broke up a demonstration by thousands of people
demanding the resignation of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's chief
executive and an investigation into complaints of police violence.
The protest in the northern district of Sha Tin was
peaceful for most of the day, but scuffles broke out when police started
clearing streets after nightfall. Some protesters retreated into a shopping
complex where they and police hit each other with clubs and umbrellas.
Police appeared to arrest some people, but reporters
couldn't see how many. The violence wound down toward midnight as the
remaining protesters left the area.
The demonstration added to an outpouring of grievances
this year against the former British colony's leaders. Critics complain they
are eroding Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy and are more responsive to the
Beijing government than to the territory's people. The mainland promised
Hong Kong a "high degree of autonomy" for 50 years after its 1997 return to
Police on Saturday broke up a protest in a separate
area of Hong Kong complaining about an influx of mainland traders.
On Sunday, some protesters called for genuinely
democratic voting in Hong Kong elections. A few demanded independence.
Organizers said 110,000 protesters took part, while
police put the number at 28,000, according to broadcaster RTHK.
A government statement said the afternoon march was
"peaceful and orderly" but that afterward some protesters "violently
assaulted police officers."
"Society will absolutely not tolerate such violent
acts," the statement said.
The protests began last month in opposition to a
proposed extradition law but have swelled to include complaints about an
influx of mainland Chinese into Hong Kong and that Chief Executive Carrie
Lam's government fails to address the needs of its people.
Communist authorities have tried to discredit the
protesters by saying unidentified "Western forces" are inciting them to
destabilize Hong Kong. Protesters deny foreigners have had any role in the
On Sunday, protesters demanded an investigation into
complaints that police assaulted participants in earlier demonstrations
against the extradition law.
Starting at about 3 p.m., they filled three streets
radiating out from an intersection in Sha Tin, a crowded neighborhood of
office and apartment buildings, shopping malls and hotels. Some carried
signs reading "Police Are Liars." Other signs read "Defend Hong Kong."
At about 8:30 p.m., police in green fatigues with
helmets and shields cleared the streets by walking shoulder-to-shoulder
toward the intersection. Some protesters threw bricks but most withdrew
peacefully and watched the police.
Many protesters appeared to leave the area, while
others entered the shopping-and-apartment complex at the intersection.
Reporters couldn't see how many protesters still were in the area.
Inside the complex, protesters threw umbrellas — a
symbol of the protests — and water bottles.
The violence wound down as most of the remaining
protesters fled to an adjacent subway station and left aboard crowded
Some protesters on Sunday carried American, British or
colonial-era Hong Kong flags.
"I think there is now a huge problem on how the police
enforce the law," said Nelson Yip, a protester in his 40s.
Lam's government suspended action last month on the
extradition bill. It would have allowed Hong Kong crime suspects to be
transferred to the mainland, where the ruling Communist Party controls the
Lam apologized for her handling of the legislation, but
critics are demanding she resign.
"Carrie Lam has been hiding," said Yip. "She has made
many promises but she has not been able to fulfill them. There is no sign
she is going to fulfill them."
On Saturday, police used clubs and tear gas to break up
a crowd of mostly young protesters who called for tighter control on
mainland traders who visit Hong Kong. Critics say they are improperly
undercutting Hong Kong businesses.
"The police seem to have become even more violent,"
said Peggie Cheung, 59, who joined Sunday's protest. "Coming out on the
streets feels like a responsibility to me."
In a separate demonstration earlier Sunday, a group
representing Hong Kong journalists marched to Lam's office on Hong Kong
Island to highlight complaints that police beat and obstructed reporters at
"It seems that they have deliberately targeted the
journalists," said Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists
Police issued a statement promising better training for
officers and communication with reporters.
"There is room for improvement," the statement said. It
promised "appropriate follow up actions" for complaints of mistreatment.
Magnitude 7.3 quake damages homes in eastern Indonesia
leave their homes to find higher grounds following an earthquake in Ternate,
North Maluku, Indonesia, Sunday, July 14, 2019. (AP Photo)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — A strong, shallow
earthquake struck eastern Indonesia on Sunday, damaging some homes and
causing panicked residents to flee to temporary shelters. There were no
immediate reports of casualties, and authorities said there was no threat of
The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.3 quake
was centered 166 kilometers southeast of Ternate, the capital of North
Maluku province, at a depth of just 10 kilometers. Shallow quakes tend to
cause more damage than deeper ones.
Indonesia's national disaster agency said the
land-based earthquake didn't have any potential to cause a tsunami.
Still, many people ran to higher ground, and TV footage
showed people screaming while running out of a shopping mall in Ternate.
Rahmat Triyono, the head of Indonesia's earthquake and
tsunami center, said the quake was followed by several smaller aftershocks.
The initial quake and aftershocks were also felt in some parts of North
Sulawesi province, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage
Ikhsan Subur, a local disaster agency official in
Labuha, the town closest to the quake's epicenter, said several hundred
people who were afraid of aftershocks fled to take shelter in government
offices and mosques.
He said a police dormitory and several houses of
villagers in South Halmahera district, near the epicenter, were damaged.
The disaster agency released photos of some moderately
cracked ground and a damaged house of a village police chief in South
No injuries were immediately reported, and authorities
were assessing the overall damage.
With a population of around 1 million, North Maluku is
one of Indonesia's least populous provinces.
Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is
prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the
Pacific "Ring of Fire." A powerful Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004
killed a total of 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in
Last week, a magnitude 6.9 undersea earthquake caused
panic in parts of eastern Indonesia and triggered a tsunami warning.
India aborts moon mission launch, citing technical glitch
Space Research Organization (ISRO)'s Geosynchronous Satellite launch Vehicle
(GSLV) MkIII, carrying Chandrayaan-2, stands at Satish Dhawan Space Center
in southern India after the mission was aborted Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP
Sriharikota, India (AP) — India aborted the
launch on Monday of a spacecraft intended to land on the far side of the
moon less than an hour before liftoff.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off when a
"technical snag" was observed in the 640-ton, 14-story rocket launcher,
Indian Space Research Organization spokesman B.R. Guruprasad said.
The countdown abruptly stopped at T-56 minutes, 24
seconds, and Guruprasad said that the agency would announce a revised launch
Chandrayaan, the word for "moon craft" in Sanskrit, is
designed for a soft landing on the lunar south pole and to send a rover to
explore water deposits confirmed by a previous Indian space mission.
With nuclear-armed India poised to become the world's
fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Prime Minister
Narendra Modi is eager to show off the country's prowess in security and
technology. If India did manage the soft landing, it would be only the
fourth to do so after the U.S., Russia and China.
Dr. K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research
Organization, said at a news conference last week that the around
$140-million Chandrayaan-2 mission was the nation's most prestigious to
date, in part because of the technical complexities of soft landing on the
lunar surface — an event he described as "15 terrifying minutes."
After countdown commenced on Sunday, Sivan visited two
Hindu shrines to pray for the mission's success.
Practically since its inception in 1962, India's space
program has been criticized as inappropriate for an overpopulated,
But decades of space research have allowed India to
develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that are
helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to
predicting storms and floods.
With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this
month, the world's biggest space agencies are returning their gaze to the
moon, seen as ideal testing grounds for technologies required for deep space
exploration, and, with the confirmed discovery of water, as a possible pit
stop along the way.
"The moon is sort of our backyard for training to go to
Mars," said Adam Steltzner, NASA's chief engineer responsible for its 2020
mission to Mars.
Because of repeated delays, India missed the chance to
achieve the first soft landing near the lunar south pole. China's Chang'e 4
mission landed a lander and rover there last January.
India's Chandrayaan-1 mission orbited the moon in 2008
and helped confirm the presence of water. The Indian Space Research
Organization wants its new mission's rover to further probe the far side of
the moon, where scientists believe a basin contains water-ice that could
help humans do more than plant flags on future manned missions.
The U.S. is working to send a manned spacecraft to the
moon's south pole by 2024.
Modi has set a deadline of 2022 for India's first
France trumpets shared European defense on Bastille Day
along the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Bastille Day parade in Paris,
France, Sunday July 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Paris (AP) — France's annual Bastille Day
celebration became a showcase for European defense cooperation Sunday as
other national leaders joined President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to inspect
the troops marching in the country's annual military parade.
Flags of the 10 European countries that are in a joint
military pact spearheaded by Macron last year led contingents of French and
foreign armed forces from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees
France has had a Bastille Day parade since 1880, and
it's customary for a foreign leader to be the guest of honor. The guest of
honor in 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump, came away so impressed by the
spectacle he ordered a military parade in Washington for America's
independence day celebration.
In Paris, the focus this year was the European Defense
Initiative, a coalition formed last year to prepare for possible military
action outside of NATO.
The heads of state of Germany, Portugal, the
Netherlands and Finland watched from the ceremonial viewing stand as 4,000
military personnel, 69 military airplanes and 39 helicopters passed by or
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the invitation to
celebrate France's national holiday "is a symbol for an intensified European
cooperation" and "a big gesture toward European defense policy."
The biggest crowd-pleaser, though, was the man who
rocketed through the air on a flying hoverboard. The inventor, former
jet-skiing champion Franky Zapata, held a rifle as he zoomed over the parade
route on a Flyboard.
Tensions were high on the streets of Paris following
eight months of anti-Macron demonstrations by the so-called yellow vest
movement seeking more financial help for French workers.
Several hundred yellow vest activists — without their
trademark fluorescent emergency jackets — gathered on the margins of the
Television images showed police grabbing one of the
movement's leaders, Eric Drouet, as he stood peacefully on the sidelines and
escorting him away.
Later in the day, riot police squads and groups of
young people scuffled amid security barricades along the parade route.
Officers fired tear gas to clear the streets after some people set trash
cans on fire.
Greece: Emergency declared after deadly storm hits resorts
A man rides
a bicycle among debris after a storm at Nea Plagia village in Halkidiki
region, northern Greece, Thursday, July 11, 2019.(Giannis Moisiadis/InTime
News via AP) (Giannis Moisiadis/InTime News via AP)
Thessaloniki, Greece (AP) — A state of emergency
has been declared in an area of northern Greece after a violent storm tore
through seaside resorts, killing six tourists. A fisherman, who had been
missing, was also found dead Thursday taking the death toll to seven.
The widespread damage wrought by the storm has renewed
calls from civil protection experts, environmental groups, and the country's
Orthodox Church for a shift in policies to address the impact of climate
change on Greece's coastline terrain.
Powerful gales late Wednesday hammered the Halkidiki
peninsula snapping trees and power pylons, tossing vehicles and flinging
beach lounge chairs into trees, leaving swathes of debris across the
Authorities said 22 people remain hospitalized,
including a woman in critical condition, and more than 100 others received
medical attention. Six of the dead were tourists: two each from Russia, the
Czech Republic and Romania.
Two of those who died were killed when high winds
overturned their recreational vehicle, while an 8-year-old boy and his
mother were killed when an outdoor restaurant's lean-to roof collapsed.
Another two were killed by falling trees.
The storm occurred nearly a year after a wildfire near
Athens killed at least 100 people during a heatwave, and prompted concern
over more frequent damaging weather events.
"From now on, these phenomena will occur with
increasing frequency, especially in the Mediterranean area which is
sensitive to climate change," Efthymis Lekkas, a professor at Athens
University's Department of Geology and Geo-environment, who heads a public
agency for earthquake and disaster planning, told state-run TV.
"We must definitely adapt our civil protection plans
and incorporate updated scientific knowledge and know-how to deal with these
The environmental group Greenpeace called in the
government to abandon plans to expand offshore natural gas exploitation and
invest in renewable alternatives.
"We know that increased temperatures produce more
catastrophic weather events," said Nikos Charalambides, head of Greenpeace
in Greece. "We only have a few years left to address our lack of response to
Greece's Orthodox Church leader, Archbishop Ieronymos,
criticized the "indiscriminate use of natural resources that burden the
atmosphere and ultimately causes climate change."
The storm in Halkidiki was the first major event to be
addressed by the country's new conservative government following a general
election Sunday. The army was ordered to help civilian agencies restore
power and running water to damaged areas and end road closures and
disruptions to rail services.
The Culture Ministry said monasteries at the nearby
Orthodox Christian monastic sanctuary of Mount Athos — the easternmost
section of the three-finger Halkidiki peninsula — did not suffer any serious
Britain says Iranian vessels tried to block tanker in Gulf
Navy said it intercepted an attempt on Thursday, July 11, 2019, by three
Iranian paramilitary vessels to impede the passage of a British commercial
vessel just days after Iran’s president warned of repercussions for the
seizure of its own supertanker. (UK Ministry of Defence via AP)
Aya Batrawy and Amir Vahdat
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The British
navy said Thursday it stopped three Iranian paramilitary vessels from
disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz
in a brief but tense standoff stemming from the U.K.'s role in seizing an
Iranian supertanker a week earlier.
The incident highlights how fragile maritime security
has become through one of the world's most vital energy supply routes as the
Trump administration carries out a campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.
Iran recently began breaching uranium enrichment limits
set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President
Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the accord a year ago. He
also has re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran's oil exports, exacerbating an
economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.
Russia and China, both signatories to the nuclear
agreement along with Britain, France and Germany, have called for restraint.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "freedom of navigation should be
ensured in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz."
Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied any incident had
occurred in the strait, saying if it had received orders to seize any ships
it would have done so immediately. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani,
however, had warned on Wednesday of repercussions for the seizure of the
Iranian vessel by Britain's Royal Marines in Gibraltar, off the southern
coast of Spain a week ago.
The U.K. said in a statement that the British naval
vessel HMS Montrose had been accompanying the commercial ship, British
Heritage, through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, a crucial waterway for energy
shipments . It said three Iranian vessels attempted "to impede" the ship's
"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between
the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the
Iranian vessels, which then turned away," the statement said.
The HMS Montrose is on a three-year mission at the
British navy's support facility in Bahrain, the hub of its naval operations
east of the Suez Canal.
U.K. Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the
government is concerned by the incident and urged Iranian authorities to
de-escalate the situation. She thanked the Royal Navy for upholding
international law and supporting freedom of navigation through the Strait of
A U.S. aircraft was in the area at the time of the
incident and the military has video imagery, a U.S. official said, speaking
on condition of anonymity to discuss security matters. The U.S. 5th Fleet in
Bahrain declined to comment on the incident.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said
CENTCOM was aware of reports of "harassment and attempts to interfere with"
the passage of the British Heritage near the Strait of Hormuz by the Islamic
Revolutionary Guard's naval forces.
In recent months, the U.S. has sent thousands of
additional troops, an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and advanced fighter
jets to the region as tensions with Iran rise.
Washington has blamed Iran for a series of mysterious
attacks on oil tankers in the region in the past two months — charges that
Tehran denies. Tensions spiked further last month when Iran shot down an
American military surveillance drone, which the U.S. says was in
international airspace but Tehran says had violated Iranian airspace.
The regional waters where tensions have played out are
of global importance. About 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes through
the Strait of Hormuz from Middle Eastern producers. Iran has also used the
shipping lanes for its own oil exports, but U.S. sanctions have curtailed
Tehran's ability to sell its crude internationally.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has asked Mideast
allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in past weeks to
contribute financially and militarily to a Trump administration proposal
called the Sentinel Program — a coalition of nations working with the U.S.
to preserve maritime security in the Persian Gulf and keep eyes on Iran.
Despite the latest incident, the overall threat level
for non-British ships using the Strait of Hormuz has not changed
significantly, said Jakob P. Larsen, head of maritime security for BIMCO,
the largest international association representing ship owners.
"With what we've seen now I'm certain trade will
continue in the region," he said from Denmark. "Of course ship owners will
take their precautions, and for British interests those would probably be a
little more comprehensive."
Maritime security risk firm Dryad Global described the
British commercial vessel that had been at the center of the incident as an
oil tanker operated by BP and registered in the Isle of Man. Lloyd's List, a
publication specializing in maritime affairs, said Shell had chartered the
ship from BP.
Lloyd's List said the vessel, the British Heritage, had
diverted from its route to load its 140,000-ton cargo of crude at Basra,
Iraq, as planned on July 4, the same day Iran's tanker was intercepted off
Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. It said the vessel instead headed
to Saudi waters where it had remained for several days.
Since July 2, at least 20 British-flagged ships have
sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, according to Lloyd's List Intelligence
BP said the company's "top priority is the safety and
security of our crews and vessels" and thanked the Royal Navy for its
support. The British multinational oil and gas firm declined to comment
Shell stopped short of confirming reports it had
chartered the tanker, but told The Associated Press in a statement that
"safety is our top priority." A spokesman said the company was monitoring
the situation closely and expects all vessels it charters to consider
relevant Department for Transport guidance on shipping in the area.
The department had already raised its risk assessment
to the highest level for maritime security in Iranian waterways, according
to Lloyd's List.
The semi-official Fars news agency carried a statement
from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's navy on Thursday saying "there were
no clashes with alien floats, especially British boats."
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed
the British allegations as "worthless," saying the claims "are being made to
create tension," Fars reported.
In recent days, Iran had summoned the British
ambassador over what it called the "illegal interception" of its tanker.
Rouhani had also warned that Britain would face "repercussions" over the
The operation to seize the tanker took place at the
request of the U.S. Authorities in Gibraltar, assisted in the seizure by
Britain's Royal Marines, suspect the vessel was breaching European sanctions
on oil shipments to Syria.
Iran has, meanwhile, begun breaching the limits of the
nuclear deal, both on the stockpile of low-enriched uranium and the level of
uranium enrichment. It also set an early September deadline for world powers
to save the agreement, saying it would otherwise take a third step in going
beyond the deal's limits.
Iran maintains it is justified in breaching the
limitations because the U.S. already broke the deal with its unilateral
Danish mother seeks death for daughter's killers in Morocco
forces stand guard as suspects charged in connection with the killing of two
Scandinavian tourists in Morocco's Atlas Mountains, arrive to a trial
session in Sale, near Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab
Sale, Morocco (AP) — Nearly two dozen suspects
returned to court on terrorism charges Thursday for the brutal slayings of
two Scandinavian women hiking in the Atlas Mountains.
The three main suspects in the December killings of
Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of
Denmark, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group. They recorded the
slayings and posted the video online.
The two women were knifed to death in their tent in a
remote area of the scenic Atlas range not far from the village of Imlil,
often the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest
Neither of their families was present in the courtroom
in Sale. A lawyer seeking compensation from the Moroccan state for the
Danish victim's family read a letter from the mother asking the court to
issue death sentences, which the prosecutor is seeking.
Lawyer Khalid Fataoui, on the verge of tears, also read
passages in which the young woman's mother described how her life has been
ruined by her daughter's death.
"I cry all the time when I think of her. My daughter
and her (friend) Maren had dreams and were taken in the most terrible way,"
the letter said.
The trial is expected to wrap up with final defense
statements and produce a verdict on July 18. The men charged as the main
suspects, ages 25 to 30, have pleaded guilty and said they regret their
Their state-appointed defense attorney, Havida
Maksaoui, said ahead of Thursday's proceedings that she would plead for
mitigating circumstances and ask the court to order psychological tests.
"My clients are victims of poverty and ignorance. They
fell prey to evil," Maksaoui said in an interview. "Something is wrong with
The prosecutor said in his closing arguments in June
that he would seek death sentences for the three, calling them "human
beasts" while noting the numerous stab wounds to their bodies.
Among the suspected accomplices, most arrested in the
Marrakech region, are several imams as well as ex-convicts.
Only one suspected accomplice has pleaded innocent, a
Swiss-Spanish convert to Islam, Kevin Zoller. Investigators allege he has
links to men who orchestrated the women's killings and had direct contact
with members of the Islamic State group in Syria via the encrypted messaging
His lawyer, Saad Sahli, maintained Zoller "does not
have any relations with IS, either abroad or in Morocco."
Another Swiss man who had been among suspected
accomplices was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison, convicted on
charges including "deliberately helping perpetrators of terrorist acts" and
training terrorists, the state-run news agency MAP said at the time.
More than 1,000 Moroccans had joined IS before its
"caliphate" crumbled in Syria and Iraq. Between 2017 and 2018, Moroccan
authorities dismantled 20 cells with terrorist affiliations.
No bones found in Vatican tombs searched for missing girl
picture taken on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 shows the view of the Teutonic
Cemetery inside the Vatican. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Vatican City (AP) — The tombs of two
19th-century German princesses were pried open at a tiny Holy See cemetery
Thursday and turned out to be completely empty, dashing any expectations
they held the remains of a teenager who vanished in 1983 after leaving her
family's Vatican City apartment.
Emanuela Orlandi's disappearance is one of Italy's most
enduring mysteries, and the opening of the tombs at her family's request was
the latest search for possible leads to fail. Instead, the gravesite
inspections raised only new questions: what happened to the remains of the
two princesses who were buried in the side-by-side tombs in 1836 and 1840,
respectively, in peaceful Teutonic Holy Field near St. Peter's Basilica?
"The tombs are empty. We are all amazed," Orlandi
family lawyer Laura Sgro told reporters. It was Sgro who had received an
anonymous letter suggesting the family check out the tomb in the cemetery
where a stone angel holds a scroll reading in Latin "Rest in peace."
Witnessing the tomb's opening along with Sgro, and a
technical expert for the Orlandi family was also Pietro Orlandi, whose
15-year-old sister disappeared after she went to her music lesson in Rome on
June 22, 1983. The siblings' father worked as a messenger for the Vatican,
and the family lived in Vatican City State.
The Vatican said in a statement that the opening of the
tombs "yielded a negative outcome. No human remains nor funereal urns were
It said the inspection of Princess Sophie von
Hohenlohe's tomb turned up an underground chamber measuring roughly 4 by 3.7
meters (13 by 12 feet) that was "completely empty." Then the stone lid of an
adjacent sarcophagus of Princess Charlotte Federica di Mecklenburg was
removed and inside "no human remains were found," the Vatican said.
It added that relatives of the two princesses were
informed that the tombs of their loved ones were empty.
A Holy See spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, said the
Vatican is combing through documentation about two structural projects that
involved the cemetery area, one in the late 1800s, and the other between the
1960s and 1970s, in case that work might explain why the princesses' remains
The Vatican had announced it had engaged a forensic
anthropology expert, who is a professor of forensic medicine at a Rome
university, to examine the remains and prepare them for DNA testing. But
that arrangement proved premature when no remains were found.
Pietro Orlandi said that in a certain sense that no
bones were found was "personally a relief," since it would have been
upsetting to view remains that might have been those of his sister.
Speculation has swirled around Orlandi's fate for
years. Conspiracy theories have abounded, including perhaps she was
kidnapped as a part of a failed bid for the release of the Turkish gunman
who shot and severely wounded Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in
Last year, two set of remains were found during
renovations in the basement of a building on the grounds of the Vatican's
embassy in Rome. Scientific testing ruled out that the remains were
France to slap new 'ecotax' on plane tickets from 2020
In this May
17, 2019 file photo, Air France planes are parked on the tarmac at Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport, in Roissy, near Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Thomas Adamson and Frank Jordans
Paris (AP) — France will introduce a new charge
on plane tickets from next year, with revenue used to fund
environment-friendly alternatives, the country's transport minister said
The "ecotax" costing between 1.50 euros ($1.7) and 18
euros ($20) will apply to most flights departing in France, Elisabeth Borne
The only exceptions will be for domestic flights to
Corsica and France's overseas territories, and connecting flights that pass
through France. It will not apply to flights arriving in France.
Shares in Air France/KLM and budget airlines EasyJet
and Ryanair dropped following the announcement.
Industry group IATA, which favors a system that allows
airlines to offset their emissions by paying for carbon reduction efforts
elsewhere, called the French ticket charge "misguided."
"National taxes will do nothing to assist the aviation
industry in its sustainability efforts," IATA spokesman Anthony Concil said,
warning that instead of helping airlines invest in cleaner fuels and
technology it could end up harming the French aviation industry and
But the move received a cautious welcome from
environmental campaigners, who argue that the airline industry needs to curb
its greenhouse gas emissions as part of wider efforts to combat climate
"This alone won't do much, but it's at least a
recognition by the French government that more is required," said Andrew
Murphy, an air travel expert at Brussels-based group Transport and
According to Borne, domestic and European flights will
be taxed at 1.50 euros for economy tickets and 9 euros ($10) for business
class, rising to 18 euros for business flights outside the EU.
By comparison, Britain's air passenger duty for
standard passenger planes starts at 13 pounds ($16.20), rising to a maximum
of 172 pounds ($214.20), and generates more than 3 billion pounds in
Treasury revenue every year.
The French tax is expected to raise over 180 million
euros ($200 million) from 2020 to invest in eco-friendly transport
infrastructure, including rail. It comes on top of a similar ticket charge
introduced over a decade ago by former French President Jacques Chirac, the
proceeds of which go toward medical aid for poor countries.
Murphy said the French move could boost efforts to
introduce a Europe-wide tax on aviation to reflect plane travel's
Germany, Italy and some Nordics nations also have
ticket taxes. Several European countries are meanwhile pushing for the VAT
exemption that airline fuel enjoys in Europe to be dropped.
Germany's Environment Ministry said Tuesday it supports
discussions on additional CO2-based pricing systems for air travel to reduce
the industry's contribution to man-made greenhouse gas emissions, currently
estimated at more than 2% but forecast to grow significantly in coming
"What's more, the conditions for competition between
air, road and rail travel need to be made fairer," the ministry said in a
statement. "This is something we in Europe need to achieve together."
UK envoy's leaked views inspire more insults in Trump tweets
President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House,
Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
London (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump lashed
out at Britain's ambassador to the United States for a second day,
describing him as "wacky" and a "pompous fool" after leaked documents
revealed the envoy's dim view of Trump's administration.
Trump fired off a series of tweets about Ambassador Kim
Darroch hours after British Prime Minister Theresa May gave the veteran
diplomat her continued support.
"The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the
United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy," Trump
wrote in one tweet.
Darroch's forthright, unfiltered views on the U.S.
administration — meant for a limited audience and discreet review — appeared
in leaked diplomatic documents that were published in Britain's Mail on
The disclosures have caused embarrassment and an
awkward situation for two countries that often celebrate having a "special
In his Twitter comments Tuesday, Trump combined
criticism of Darroch with a broadside at May, chiding the British leader for
failing to get her Brexit deal with the European Union through Parliament.
"I told @theresa_may how to do that deal, but she went
her own foolish way-was unable to get it done. A disaster!" Trump tweeted.
"I don't know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool."
Darroch has served as Britain's envoy in Washington
since 2016. In one of his leaked memos, he said that to communicate
effectively with Trump, "you need to make your points simple, even blunt."
The published documents also included the ambassador
calling the Trump administration's policies on Iran "incoherent," saying the
U.S. president might be indebted to "dodgy Russians," and raising doubts
about whether the Trump White House "will ever look competent."
Darroch has had a close relationship with numerous
Trump administration officials. The president's advisers have been frequent
guests at British Embassy events.
An investigation is underway to find who was
responsible for leaking the memos, a major breach of diplomatic security.
May's spokesman said Tuesday that the prime minister
phoned Darroch to tell him he still had her full support.
But the tweets by Trump, which followed a similar
social media barrage on Monday, ratcheted up pressure on Britain's
government. Darroch also has been accused by some Brexit-backing U.K.
politicians of lacking enthusiasm for Britain's departure from the European
The journalist who reported the leak, Isabel Oakeshott,
is a strong Brexit backer and an ally of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage,
who also is Britain's leading champion of Trump.
Trump once said Farage would "do a great job" as
ambassador to the United States. Farage sidestepped the idea Monday, saying
"I'm not a diplomat."
The tiff with Trump also put pressure on Boris Johnson
and Jeremy Hunt, the two men vying to succeed May as Conservative leader and
prime minister. Both say they will lead the U.K. out of the European Union
and secure new trade deals around the world — notably with the United
Hunt, who is Britain's current foreign secretary,
reprimanded Trump on Tuesday, writing in his own tweets that the president's
comments about Darroch were "disrespectful and wrong."
During a televised debate Tuesday night, Hunt said "if
I am our next prime minister, the ambassador in Washington stays, because it
is our decision."
Johnson declined during the debate to make a similar
commitment to keep Darroch in his post, though he said whoever leaked the
diplomatic cables should be "eviscerated."
"I think it's very important we should have a close
partnership, a close friendship with the United States," he said.
While British officials hunted for the culprit behind
the leak, senior Conservative Party figure and former Foreign Secretary
William Hague said the government was right to back Darroch.
"You can't change an ambassador at the demand of a host
country," Hague told the BBC. "It is their job to give an honest assessment
of what is happening in that country."
Indonesia returning 57 containers of developed world's waste
Indonesian custom officer show off the front of a foreign newspaper among
waste found in a container at the Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. (AP Photo)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia is sending
dozens of containers of waste back to wealthy nations after finding it was
contaminated with used diapers, plastic and other materials, adding to a
growing backlash in Southeast Asia against being a dumping ground for the
developed world's rubbish.
The Directorate General of Customs said Tuesday that 49
containers at Batam port near Singapore will be returned to Australia, the
U.S., France, Germany and Hong Kong after inspections showed their contents
violated Indonesian laws on the import of hazardous and toxic waste.
Separately, the head of customs at East Java's Tanjung
Perak port, Basuki Suryanto, said eight other containers with 210 tons of
waste that arrived from Australia on June 20 were supposed to contain only
paper but included other matter.
"It turned out those containers also had household
waste, used cans, plastic bottles, used oil packaging, used electronics,
used baby diapers and used footwear. So we decided to return it to the
country of origin," he said.
China banned the import of plastic waste at the end of
2017, resulting in more being sent to developing Southeast Asian nations.
A study published in June last year in the journal
Science Advances that used United Nations data found other nations would
need to find a home for more than 110 million tons of plastic waste by 2030
because of the Chinese ban. Indonesia and China are themselves among the
world's biggest producers of plastic waste, which is increasingly fouling
their own land, seas and beaches.
Suryanto said the Indonesian-owned company that
imported the Australian waste to the East Java port is obliged to return it
to Australia within 90 days. No other sanctions were planned, he said.
Directorate General of Customs spokesman Deni
Surjantiro said the 49 containers to be repatriated from Batam were among 65
containers of waste inspected at the port. Eleven were filled with plastic
trash and 38 contaminated by toxic or otherwise hazardous waste, he said.
Importing hazardous waste into Indonesia is a criminal
offense, Surjantiro said, with a maximum 12-year prison sentence and a
maximum fine of 12 billion rupiah ($850,000).
The Philippines was recently involved in a high-profile
spat with Canada over what Philippine officials said was illegally
transported garbage and in May sent 69 containers back to Canada. Malaysia
in May said it would send back some 3,000 tons of non-recyclable plastic
waste to countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia
Philippine officials said the Canadian garbage was
transported to their country in 103 containers in 2013 and 2014 and falsely
declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Some of the garbage was disposed of,
leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used
diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.
Canadian gets 9 years in prison in Nepal for abusing boys
Monday, July 8, 2019 photo, Canadian aid worker Peter Dalglish, center
wearing red cap, is brought to appear before the Kavre District Court in
Nepal. (AP Photo/ Janak Raj Sapkota)
Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — A Canadian aid worker
has been sentenced to nine years in prison in Nepal for sexually abusing two
boys who were found at his home.
A judge issued the sentence Monday against Peter
Dalglish, who was arrested last year and convicted last month of sexually
He was issued separate sentences of nine years and
seven years but they will overlap, so he will be in jail for nine years in
total, Kavre District Court official Thakur Chandra Trital said Tuesday.
The judge also ordered Dalglish to pay 500,000 rupees
($4,500) each as compensation to the boys, who were then 12 and 14 years
Dalglish was arrested at his mountain villa in April
2018. He had denied the charges.
Dalglish helped found the charity Street Kids
International and has worked for decades for a number of humanitarian
agencies, including U.N. Habitat in Afghanistan and the U.N. Mission for
Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia. He has focused much of the time on
working children and street children.
Investigating officials had said Dalglish lured
children from poor families with promises of an education, jobs and trips,
and then sexually abused them.
Investigators followed Dalglish for weeks after they
received information about alleged abuses.
Hong Kong protesters aim to take message to mainland Chinese
Protesters march in Hong
Kong on Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Hong Kong (AP) — Thousands of people, many
wearing black shirts and some carrying British flags, were marching in Hong
Kong on Sunday, targeting a mainland Chinese audience as a month-old protest
movement showed no signs of abating.
Chanting "Free Hong Kong" and words of encouragement to
their fellow citizens, the demonstrators streamed through a shopping
district popular with mainland visitors to the high-speed railway station
that connects the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to Guangdong and other
Hong Kong has been riven by protests for the past
month, sparked by proposed changes to extradition laws that would have
allowed suspects to be sent to the mainland to face trial. Hong Kong leader
Carrie Lam suspended the bill and apologized for how it was handled, but
protesters want it to be formally withdrawn and for Lam to resign.
March organizer Ventus Lau said the purpose of Sunday's
protest was two-fold: to reiterate the protesters' demands to the government
and to give mainland visitors a firsthand look at their movement.
"The information is rather blocked in mainland, we want
to show them the true image and the message of Hong Kongers," he said.
The march was the first major protest since last
Monday, when protesters smashed thick glass walls to break into the city's
legislature building and wreaked havoc inside, spray painting slogans on the
walls, overturning furniture and damaging voting and fire prevention
Most of the marchers were young, wearing black shirts
that have become the uniform of the protesters. But the crowd also included
older people carrying hand-held fans in the muggy heat, as well as parents
with children, including some in baby strollers.
Many were carrying posters, including one that read
"Extradite to China, disappear forever." Some in the crowd were waving
The proposed extradition legislation has raised
concerns about an erosion of freedoms and rights in Hong Kong in recent
years. The city was allowed to keep its own legal system for 50 years after
Britain returned the then-colony to China in 1997, but many fear that
freedom of expression and other rights are under threat.
Prior to the start of the march, police put up large
barricades blocking a main entrance to the railway station to prevent any
attempt to enter it. Only passengers with train reservations would be
allowed into the station, the mass transit authority said, and Hong Kong
media reported that ticket sales had been suspended for afternoon trains.
The high-speed railway station, which opened last
September, was a source of contention, as passengers pass through Chinese
immigration and customs inside. Some opposition lawmakers said the fact that
Chinese law applies in the immigration area violates the agreement giving
Hong Kong its own legal system.
The July 1 break-in at the legislature overshadowed a
peaceful march the same day by hundreds of thousands of people also opposed
to the extradition legislation.
Protesters also are demanding an independent
investigation into a crackdown on demonstrations June 12 in which officers
used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds blocking major city
streets. The tactics used were harsher than usual for Hong Kong, which
police have said were justified after some protesters turned violent. Dozens
were injured in the clashes, both protesters and police.
The protesters are also calling for direct election of
Hong Kong's leader. Lam was chosen by an elite committee of mainly
Iran steps further from nuke deal, adding pressure on Europe
to right, spokesman for Iran's atomic agency Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran's
government spokesman Ali Rabiei and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas
Araghchi, attend a press briefing in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP
Jon Gambrell and Nasser Karimi
Tehran, Iran (AP) — Iran increased its uranium
enrichment Sunday beyond the limit allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal with
world powers, inching its program closer toward weapons-grade levels while
calling for a diplomatic solution to a crisis heightening tensions with the
Iran's move, coupled with earlier abandoning the deal's
limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile, intensifies pressure on Europe
to find any effective way around U.S. sanctions that block Tehran's oil
But the future of the accord that President Donald
Trump unilaterally pulled the U.S. from a year ago remains in question.
While Iran's recent measures could be easily reversed, Europe has struggled
to respond, even after getting a 60-day warning that the increase was
Meanwhile, experts fear a miscalculation in the crisis
could explode into open conflict, as Trump already has nearly bombed Iran
over Tehran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone.
Trump warned Tehran on Sunday that "Iran better be
careful." He didn't elaborate on what actions the U.S. might consider, but
Trump told reporters: "Iran's doing a lot of bad things."
International reaction to Iran's decision came swiftly,
with Britain warning Iran to "immediately stop and reverse all activities"
violating the deal, Germany saying it is "extremely concerned," and Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime critic of the accord, urging
world powers to impose so-called "snapback sanctions" on Tehran.
The European Union said parties to the deal are
discussing a possible emergency meeting after Iran's announcement, with EU
spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic saying the bloc is "extremely concerned" about
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: "Iran's
latest expansion of its nuclear program will lead to further isolation and
sanctions. Nations should restore the longstanding standard of no enrichment
for Iran's nuclear program. Iran's regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would
pose an even greater danger to the world."
At a news conference, Iranian officials said the new
level of uranium enrichment would be reached later in the day, but did not
provide the percentage they planned to hit. Under the nuclear deal, the cap
for enrichment was set at 3.67%, a percentage closely monitored by
inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear
"Within hours, the technical tasks will be done and
enrichment above 3.67% will begin," Iran nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz
Kamalvandi said. "We predict that the IAEA measurements early tomorrow
morning will show that we have gone beyond 3.67%."
The IAEA said it was aware of Iran's comments and
"inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify
the announced development."
Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, made remarks in a video Saturday about Iran's need for 5%
enrichment. Bushehr, Iran's only nuclear power plant, is now running on
imported fuel from Russia that's enriched to around 5%.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a
letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini outlining the steps it
had taken, said Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister. Discussions with
European powers are continuing and ministerial-level talks are planned later
this month, he said.
"We will give another 60-day period, and then we will
resume the reduction of our commitments," Araghchi said, without
On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told his
Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in a phone call that he is trying to
find a way by July 15 to resume the dialogue between Iran and Western
partners. It wasn't clear if July 15 carried any importance. The U.S. has
called for a special IAEA meeting for Wednesday to discuss Iran.
Kamalvandi stressed that Iran will continue to use only
slower, first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to increase enrichment, as well as
keep the number of centrifuges in use under the 5,060-limit set by the
nuclear deal. Iran has the technical ability to build and operate advanced
centrifuges that work faster but is barred from doing so under the deal.
"For the enrichment we are using the same machines with
some more pressure and some special technical work," he said. "So we don't
have an increase in the number of centrifuges for this purpose."
But Kamalvandi stressed that Iran is able to continue
enrichment "at any speed, any amount and any level."
Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for
peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%.
The decision to ramp up uranium enrichment came less
than a week after Iran acknowledged breaking the deal's 300-kilogram
(661-pound) limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Experts warn higher
enrichment and a growing stockpile narrow the one-year window Iran would
need to have enough material for an atomic bomb, something Iran denies it
wants but the deal prevented.
The steps taken so far by Iran show it is more
interested in applying political pressure than moving toward a nuclear
weapon, said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the
Washington-based Arms Control Association. He said Iran would need at least
1,050 kilograms (2,315 pounds) of low-enriched uranium to make the core of a
single nuclear bomb, then would have to enrich it to 90%.
"Iran is not racing toward the bomb as some allege but
these are calibrated moves," Kimball told The Associated Press. However, "if
Iran and the United States remain on the current course, the agreement is
indeed in jeopardy."
Netanyahu urged the international community to punish
Iran for its decision.
"It is a very, very dangerous step," he said. "I'm
asking you, not to provoke but out of joint knowledge of history and what
happens when aggressive totalitarian regimes can cross the threshold toward
things that are very dangerous to us all. Take the steps that you promised.
Enact the sanctions."
However, Kimball cautioned against that.
"Iran is clearly not going to enter negotiations for a
new deal if these sanctions are in place," he said. "This is a self-made,
Trump administration crisis because it has been taking drastic measures to
dismantle the (deal) without a viable Plan B."
3 runners gored racing with bulls at Pamplona's festival
run next to fighting bulls during the running of the bulls at the San Fermin
Festival, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AP
Álvaro Barrientos and Aritz Parra
Pamplona, Spain (AP) — Five people were
hospitalized after the opening bull run of this year's San Fermin festival
in Pamplona, including two Americans and a Spaniard who were gored by bulls,
officials in the northern Spanish city said Sunday.
A 46-year old man from San Francisco, California, was
gored in the neck in the city's bullring, at the end of the 850-meter
(930-yard) course. He was undergoing surgery, the regional government
A 23-year old man from Florence, Kentucky and a
40-year-old Spanish man were both gored in their thighs. Two young Spanish
men sustained head injuries.
The nine-day San Fermin fiesta, where six bulls are run
every morning in the city's narrow streets before being killed in afternoon
bullfights, draws around one million visitors annually, including many
citizens from the United States. Every year hundreds of "runners" race ahead
of or next to the bulls, while the more risk-averse watch from balconies.
Some arrive following in the steps of American novelist
and Nobel literature laureate Ernest Hemingway, who became fascinated by
bullfighting and immortalized the festival in his 1926 book "The Sun Also
Sunday morning's inaugural run featured bulls from the
Puerto de San Lorenzo cattle breeder, which also caused one goring last
The pack dashed together along the cobble-stoned,
barricaded street course. Toward the end, one of the bulls stumbled briefly,
causing panic and at least one goring when it resumed the race and charged
at some of the racers.
The local Red Cross said its emergency personnel had
attended to an additional 48 people for minor injuries, including two who
had been trampled by the racing bulls.
The run, which lasted 2 minutes and 41 seconds, came
after the festival's official opening — or "Chupinazo" — on Friday, when
tens of thousands of party-goers shower each other with wine and champagne
in a packed square.
The annual festival also includes music performances,
traditional sports and dance displays, a religious procession on Sunday to
honor the local patron, a firework competition and endless partying.
US bomb from WWII defused in Germany after mass evacuation
stands with her suitcase near the European Central Bank as 16 000 people are
evacuated prior to the defusing of a WWII bomb in Frankfurt, Germany,
Sunday, July 7, 2019. The bomb was discovered during construction works
right next to the ECB. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Frankfurt, Germany (AP) — A 500-kilo
(1,100-pound) World War II bomb was defused near the Frankfurt headquarters
of the European Central Bank hours after thousands of people were evacuated
from the surrounding district Sunday.
City officials called on about 16,500 people to leave
their homes in the Ostend area east of downtown Frankfurt on Sunday morning
before emergency workers tackled the American bomb, which was found during
construction work last month.
Authorities had already moved some people out of a
nursing home on Saturday.
More than 70 years after the end of the war, unexploded
bombs are frequently found in Germany. Disposing of them sometimes entails
large-scale precautionary evacuations such as the one on Sunday.
The defusing operation was completed by mid-afternoon,
according to the city's fire service, about two hours after police verified
that no one was left in the area.
Officials chose Sunday to defuse the bomb to allow
preparation and to minimize disruption in Frankfurt, Germany's financial
California towns survey quake damage amid more aftershocks
firefighters work to knock down a fire that severely damaged a home on South
Sunland Street in Ridgecrest, Calif., following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake
that shook the region about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los
Angeles. (Jack Barnwell/The Daily Independent via AP)
John Antczak and Brady McCombs
Los Angeles (AP) — Communities in the Mojave
Desert tallied damage and made emergency repairs to cracked roads and broken
pipes Friday as aftershocks from Southern California's largest earthquake in
20 years kept rumbling.
The town of Ridgecrest, close to the epicenter,
assessed damage after several fires and multiple injuries that were blamed
on the magnitude 6.4 quake. A shelter drew 28 people overnight but not all
of them slept inside amid the shaking.
"Some people slept outside in tents because they were
so nervous," said Marium Mohiuddin of the American Red Cross.
Damage appeared limited to desert areas, although the
quake was felt widely, including in the Los Angeles region 150 miles (240
kilometers) away. The largest aftershock thus far — magnitude 5.4 — was also
felt in LA before dawn Friday.
The odds of a quake of similar size happening in the
next few days continued to dwindle and was only 6 percent on Friday,
There had been about 1,700 aftershocks since the
Thursday quake, which was a bit higher than average, said Zachary Ross of
the California Institute of Technology.
"An event of this size is going to keep producing
aftershocks for years but the rates are going to decay with time," Ross
The quake involved two perpendicular faults in the area
but it was unlikely to affect any fault lines away from the immediate area,
Damage in the town of Ridgecrest was relatively light
because the city is relatively young, with growth coming in the 1940s and
later so many buildings met upgraded building codes, said Susan Hough of the
U.S. Geological Survey.
Ridgecrest Regional Hospital remained closed as state
inspectors assessed it, spokeswoman Jayde Glenn said. The hospital's own
review found no structural damage, but there were cracks in walls, broken
water pipes and water damage.
The hospital was prepared to help women in labor and to
give triage care to emergency patients. Fifteen patients were evacuated to
other hospitals after the quake, Glenn said.
The quake did not appear to have caused major damage to
roads and bridges in the area, but it did open three cracks across a short
stretch of State Route 178 near the tiny town of Trona, said California
Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Christine Knadler.
Those cracks were temporarily sealed, but engineers
were investigating whether the two-lane highway was damaged beneath the
cracks, Knadler said. Bridges in the area were also being checked.
The Ridgecrest library was closed as volunteers and
staff picked up hundreds of books that fell off shelves. The building's
cinderblock walls also had some cracks, said Charissa Wagner, library branch
Wagner was at her home in the small city of 29,000
people when a small foreshock hit, followed by the large one, putting her
and her 11-year-old daughter on edge.
"The little one was like, 'Oh what just happened.' The
big one came later and that was scarier," she said.
The earthquake knocked over a boulder that sat atop one
of the rock spires at Trona Pinnacles outside of Ridgecrest, a collection of
towering rock formations that has been featured in commercials and films,
said Martha Maciel, a Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman in California.
Meanwhile, the nation's second-largest city revealed
plans to lower slightly the threshold for public alerts from its earthquake
early warning app. But officials said the change was in the works before the
quake, which gave scientists at the California Institute of Technology's
seismology lab 48 seconds of warning but did not trigger a public
"Our goal is to alert people who might experience
potentially damaging shaking, not just feel the shaking," said Robert de
Groot, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey's ShakeAlert system, which
is being developed for California, Oregon and Washington.
The West Coast ShakeAlert system has provided
non-public earthquake notifications on a daily basis to many test users,
including emergency agencies, industries, transportation systems and
Late last year, the city of Los Angeles released a
mobile app intended to provide ShakeAlert warnings for users within Los
The trigger threshold for LA's app required a magnitude
5 or greater and an estimate of level 4 on the separate Modified Mercali
Intensity scale, the level at which there is potentially damaging shaking.
Although Thursday's quake was well above magnitude 5,
the expected shaking for the Los Angeles area was level 3, de Groot said.
A revision of the magnitude threshold down to 4.5 was
already underway, but the shaking intensity level would remain at 4. The
rationale is to avoid numerous ShakeAlerts for small earthquakes that do not
"If people get saturated with these messages, it's
going to make people not care as much," he said.
Construction of a network of seismic-monitoring
stations for the West Coast is just over half complete, with most coverage
in Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area and the Seattle-Tacoma area.
Eventually, the system will send out alerts over the same system used for
Amber Alerts to defined areas that are expected to be affected by a quake,
de Groot said.
California is partnering with the federal government to
build the statewide earthquake warning system, with the goal of turning it
on by June 2021. The state has already spent at least $25 million building
it, including installing hundreds of seismic stations throughout the state.
This year, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state
needed $16.3 million to finish the project, which included money for
stations to monitor seismic activity, plus nearly $7 million for "outreach
and education." The state Legislature approved the funding last month, and
Newsom signed it into law.
Sri Lanka's top court stays executions until Oct. 30
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 file photo, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena
speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at his residence in
Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri
Lanka's Supreme Court on Friday issued a temporary injunction against the
execution of four people, a week after the country's president announced he
would end the country's 43-year moratorium on the death penalty.
The court issued the injunction until
Oct. 30 in response to a petition filed by a convict on death row against
the move by President Maithripala Sirisena to execute the four people
convicted of drug offenses. The Supreme Court will take up the case again on
Sirisena announced last week that he
has signed death warrants for the four amid alarm over drug-related crime in
He said the dates of the executions
have been decided, but they have not yet been announced.
Sirisena has said narcotic drugs have
become a menace with 300,000 addicts across the island nation, which
authorities say is being used by dealers as a transit hub. He said 60% of
the country's 24,000 inmates were jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri
Lanka's prisons were built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense,
but no prisoners have been executed since 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners
are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770
kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have
seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of
cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used
illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related
arrests rose 2% in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.
Last week, prison authorities recruited
two new hangmen to carry out the execution orders after the two previous
hangmen quit — in 2014 and last year — without executing anyone.
Sirisena's move is facing mounting
criticism from rights groups and foreign governments, including the European
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines
in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte's harsh crackdown on illegal
drugs as "an example to the world." Thousands of suspects, mostly urban
poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have
denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the
suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a
religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has said the country has had
positive influences from all religions, but tough law enforcement is
necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
'Wolf of Wall Street' producer charged in Malaysian scandal
right, stepson of Malaysian former Prime Minister Najib Razak, walks into a
court room at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday,
July 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) —
"The Wolf of Wall Street" producer and stepson of Malaysia's former prime
minister pleaded not guilty on Friday to laundering $248 million from a
state investment fund, becoming the third person in his family charged in
the 1MDB scandal that helped end Najib Razak's government last year.
Riza Aziz was solemn as he appeared in
court to be charged with receiving the illicit funds between 2011 and 2012
in the U.S. and Singapore.
The charge sheets said the money was
misappropriated from 1MDB and channeled into bank accounts of Riza's company
Red Granite Pictures Inc., which produced films including the Martin
Scorsese-directed film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The 2013 film was
nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture.
The money was transferred from Swiss
bank accounts of two companies U.S. investigators identified as being linked
to 1MDB into Red Granite's accounts in the United States and Singapore,
according to the charge sheets describing the evidence.
Riza, 42, was released on bail. He was
charged with five counts of money laundering and could face up to five years
in prison, a fine or both, on each count if he is convicted.
Najib set up the 1MDB fund to finance
development in Malaysia when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated
billions in debts and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was
stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib's associates.
Public anger over the alleged
corruption contributed to the shocking election defeat of Najib's
long-ruling coalition in May 2018, and the new government reopened
investigations that had been stifled while Najib was in office.
Najib is currently on trial for alleged
criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering linked to
1MDB. He denies the charges. His wife and Riza's mother, Rosmah Mansor, also
has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and tax evasion related to 1MDB
but her trial date has not been set.
Riza's arraignment came a year after he
was questioned by Malaysia's anti-graft agency. U.S. investigators say Red
Granite used money stolen from 1MDB to finance Hollywood films. Red Granite
has paid the U.S. government $60 million to settle claims it benefited from
the 1MDB scandal, and the U.S. returned the money to Malaysia.
Riza's sister, Nooryana Najwa, has
slammed the legal action against her brother.
"Despite the settlement in the U.S. and
the fact that alleged wrongdoings occurred entirely outside of Malaysia, the
MACC decides to press charges after a whole year of leaving this case in
cold storage. He is not a criminal," she wrote on Instagram, accompanied by
a picture of her with Riza taken before his arrest.
Japanese collector returns ancient artifacts to Cambodia
foreground, is on display together with other artifacts before the handover
ceremony at the National Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 5,
2019. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) —
Millennium-old Cambodian artifacts displayed in a Japanese collector's home
for two decades have been returned to the Southeast Asian country's National
The 85 artifacts are mostly small
bronze items and include statues of Buddha and the Hindu god Shiva, plus
jars, ceramics and jewelry. Cambodia's Culture Ministry says some items were
older than the Angkor era, which began about 800 A.D. Others date from the
Angkor era or just after it ended in the late 14th century.
Cambodia has made intense efforts to
recover artifacts looted during its civil war in the 1970s.
At an official reception for the
artifacts Friday, Prak Sonnara, secretary of state for the Culture and Fine
Art Ministry, praised the Japanese collector for voluntarily returning the
artifacts. He said her actions set a good sample for other countries and
collectors to follow.
The collector, Fumiko Takakuwa, told
reporters after the handover ceremony that she and her husband had bought
the items in Japan and liked to collect and display them in their home. But
she knew they were originally from Cambodia and that is why she returned
"My husband has said before he passed
away that those artifacts have to be returned back to Cambodia, and today I
am happy that I did," Takakuwa said.
Prak Sonnara said the 85 items were
believed to have been stolen from Cambodia's temples during the war, when
intense looting occurred and valuables were smuggled through neighboring
A 1993 Cambodian law prohibited the
removal of cultural artifacts without government permission. The law
strongly compels owners of items taken abroad after that date to return
them. But there is also general agreement in the art world that pieces were
acquired illegitimately if they were exported without clear and valid
documentation after 1970 — the year of a United Nations cultural agreement
targeting trafficking in antiquities.
In 2014, three 1,000-year-old statues
depicting Hindu mythology were welcomed home to Cambodia after being looted
from a temple and put in Western art collections.
Also in 2013, two 10th century
Cambodian stone statues displayed for nearly two decades at New York's
Metropolitan Museum of Art were returned to their homeland in a high-profile
case of allegedly looted artifacts.
Riot police clear away protests from Hong Kong legislature
officers with protective gear retake the meeting hall of the Legislative
Council in Hong Kong, during the early hours of Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (AP
Hong Kong (AP) — Hundreds of protesters swarmed
into Hong Kong's legislature Monday night, defacing portraits of lawmakers
and spray-painting pro-democracy slogans in the chamber before vacating it
as riot police cleared surrounding streets with tear gas and then moved
The three-hour occupation, which ended early Tuesday,
came on the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony's return to China,
a city holiday, and reflected mounting frustration with Hong Kong's leader
for not responding to protesters' demands after several weeks of
demonstrations. The protests were sparked by a government attempt to change
extradition laws to allow suspects to be sent to China for trial.
Protesters whacked away at thick glass windows until
they shattered and then pried open steel security gates. Police initially
retreated as the protesters entered, avoiding a confrontation and giving
them the run of the building.
Demonstrators stood on lawmakers' desks and painted
over the territory's emblem on a wall. The crowd also wrote slogans calling
for a democratic election of the city's leader and denouncing the
extradition legislation. Many wore yellow and white helmets, face masks and
the black T-shirts that have become their uniform.
Police then announced that they would soon move in. A
spokesman had earlier broadcast a warning that "appropriate force" would be
used. Officers approached shortly after midnight and entered the legislative
chambers after protesters had already left. There was no immediate word on
any arrests or injuries.
The actions prompted organizers of a separate peaceful
march against the extradition bill to change the endpoint of their protest
from the legislature to a nearby park, after police asked them to call it
off or change the route. Police wanted the march to end earlier in the Wan
Chai district, but organizers said that would leave out many people who
planned to join the march along the way.
Police estimated 190,000 people joined the peaceful
march, the third major one in as many weeks. Organizers estimated the number
The extradition proposal has heightened fears of
eroding freedoms in the territory, which Britain returned to China on July
1, 1997. Debate on the measure has been suspended indefinitely. Protesters
want the bills formally withdrawn and Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie
Lam, to resign.
Lam, who has come under withering criticism for trying
to push the legislation through, called a rare pre-dawn news conference with
security officials at police headquarters. She noted that two different
protests happened Monday — one a generally orderly march that reflected Hong
Kong's inclusiveness, the other using vandalism and violence.
"This is something we should seriously condemn," she
She disputed protesters' complaints that officials had
not responded to them, saying the government explained that by suspending
the bill with no timetable or plan to revisit it, the legislation would die
at the end of the current legislative session in July 2020.
For the other demands, she said releasing arrested
protesters without an investigation would not uphold the rule of law.
Lam's first public comments came Monday at the handover
anniversary ceremony, where she said the protests had taught her that she
needs to listen better to young people and others. She insisted her
government has good intentions and pledged that future work would be "closer
and more responsive to the aspirations, sentiments and opinions of the
Mainland China's entirely state-controlled media made
no mention of Monday's protests. The main evening news broadcast carried
video of the flag-raising ceremony, along with parts of Lam's address and
shots of Hong Kong residents praising displays put on by the People's
Liberation Army garrison in the territory.
Chinese media outlets have barely reported on the
protests since they began last month, other than to blame foreign forces for
stirring up unrest.
The extradition bill controversy has given fresh
momentum to Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition movement, awakening broader
concerns that China is chipping away at the rights guaranteed to Hong Kong
for 50 years under a "one country, two systems" framework. The two marches
in June drew more than a million people, according to organizer estimates.
Jimmy Sham, a leader of the pro-democracy group that
organized Monday's march, told the crowd that Lam had not responded to their
demands because she is not democratically elected. The leader of Hong Kong
is chosen by a committee dominated by pro-China elites.
"We know that Carrie Lam can be so arrogant," Sham
said, rallying the crowd under a blazing sun before the start of the march
at Victoria Park. "She is protected by our flawed system."
The protesters are also demanding an independent
inquiry into police actions during a June 12 protest, when officers used
tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration that blocked the
legislature on the day that debate on the bill had been scheduled to resume.
The police say the use of force was justified, but
since then have largely adopted softer tactics, even as protesters besieged
police headquarters in recent days, pelting it with eggs and spray-painting
slogans on its outer walls.
The area around Golden Bauhinia Square, where the
flag-raising ceremony took place, was blocked off from Saturday to prevent
protesters from gathering to disrupt it. Before the morning ceremony,
protesters trying to force their way to the square were driven back by
officers with plastic shields and batons, the retreating protesters pointing
open umbrellas to ward off pepper spray.
The extradition legislation has also drawn opposition
from the legal profession, commercial groups and foreign nations, reflecting
Hong Kong's status as an international business center with a strong
independent judiciary and high degree of transparency.
During a brief visit to Mongolia on Monday, U.S.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said Washington expects "China like
every other country to adhere to its international obligations" regarding
China rejects all such statements as foreign
interference. In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang
told reporters at a daily briefing that "Hong Kong affairs are purely
China's internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to
Iran breaches uranium stockpile limit set by nuclear deal
April 9, 2018 file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani listens to
explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark "National
Nuclear Day," in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Jon Gambrell and Amir Vahdat
Tehran, Iran (AP) — Iran has
broken the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by its 2015
nuclear deal with world powers, international inspectors and Tehran said
Monday, marking its first major departure from the unraveling agreement a
year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the accord.
The announcement by Iran's Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and later confirmation by the U.N. nuclear
watchdog puts new pressure on European nations trying to save the deal amid
President Donald Trump's maximalist campaign targeting Tehran. Iran
separately threatened to raise its uranium enrichment closer to
weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe fails to offer it a new deal.
It also further heightens tensions
across the wider Middle East in the wake of Iran recently shooting down a
U.S. military surveillance drone, mysterious attacks on oil tankers that
America and the Israelis blame on Tehran, and bomb-laden drone assaults by
Yemen's Iranian-backed rebels targeting Saudi Arabia. Those rebels claimed a
new attack late Monday on Saudi Arabia's Abha airport that the kingdom said
wounded nine people, including one Indian.
The European Union urged Iran to
reverse course and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the
action "a significant step toward making a nuclear weapon." Iran long has
insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, despite Western fears
At the White House, Trump told
reporters Iran was "playing with fire," and U.S. Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo called on the international community to require Iran to suspend all
enrichment, even at levels allowed under the nuclear deal.
"The Iranian regime, armed with nuclear
weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the region and to the world,"
Pompeo said in a statement.
Though Trump pulled back from
airstrikes targeting Iran after the U.S. drone was shot down, Washington has
rushed an aircraft carrier strike group, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and
thousands of additional troops to the region. That's raised fears that a
miscalculation or further incidents could push the two sides into an armed
conflict, some 40 years after the Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the
U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Speaking to journalists in Tehran,
Zarif acknowledged Iran that broken through the limit set by the accord.
"We had previously announced this and
we have said it transparently what we are going to do," Zarif said. "We are
going to act according to what we have announced and we consider it our
right reserved in the nuclear deal."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the
International Atomic Energy Agency, later said its director general had
informed officials that it verified Iran had broken through the limit.
Under terms of the nuclear deal, Iran
agreed to have less than 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of uranium enriched to a
maximum of 3.67%. Previously, Iran enriched as high as 20%, which is a short
technical step away from reaching weapons-grade levels. It also held up to
10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of the higher-enriched uranium.
Neither Zarif nor the U.N. agency said
how much uranium Iran now had on hand. Last week, an Iranian official in
Vienna said that Tehran was 2.8 kilograms away from the limit. Iran
previously announced it had quadrupled its production of low-enriched
uranium, which at under 3.67% is enough to power a nuclear reactor to create
electricity, but is far below weapons-grade levels.
However, Iran could have chosen to mix
the low-enriched uranium with raw uranium, diluting it and bringing it down
under the cap. Pushing past the limit served as a notice to Europe, Zarif
The "actions of the Europeans have not
been enough so the Islamic Republic will move ahead with its plans as it has
previously announced," Zarif said. "We are in the process of doing our first
phase of actions both on increasing our stockpile of enriched uranium as
well as our heavy water reserves."
Breaking the stockpile limit by itself
doesn't radically change the one year that experts say Iran would need to
have enough material for an atomic bomb, if it chooses to pursue one.
But by coupling an increasing stockpile
with higher enrichment, it begins to close that one-year window and hamper
any diplomatic efforts at saving the accord.
At the time of the 2015 deal, which was
agreed to by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and
Britain, experts believed Iran needed anywhere from several weeks to three
months to have enough material for a bomb.
Zarif stressed the country remained on
track to raise its enrichment if Europe did not take any additional steps
toward saving the accord.
"The next step is about the 3.67%
limitation, which we will implement too," he warned.
Trump campaigned on pulling the U.S.
from the deal, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in
exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since Trump withdrew America
from the pact a year ago, the U.S. has re-imposed previous sanctions and
added new ones, as well as warning other nations they would be subject to
sanctions as well if they import Iranian oil.
Amid the tensions, Yemen's Houthi
rebels have launched repeated drone attacks on Saudi Arabia as the kingdom's
long war in the country continues. The Houthi's satellite news channel Al-Masirah
claimed a new attack on Abha regional airport late Monday, which Saudi
Arabia said wounded eight Saudis and one Indian. Earlier attacks on the
airport have killed one person and wounded dozens more.
Trump discussed the situation by phone
with French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy
chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc urged Iran "to reverse this step and
to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal," known as
the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic underlined
that Europe "remains fully committed to the agreement as long as Iran
continues to fully implement its nuclear commitments."
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
said he was "deeply worried" by Iran's announcement. In a tweet, he urged
Tehran "to avoid any further steps away from JCPoA & come back into
As Netanyahu said Iran's move was a
"significant step toward making a nuclear weapon," he urged European
countries to "stand by your commitments" to impose sanctions against Tehran
if it violated the agreement.
"The policy changed from 'wait out
Trump' to 'hit back at Trump.' That's a big deal," said Cliff Kupchan, a
chairman at the Eurasia Group and longtime Iran watcher. "I don't think
either side wants war, but both sides do want leverage. We're in for a rough
In Moscow, Russia's Deputy Foreign
Minister Sergei Ryabkov noted that Iran had warned it was going to exceed
the limit set by the deal and emphasized that Tehran's move followed
"unthinkable" U.S. pressure.
"It didn't come as a surprise, Iran
long has warned about it," Ryabkov said.
"Exceeding the 300-kilogram limit
causes regret, but shouldn't be overdramatized. It must be seen as a natural
result of the preceding events," Ryabkov said. "Iran has faced an
unprecedented and unthinkable U.S. sanction pressure, effectively meaning a
total oil embargo, an attempt to strangle a sovereign state."
Italian judge to rule on defiant migrant rescue ship captain
captain Carola Rackete is seen on board the vessel at sea in the
Mediterranean, just off the coasts of the southern Italian island of
Lampedusa, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (ANSA/Matteo Guidelli via AP)
Rome (AP) — The German captain who defied
Italian authorities and rammed her migrant rescue ship into a border police
motorboat while docking remained under house arrest after questioning Monday
before a judge in Sicily who will decide if she can regain her liberty.
Sea-Watch, the German humanitarian group that operates
the rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3, said in a tweet that the judge will announce
her ruling on Tuesday.
Captain Carola Rackete's closed-door hearing before
Judge Alessandra Vella in Agrigento, Sicily, lasted about three hours.
Rackete has become a kind of cause celebre for some in
her homeland for defying Italy's anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo
Salvini, who has vowed not to let any charity rescue boat disembark migrants
on Italian shores. Salvini contends such rescues essentially help human
traffickers who launch unseaworthy boats, crowded with migrants, from Libyan
Prosecutors have opened an investigation against
Rackete for allegedly resisting a war ship and using violence against it, a
reference to the damaged boat of the border police, which is considered as a
military force under Italian law. If charged and convicted, Rackete risks up
to 10 years in prison.
The five officers aboard the police motorboat blocking
her path to port on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa off Sicily in the
early hours of Saturday escaped injury but the side of their boat was
damaged when the much larger rescue boat plowed into it.
Going into the hearing, one of her lawyers, Leonardo
Marino, said the 31-year-old captain would answer all questions.
"Ms. Rackete acted out of a state of necessity and
didn't have any intention of using violence," Marino said.
The lawyer was echoing a contention made by Rackete
herself in the last hours at the helm of Sea-Watch-3 that the migrants were
in a desperate condition after 17 days at sea since leaving Libya in an
unseaworthy traffickers' vessel.
But Agrigento Prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio told
reporters after the hearing he disputed that contention in court.
"There was no such state of need," Patronaggio said he
had argued before the judge.
The prosecutor said he also argued that the Sea-Watch
3's maneuver in docking was done deliberately.
On Saturday, shortly after Sea-Watch 3 docked at
Lampedusa, Salvini said he ordered the captain's arrest as well as the
sequestering of the vessel once the migrants had stepped ashore.
After Monday's hearing ended, Salvini said that however
it goes, "we are always ready to expel the rich German outlaw," the Italian
news agency ANSA quoted him as saying.
Between donations by supporters of Rackete's efforts,
both in Italy and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars) have
rolled in for her legal defense and to help pay a fine of as much as 50,000
euros ($56,000), which would also apply to the ship's owner, according to
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters Monday
that German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked him about Rackete at a summit of
European Union leaders in Brussels. He said he replied that her fate was in
the hands of the Italian justice system. A day earlier, Germany's president,
Frank-Walter Steinmeier had questioned Italy's handling of the situation.
Hindu pilgrimage begins amid high security in Indian Kashmir
pilgrims stand in queue and as they wait to enter a base camp for the
annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu, India, Monday,
July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Srinagar, India (AP) — Thousands of Hindu
pilgrims began the arduous trek to an icy Himalayan cave in disputed
Kashmir on Monday, with tens of thousands of Indian government forces
guarding roads and mountain passes.
The pilgrims, many of them barefooted ascetics,
chanted hymns and rang bells as they traveled through forested areas in
Kashmir's Himalayas. The worshippers approach the hallowed mountain
cave, the Amarnath shrine, through two routes, a traditional one via the
southern hill resort of Pahalgam and a shorter one through northeastern
Baltal. Some also use helicopter services to pay quick obeisance.
The Amarnath cave is covered with snow most of the
year except for a short period in summer when it is open for the
pilgrims. Hindus worship a stalagmite inside the cave as an incarnation
of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. The cave lies
4,115 meters (13,500 feet) above sea level.
At least 40,000 Indian police and soldiers have
been deployed to guard the pilgrimage. Carrying automatic rifles and
wearing flak jackets, they have set up checkpoints, barricades and
temporary camps along the routes leading to the cave.
"We've made adequate and comprehensive security
arrangements," said S.P. Pani, a top police officer. "We're hoping it
will be an incident-free pilgrimage."
With a view of snowy peaks on their way, more than
200,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the cave during the 45-day
pilgrimage. Old people and children rode ponies on Monday.
In 2017, gunmen sprayed bullets at a bus carrying
Hindu pilgrims in the region, killing at least seven people, including
six women, and wounding 19 others while they were returning from the
cave shrine. The Indian government blamed Muslim rebels for the attack.
However, separatist leaders accused Indian intelligence agencies of
carrying out such attacks to sabotage their struggle for the right to
In 2000, gunmen struck in the Pahalgam area and
killed 30 people, including some local porters who carry the pilgrims'
baggage on the mountain path.
The pilgrimage concludes on Aug. 15, a full-moon
night that Hindus say commemorates Shiva revealing the secret of the
creation of the universe.
Muslim rebels fighting for decades against Indian
rule in Kashmir accuse India's Hindu majority of using the pilgrimage as
a political statement to bolster its claim to the Himalayan region.
India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety
and have fought two of their three wars over the competing claims over
the Himalayan territory since the nuclear-armed rivals gained
independence from British colonialism.
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, rebel groups have
been fighting for either independence or a merger with Pakistan since
1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in
civilian street protests against Indian control. Nearly 70,000 people
have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military