Update November 11 -
Thousands in Gaza demand revenge after deadly Israeli raid
mourners carry the bodies of two of the seven Hamas militants who were
killed in an Israeli raid late Sunday, during their funerals in Khan Younis,
southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Fares Akram and Tia Goldenberg
Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP) — Chanting "revenge"
and flanked by masked gunmen in camouflage, thousands of mourners in the
Gaza Strip on Monday buried seven Palestinian militants killed in an Israeli
incursion as the ruling Hamas group launched a feverish security sweep
across the territory.
Hamas said Israeli undercover forces
entered the territory in a civilian vehicle late Sunday and exchanged fire
with Hamas gunmen. The clashes killed an Israeli lieutenant colonel and
prompted Israeli airstrikes and a salvo of rocket fire from Gaza toward
The cross-border fighting came just
days after Israel and Hamas reached indirect understandings, backed by Qatar
and Egypt, to allow cash and fuel into Gaza. The understandings are meant to
be part of a broader effort to alleviate deteriorating conditions in the
impoverished territory after 11 years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
It was not clear if the burst of
violence, which appeared to have subsided early Monday, would derail those
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu cut short a visit to Paris because of the flare-up, and he
returned to Israel on Monday for consultations with top security officials.
Hamas authorities beefed up security
measures after the incident, deploying checkpoints across Gaza in a show of
force after what appeared to be a major security breach for the militant
group. It also restricted movement through crossings with Israel, preventing
foreign journalists, local businessmen and some aid workers from leaving the
Hamas also canceled a weekly beach
protest in northwestern Gaza along the border with Israel. The organizers
cited "the ongoing security situation."
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh led a
funeral for four militants as masked gunmen in uniforms carried the coffins,
wrapped in the flag of Hamas' armed wing, and mourners chanted "revenge."
The Hamas military wing, Izzedine
al-Qassam, said that in Sunday's incursion, Israeli undercover forces drove
about 3 kilometers (2 miles) into southeastern Gaza and shot and killed Nour
el-Deen Baraka, a mid-level commander in charge of a sensitive area in the
southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. Qassam members discovered the car
and chased it, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed several people, the
The empty vehicle apparently used by
the Israeli force was reduced to a charred chassis after aircraft fired
several missiles at it, leaving a gaping crater in the ground.
The Israeli military said there had
been an exchange of fire during an operation in Gaza, with troops
withdrawing from the territory with the help of aircraft. It said that
militants then launched 17 rockets from Gaza toward Israeli communities,
where school and train service was cancelled in response, and that it had
reinforced troops and its aerial defense system along the border following
The military provided few details about
the reason for the raid. The Israeli military chief, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot,
said a "special force" carried out "a very meaningful operation to Israel's
security," without elaborating.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col.
Jonathan Conricus said the operation was "not intended to kill or abduct
terrorists but to strengthen Israeli security." He said the force faced a
"very complex battle" and was able to "ex-filtrate in its entirety."
Netanyahu returned to Israel on Monday
morning, cutting short a trip to Paris where he was set to meet French
President Emmanuel Macron after having participated in ceremonies marking
100 years since the end of World War I.
In a tweet after his arrival back home,
Netanyahu praised the slain officer, whose identity was being kept
confidential for security reasons, and said "our forces acted courageously."
The officer's funeral was being held Monday.
The overnight violence came after
several months of confrontations along the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence.
Since late March, Hamas has been leading mass marches, with turnout driven
by growing despair in Gaza, to try to break the border blockade. The
blockade has led to over 50 percent unemployment and chronic power outages,
and prevents the vast majority of Gazans from traveling.
More than 170 demonstrators, most
unarmed, have been killed by Israeli army fire in the confrontations, in
which some of the participants threw stones, burned tires or hurled grenades
toward Israeli forces.
Israel says it is defending its border
against militant infiltrations, but its army has come under international
criticism because of the large number of unarmed protesters who have been
Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to
deliver $15 million in aid to Gaza's cash-strapped Hamas rulers. Hamas
responded by lowering the intensity of the border protest last Friday.
On Sunday, Netanyahu defended his
decision to allow through the Qatari cash to Gaza as a way to avert an
"unnecessary war," maintain quiet for residents of southern Israel and
prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
UN refugee agency warns against returning Rohingya refugees
leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers the keynote speech at the ASEAN Business
and Investment Summit 2018 in Singapore, Monday, Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Bullit
Singapore (AP) — The United
Nations refugee agency on Monday cautioned against returning ethnic Rohingya
Muslims to Myanmar from Bangladesh at this time, urging that officials be
allowed to assess whether it is safe for them to return.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
issued the warning after the Myanmar government said Sunday that this week
it would begin repatriating the more than 700,000 Rohingya who have fled
from the Rakhine state in western Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape deadly
violence carried out by Myanmar security forces.
"Myanmar authorities should allow these
refugees to undertake such go-and-see visits without prejudice to their
right to return at a later date, if indeed the refugees decide after the
visits that the current conditions in Rakhine State would not allow them to
return in safety and dignity," the UNHCR said in a statement.
The Rohingya refugees generally have
been denied citizenship and civil rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where
prejudice against them runs high. The overwhelming majority of people in
Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya are a native ethnic group, instead
seeing them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and calling them "Bengalis."
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi,
attending a business conference Monday in Singapore on the sidelines of a
Southeast Asian summit, did not mention the issue and did not take any
On Sunday, officials in Myanmar
announced that Bangladesh had said repatriations would begin on Thursday,
with an initial group of 2,251 to be sent back from mid-November at a rate
of 150 per day.
Senior Myanmar officials said they
would do their best to be ready, but Bangladesh's repatriation commissioner
said he was unaware that a date had been set.
The UNHCR said it supports the
"voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and
in dignity to their places of origin or choice, and will work with all
parties towards this goal." It is Myanmar's responsibility to improve
conditions in the restive Rakhine region, it said.
Sunday's Myanmar government statement
said the returning Rohingya would stay at repatriation camps for two days
and receive food and clothing before moving on to transit camps. It said
China, India and Japan were "providing necessary assistance" for the
repatriation process, but did not give details.
The Rohingya exodus began after Myanmar
security forces launched a brutal crackdown following coordinated insurgent
attacks in August 2017. The scale, organization and ferocity of the
operation led to accusations from the international community, including the
United Nations, of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Myanmar's government has
EU, UK inch closer to a deal as Brexit hangs in the balance
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel
Barnier, right, shakes hands with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney
during a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Monday,
Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Lorne Cook and Jill Lawless
Brussels (AP) — Britain and the
European Union appeared to be inching toward agreement on Brexit on Monday,
but British Prime Minister Theresa May faced intensifying pressure from her
divided Conservative government that could yet scuttle a deal.
Britain leaves the EU on March 29 — the
first country ever to do so — but a deal must be sealed in the coming weeks
to leave enough time for the U.K. and European Parliaments to sign off. May
faces increasing domestic pressure over her proposals for an agreement
following the resignation of another government minister last week.
The British leader had been hoping to
present a draft deal to her Cabinet this week. But no Brexit breakthrough
was announced Monday after talks between European affairs ministers. The two
sides are locked in technical negotiations to try to bridge the final gaps
in a move laden with heavy political and economic consequences.
May said talks were in their "endgame"
but that negotiating a divorce agreement after more than four decades of
British EU membership was "immensely difficult."
May told an audience at the Lord
Mayor's Banquet in London that "we are working extremely hard, through the
night, to make progress on the remaining issues in the Withdrawal Agreement,
which are significant.
"Both sides want to reach an
agreement," May said, though she added she wouldn't sign up to "agreement at
The main obstacle to a deal is how to
keep goods flowing smoothly across the border between EU country Ireland and
Northern Ireland in the U.K.
Both sides have committed to avoid a
hard border with costly and time-consuming checks that would hamper
business. Any new customs posts on the border could also re-ignite lingering
sectarian tensions. But Britain and the EU haven't agreed on how to achieve
"Clearly this is a very important week
for Brexit negotiations," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told
reporters after the meeting in Brussels. "The two negotiating teams have
really intensified their engagement ... There is still clearly work to do."
And Martin Callanan, a minister in
Britain's Brexit department, said all involved were "straining every sinew
to make sure that we get a deal but we have to get a deal that is right for
the U.K., right for the EU and one that would be acceptable to the U.K.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
didn't speak to reporters Monday and a planned news conference with him was
Instead, EU headquarters issued a short
statement saying that Barnier explained to the ministers that "intense
negotiating efforts continue, but an agreement has not been reached yet."
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said
the two sides "are getting closer to each other."
"But in negotiations there is only a
deal if there is full agreement," Blok said. "There is only a 100-percent
deal. There is not a 90-percent deal or a 95-percent deal."
Earlier, France's EU affairs minister,
Nathalie Loiseau, stepped up pressure on May. "The ball is in the British
court. It is a question of a British political decision," she said.
The EU is awaiting Barnier's signal as
to whether sufficient progress has been made to call an EU summit to seal a
Rumors have swirled of a possible
top-level meeting at the end of November. But Austrian EU affairs minister
Gernot Bluemel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said "so
far progress is not sufficient to call in and set up another (summit)."
In recent days there have been signs of
progress behind the scenes, but all parties have remained tight-lipped about
the developments, given the politically charged atmosphere.
In Britain, pro-Brexit and pro-EU
politicians alike warned May that the deal she seeks is likely to be shot
down by Parliament.
Boris Johnson, a staunch Brexit
supporter, wrote in a column for Monday's Daily Telegraph that May's plan to
adhere closely to EU regulations in return for a trade deal and an open
Irish border amounts to "total surrender" to the bloc.
The proposed terms are scarcely more
popular with advocates of continued EU membership.
Former Education Secretary Justine
Greening on Monday called May's proposals the "worst of all worlds," and
said the public should be allowed to vote on Britain's departure again.
"We should be planning as to how we can
put this final say on Brexit in the hands of the British people," Greening
told the BBC.
Johnson's younger brother, Jo Johnson,
resigned last week backing calls for a second referendum on whether the
country should leave the EU. May has consistently rejected the idea of
another nationwide vote on Brexit.
Fake images of woman acquitted of blasphemy roil Pakistan
In this Nov. 1, 2018, file photo, Pakistani
protesters burn a poster image of Christian woman Aasia Bibi, in Hyderabad,
Pakistan. (AP Photo/Pervez Masih)
Islamabad (AP) — The Pakistani
government, already struggling with a crisis surrounding a Christian woman
acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, now has to
deal with "fake" images on social media purporting to show her outside the
The deceptive images have prompted
death threats to a lawmaker shown in one photograph, and are likely intended
to whip up radical religious fervor over Aasia Bibi's case. It's unclear who
is behind the circulation of the images.
Radical Islamists have held mass
protests and demanded that she be publicly executed. They've also filed a
petition to repeal her Supreme Court acquittal. The government says Bibi
remains in Pakistan, at a secret location for her own protection, until the
review process is finished.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned
hard-line groups against using her plight to further their political aims
with street protests.
He has defended the Supreme Court
judges who on Oct. 21 acquitted the 54-year old mother of five of blasphemy
charges. But he has also acquiesced to demands by the Islamists that the
acquittal be reviewed in an appeal process.
Blasphemy is a highly charged issue in
Pakistan, where mere allegations of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad
can incite mobs into a frenzy of violence. The charge carries the death
penalty, and critics say the blasphemy law is abused to settle religious
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry
slammed the "fake" postings on Monday, one of which claims to show Bibi
meeting Pope Francis. The photo is actually of Bibi's daughter from two
years ago. Bibi and her family have always maintained her innocence and say
she never insulted Islam's prophet.
Chaudhry said the images misidentifying
Bibi prompted death threats to a lawmaker in one photograph, Fazal Khan from
the ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf Party. The lawmaker's constituency is in a deeply
conservative region in the country's northwest.
"People can even be killed because of
such fake postings," Chaudhry said. The pictures were widely circulated on
social media in Pakistan and shared on several local journalists' groups,
even a police and a media group.
"We are trying to seek cooperation from
Twitter and Facebook against such fake news," Chaudhry added.
Bibi's ordeal dates back to 2009 when
she went to fetch water for herself and fellow farmworkers. An argument took
place after two Muslim women refused to drink from the same container as
Bibi, who is Roman Catholic. The women later said Bibi had insulted the
Prophet Muhammad, and she was charged with blasphemy. She was put on trial,
convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.
Following Bibi's acquittal last month,
the founder of the radical Tehreek-e-Labbak Party, Mohammed Afzal Qadri,
issued a fatwa calling for the death of the three Supreme Court judges who
handed down the acquittal and the overthrow of Khan's government. He also
incited the military to mutiny.
In 2011, the governor of Punjab
province was killed by his own guard after he defended Bibi and criticized
the blasphemy law. A year later, the minister for minorities was shot and
Bibi, who was freed from detention last
week, is being held at a secret, closely guarded location in Pakistan. Those
who are familiar with her circumstances say she is expected to remain there
until the Supreme Court carries out the review.
On Sunday, the prime minister said the
Supreme Court's decision would be final. For now, it's unclear when the
review will be held or who would defend Bibi. Her lawyer, Saiful Malook,
fled the country following her acquittal, fearing for his life.
Update November 6 -
Marine combat veteran kills 12 in rampage at California bar
comfort each other as they stand near the scene in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
where a gunman opened fire Wednesday, November 7, inside a country dance bar
crowded with hundreds of people. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP) —
Terrified patrons hurled barstools through windows to escape or threw their
bodies protectively on top of friends as a Marine combat veteran killed 12
people at a country music bar in an attack that added Thousand Oaks to the
tragic roster of American cities traumatized by mass shootings.
Dressed all in black with his hood
pulled up, the gunman apparently took his own life as scores of police
converged on the Borderline Bar and Grill in Southern California.
The motive for the rampage late
Wednesday night was under investigation.
The killer , Ian David Long, 28, was a
former machine gunner and Afghanistan war veteran who was interviewed by
police at his home last spring after an episode of agitated behavior that
authorities were told might be post-traumatic stress disorder.
Opening fire with a handgun with an
illegal, extra-capacity magazine, Long shot a security guard outside the bar
and then went in and took aim at employees and customers, authorities said.
He also used a smoke bomb, according to a law enforcement official who was
not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition
The dead included a man who had
survived last year's massacre in Las Vegas, a veteran sheriff's deputy who
rushed in to confront the gunman, a 22-year-old man who planned to join the
Army, a freshman at nearby Pepperdine University and a recent Cal Lutheran
"It's a horrific scene in there,"
Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said in the parking lot. "There's blood
Survivors of the rampage — mostly young
people who had gone out for college night at the Borderline, a hangout
popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University and other
schools — seemed to know what to do, having come of age in an era of
active-shooter drills and deadly rampages happening with terrifying
For some it was not a new experience.
Survivors and their relatives said several people who were at the bar
Thursday had been at the outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas last
year where a gunman in a high-rise hotel killed 58 people.
"I don't want prayers. I don't want
thoughts," said Susan Schmidt-Orfanos, whose son Telemachus Orfanos survived
the Vegas shooting only to die less than 10 minutes from his home. "I want
those bastards in Congress — they need to pass gun control so no one else
has a child that doesn't come home."
Many of the estimated 150 patrons at
the Borderline dived under tables, ran for exits, broke through windows or
hid in the attic and bathrooms, authorities and witnesses said.
"Unfortunately our young people, people
at nightclubs, have learned that this may happen, and they think about
that," the sheriff said. "Fortunately it helped save a lot of lives that
they fled the scene so rapidly."
Matt Wennerstrom said he instinctively
pulled people behind a pool table, and he and friends shielded women with
their bodies after hearing the shots. When the gunman paused to reload,
Wennerstrom said, he and others shattered windows with barstools and helped
about 30 people escape. He heard another volley of shots once he was safely
"All I wanted to do was get as many
people out of there as possible," he told KABC-TV. "I know where I'm going
if I die, so I was not worried."
A video posted on Instagram after the
shooting by one of the patrons shows an empty dance floor with the sound of
windows shattering in the background. As a silhouetted figure comes through
a doorway, the camera turns erratically and 10 gunshots ring out.
"I looked him in his eyes while he
killed my friends," Dallas Knapp wrote on his post. "I hope he rots in hell
The tragedy left a community that is
annually listed as one of the safest cities in America reeling. Shootings of
any kind are extremely rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people
about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Los Angeles, just across the county
Mourners gathered for a vigil on
Wednesday evening as smoke from a fast-moving, nearby wildfire billowed over
Earlier, people stood in line for hours
to give blood. All morning, people looking for missing friends and relatives
arrived at a community center where authorities and counselors were
informing the next-of-kin of those who died. Many people walked past TV
cameras with blank stares or tears in their eyes. In the parking lot, some
comforted each other with hugs or a pat on the back.
Jason Coffman received the news that
his son Cody, 22, who was about to join the Army, was dead. Coffman broke
down as he told reporters how his last words to his son as he went out that
night were not to drink and drive and that he loved him.
"Oh, Cody, I love you, son," Coffman
It was the nation's deadliest such
attack since 17 students and teachers were killed at a Parkland, Florida,
high school nine months ago. It also came less than two weeks after a gunman
massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Democratic Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, in
his first public appearance since winning office on Tuesday, lamented the
violence that has returned to California.
"It's a gun culture," he said. "You
can't go to a bar or nightclub? You can't go to church or synagogue? It's
insane is the only way to describe it. The normalization, that's the only
way I can describe it. It's become normalized."
President Donald Trump praised police
for their "great bravery" in the attack and ordered flags flown at
half-staff in honor of the victims.
Authorities searched Long's home in
Newbury Park, about 5 miles from the Borderline bar, for clues to what set
"There's no indication that he targeted
the employees. We haven't found any correlation," the sheriff said. "Maybe
there was a motive for this particular night, but we have no information
leading to that at all."
Long was in the Marines from 2008 to
2013, rose to the rank of corporal and served in Afghanistan in 2010-11
before he was honorably discharged, the military said. Court records show he
married in 2009 and was divorced in 2013.
Authorities said he had no criminal
record, but in April officers were called to his home, where deputies found
him angry and acting irrationally. The sheriff said officers were told he
might have PTSD because of his military service. A mental health specialist
met with him and didn't feel he needed to be hospitalized.
Tom Hanson, 70, who lives next door to
Long and his mother, said he called the police about six months ago when he
heard "heavy-duty banging" and shouting coming from the Longs' home.
"Somebody has missed something here,"
his wife, Julie Hanson, said. "This woman has to know that this child needed
Long was armed with a Glock 21, a
.45-caliber pistol designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber,
according to the sheriff. But it had an extended magazine — one capable of
holding more ammunition — that is illegal in California, Dean said.
Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing
highway patrolman arrived at the club around 11:20 p.m. in response to
several 911 calls, heard gunfire and went inside, the sheriff said. Helus
was shot immediately, Dean said.
The highway patrolman pulled Helus out,
then waited as a SWAT team and other officers arrived. Helus died at a
By the time officers entered the bar
again — about 15 to 20 minutes later, according to the sheriff's office —
the gunfire had stopped. They found 12 people dead inside, including the
gunman, who was discovered in an office, the sheriff said.
"There's no doubt that they saved lives
by going in there and engaging with the suspect," said Dean, who was set to
retire Friday. He praised the slain officer — a close friend — as a hero:
"He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price."
One other person was wounded by
gunfire, and as many as 15 others suffered minor injuries from jumping out
windows or diving under tables, authorities said.
Five off-duty police officers who were
at the bar also helped people escape, authorities said.
For several hours after the violence,
survivors gathered in the dark, some sobbing and hugging as they awaited
word on the fate of friends as ambulances idled nearby. Several men were
bare-chested after using their shirts to plug wounds and tie tourniquets.
Around midday, the body of the slain
sheriff's officer was taken by motorcade from the hospital to the coroner's
office. Thousands of people stood along the route or pulled over in their
vehicles to watch the hearse pass.
Helus was a 29-year veteran of the
force with a wife and son and planned to retire in the coming year, said the
sheriff, choking back tears.
Woman freed in blasphemy case still in hiding in Pakistan
Jalali, second from left, leader of Pakistani Tehreek-e-Labbaik religious
Party addresses a news conference with others regarding the acquittal of
Christian woman Asia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, Nov. 8. (AP
Islamabad (AP) — A week after
Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted her of blasphemy, a Christian woman who
had been on death row for eight years was freed from detention Thursday, but
her whereabouts are a closely guarded secret following demands by extremists
that she be hanged in public.
The case of Aasia Bibi has become a
political minefield for Prime Minister Imran Khan. He is trying to placate
the Muslim extremists who have threatened to topple his government, while
keeping the 54-year-old mother of five safe from a lynch mob and also
finding a way to allow her to leave Pakistan without bringing rioters into
Bibi has been offered asylum by the
European Parliament, which championed her case after she was convicted in
2010 under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy law. There has been sharp worldwide
criticism of the law, which remains popular in the Muslim majority country
and carries the death penalty for insulting Islam but also has been used as
a way to settle scores and pressure minorities.
Bibi was with her family under heavy
security after being transferred to the Pakistani capital overnight from her
detention facility in southern Punjab, triggering expectations of an
imminent departure from the country.
For the moment, Bibi remained in
Pakistan, according to two people close to her who spoke on condition of
anonymity so as not to endanger her. That was confirmed later Thursday by
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
Following her Oct. 31 acquittal by
Pakistan's Supreme Court, the hard-line Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party forced a
nationwide shutdown as its supporters filled the streets for three days to
protest the ruling. The rallies only dispersed after Khan's government
promised that a court would review a motion to challenge the acquittal and
deny Bibi permission to leave Pakistan.
Khan, who came to power after elections
last summer in part on an Islamist agenda, was immediately accused by
critics of giving in to the extremists.
Bibi's release, high-security transfer
to Islamabad and her likely departure raised the possibility that Khan's
promises to the Islamists could have been an effort to buy time. The
government, however, has not openly declared that Bibi was free to leave.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik, in a video message
that was circulated widely Thursday, said it received government assurances
following Bibi's relocation to Islamabad that she wouldn't leave the country
until the review petition was heard.
Khan, a former cricket star and playboy
who has embraced religious conservatism before he ran for prime minister, is
hamstrung by contradictions within his own government, according to Zahid
Hussain, who has written two books on the rise of militancy in Pakistan.
"There are some within the party,
senior members of the party, who are pampering religious extremists for the
sake of votes, and some believe in the same kind of world view," Hussain
said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Bibi's ordeal began on a blistering hot
day in 2009 when she went to fetch water for herself and fellow farmworkers.
An argument took place after two women refused to drink from the same
container as Bibi, who is Roman Catholic.
The two women later said Bibi had
insulted the Prophet Muhammad, and she was charged with blasphemy. She was
put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death in 2010.
While her conviction was appealed, her
case gained worldwide attention and focused international criticism on the
blasphemy law. In announcing her acquittal last week, a three-judge panel of
the Supreme Court upheld the law itself but said prosecutors had failed to
prove Bibi had violated it.
European Parliament President Antonio
Tajani invited Bibi and her family to Europe. In a letter, a copy of which
was seen by the AP, Tajani told Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih that the
parliament is "extremely concerned for your safety as well as your family's,
due to the violence by extremist elements in Pakistan."
The letter added to expectations that
she and her family would leave for Europe, though their destination has not
been confirmed. Spain and France have offered her asylum.
Speaking to the AP earlier this week in
the Punjab capital of Lahore, Masih said he hasn't slept much since his
wife's acquittal and the subsequent outrage by extremists. His initial joy
quickly turned to sadness when he realized the ordeal was not over.
He said that he is consumed by fear
every time his phone rings and haunted by the shouts of "Hang her!"
"Sometimes I pace on the rooftop,
sometimes I walk on the road outside our home," he said. "I look at the
faces around me and I wonder if anyone is waiting to hurt us."
Even the mere suggestion of blasphemy
can whip mobs into a lynching frenzy in Pakistan. In 2011, the governor of
Punjab province was killed by his own guard after he defended Bibi and
criticized the blasphemy law. A year later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for
minorities and a Christian, was shot and killed.
For Bibi's husband, leaving Pakistan is
painful but remains a matter of life and death.
"We have no other choice but to leave,"
he said. "I love Pakistan but I can't live here."
Even in Bibi's home village of Aitta
Wali — an impoverished farming community where animals and residents share
tiny, sunbaked mud houses — there is still outrage over her acquittal, and
its remaining three Christian families have fled.
"Our entire village swore on the Quran
that she insulted the prophet but no one believes us and everyone believes
her," said Aman Ali, one of the villagers. "Before this, we liked the
Christian families. We always got along. But now there is only anger."
Some of that anger was directed at a
visiting AP reporter, who was told by one resident: "Go. Just get out. Go."
Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a leader in the
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party and a religious scholar, said he doesn't regret
calling for the deaths of the three judges who acquitted Bibi, or for
calling on his followers to overthrow Khan's government.
At his sprawling madrassa in the Punjab
city of Gujrat, Qadri told the AP this week that he had the religious
authority to declare a fatwa, or edict, demanding the judges be killed.
Pakistan is bound by Islamic
injunctions, he said, adding that he was qualified to decide such matters.
The West only seeks to undermine Pakistan's Islamic traditions and culture,
Hussain, the author on Pakistani
militancy, said the demonstrations over Bibi's acquittal were an attempt to
regain positions the extremists had lost in the July elections.
Another rally Thursday in the southern
city of Karachi drew thousands. One religious leader, Fazlur Rehman, whose
party was routed in the elections, said the "court of the masses" has
rejected Bibi's acquittal.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban insurgent group
warned anyone who would commit blasphemy that "our daggers will cut your
Hussain said the extremists "are trying
to mobilize people on this issue, creating more extremism. They have created
a sense of fear in society, for anyone who disagrees with their view of
Tens of thousands of people flee fast-moving wildfire
A home burns
as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, (AP
Don Thompson and Noah Berger
Paradise, Calif. (AP) — Tens of
thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern
California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and
struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an
entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures.
Everyone in Paradise, a community of
27,000 people about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco,
was ordered to get out. The extent of the injuries and damage was not
immediately known. Butte County CalFire Chief Darren Read said at a news
conference that two firefighters and multiple residents were injured.
As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a
devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and
toppled utility poles.
"Things started exploding," Oviedo
said. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running."
At a late afternoon news conference,
Read said he had reports of several hundred destroyed structures in
Paradise, but he cautioned that officials had not been able to assess yet.
Officials won't have an exact count
until they can get into the area, he said. An Associated Press photographer
saw dozens businesses and homes leveled or in flames, including a liquor
store and gas station.
"It's a very dangerous and very serious
situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "I'm driving through fire
as we speak. We're doing everything we can to get people out of the affected
The blaze erupted as windy weather
swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of
Los Angeles in Ventura County burned about 15,000 acres (23 square miles)
and at least one home in a matter of hours. It prompted evacuations of a
mobile home park, a state university campus and a small community. A nearby
blaze was smaller at less than 1,000 acres (1.5 square miles) but moving
Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom
declared a state of emergency for the fire-stricken area in Northern
Shari Bernacett said her husband tried
to get people to leave the Paradise mobile home park they manage. He
"knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many residents as
possible, Bernacett said.
"My husband tried his best to get
everybody out. The whole hill's on fire. God help us!" she said before
breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their
pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.
Terrifying videos posted on social
media showed cars driving along roads that looked like tunnels of fire with
flames on both sides of the road.
Concerned friends and family posted
frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for
loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone.
Among them was Kim Curtis, who was
searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. Thursday that she
would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat. Her grandmother, who
is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in
"We've just been posting all over
social media. And just praying for a miracle, honestly," said Curtis, who
lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Officials were sending as many
firefighters as they could, Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart said.
"Every engine that we could put on the
fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming," he said. "There are
dozens of strike teams that we're bringing in from all parts of the state."
The sheriff confirmed reports that
evacuees had to abandon their vehicles. Rescuers were trying to put them in
other vehicles, he said.
"We're working very hard to get people
out. The message I want to get out is: If you can evacuate, you need to
evacuate," Honea said.
The wildfire was reported around
daybreak. Within six hours, it had grown to more than 26 square miles (69
square kilometers), Gaddie said.
Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky
above Paradise and could be seen from miles away.
Fire officials said the flames were
being fueled by winds, low humidity, dry air and severely parched brush and
ground from months without rain.
"Basically, we haven't had rain since
last May or before that," said Read, the fire chief. "Everything is a very
receptive fuel bed. It's a rapid rate of spread."
At the hospital in Paradise, more than
60 patients were evacuated to other facilities and some buildings caught
fire and were damaged. But the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River
Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said.
Some of the patients were initially
turned around during their evacuation because of gridlocked traffic and
later airlifted to other hospitals, along with staff, Kinney said.
Four hospital employees were briefly
trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers,
The National Weather Service issued
red-flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low
humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through Friday evening.
Italy's budget row with EU escalates ahead of deadline
Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici presents
the Autumn 2018 economic forecast at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday,
Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
Colleen Barry and Pan Pylas
Milan (AP) — The Italian
government insisted Thursday it is sticking with its plan to rapidly
increase public spending as a dispute with the European Union over the
budget intensified following a gloomy set of forecasts.
In response to the EU's executive
Commission's prediction that Italy will be the slowest-growing economy in
the 19-country eurozone through 2020, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said
his government had no intention of revising its plans by next week, as
Brussels had requested.
"The Commission growth forecast for
next year underestimates the positive impact of our economic maneuver and
our structural reforms," he said. "We are going ahead with our estimates on
the public finances, with growth that will increase and debt and deficit
that will decrease."
The worry in Brussels and in financial
markets, where interest rates on Italian bonds have spiked sharply, is that
the budget plans would prevent the country's huge debt burden from falling,
And that could raise renewed questions
about the future of the euro. Italy's public debt burden stands at around
130 percent of the annual GDP, second in the eurozone behind Greece, which
only emerged from its eight-year bailout era in the summer.
The Commission said it expects the
Italian economy, the eurozone's third-largest, to grow by only 1.2 percent
in 2019, below the 1.5 percent projected by the government. And in 2020, the
Commission forecasts Italian growth of only 1.3 percent, again 0.3
percentage point-lower than the projection from Rome.
As a result, the Commission expects
higher budget deficits for Italy, notably for next year. Rather than the 2.4
percent of GDP predicted by Italy, the Commission expects 2.9 percent, a
level that would not bring down Italy's overall debt stock.
"There are no grounds for questioning
the foundation and sustainability of our forecasts," said Conte, adding that
Italy expects the debt load to decrease to 126.7 percent of GDP by 2021.
The Commission doesn't appear to be in
a mood to haggle.
"There cannot be a sort of negotiation
on this," said Pierre Moscovici, the commissioner responsible for economic
Countries that use the euro have to
seek approval from the Commission for their budgets as part of a
coordination exercise designed to prevent a repeat of the debt crisis that
afflicted the region over the past decade. The Commission could sanctions
Italy if it does not revise its plans by Tuesday.
The Italian government argues that the
economy needs a stimulus so it can turn around after stagnating for years.
Boosting growth, it argues, will help control debt levels and eventually
solidify the country's place within the single currency bloc.
As part of those ambitions, the Italian
government is raising spending to fund, among other things, a minimum income
scheme for jobseekers and restore early retirement for eligible workers,
doing away with an unpopular reform.
Lorenzo Codogno, a former Italian
Treasury official who runs LC Macro Advisors, said the Commission's deficit
forecasts were perhaps a bit "pessimistic" given the likely delays in the
implementation of policy measures.
The Commission, he added, looked like
it was setting the stage to sanction Italy and that any "possible tweaks the
government may be considering to introduce by the Nov. 13 deadline will do
little to narrow this huge gap."
Bond market investors are already
fretting, having marked up interest rates on Italian debt significantly over
the past few months.
Italy's economy comes amid a broader
slowdown in the eurozone as a whole, which the Commission expects to slow
amid global uncertainties, trade tensions, and higher oil prices.
Overall eurozone growth is forecast to
moderate to 2.1 percent this year from a decade-high rate of 2.4 percent in
2017. It expects a further easing to 1.9 percent in 2019 and 1.7 percent in
And Brexit could yet hurt growth even
further, especially if Britain crashes out of the EU in March with no deal
on future relations. Uncertainty over Brexit is the main reason why the
Commission expects Britain to match Italy's paltry growth of 1.2 percent
next and to remain at that level in 2020.
Indian rebels blow up bus, killing 4 civilians, 1 soldier
paramilitary soldiers walk past the remains of a bus that was blown up by
Maoist rebels in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state, India, Thursday,
Nov. 8. (KK Production via AP)
Patna, India (AP) — Maoist
rebels blew up a bus on Thursday, killing four civilians and a paramilitary
soldier, in a central Indian state where legislative elections are to be
held next week.
Senior police officer D.M. Awasthi said
the attack occurred in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state, a
stronghold of the insurgents.
Two other soldiers were wounded in the
attack and were hospitalized, Awasthi said.
The New Delhi Television channel said
an explosive device tore through the bus, which was carrying civilians and
The rebels have put up posters in the
area warning people against voting in the elections.
It was the third Maoist attack in the
state in less than two weeks. In the previous two attacks, four paramilitary
soldiers, two policemen and one television cameraman were killed.
The Maoist rebels, inspired by Chinese
revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the Indian government
for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers, the
poor and indigenous communities. They have thousands of fighters and control
vast swaths of territory in several Indian states.
The government has called the rebels
India's biggest internal security threat.
The rebels, also known as Naxalites,
have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted officials.
They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and
stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses.
Norwegian frigate is rammed by tanker in harbor, could sink
Norwegian frigate KNM Helge Ingstad takes on water after a collision with
the tanker Sola TS, in Oygarden, Norway, Thursday Nov. 8. (Marit
Hommedal/NTB Scanpix via AP)
Jan M. Olsen
Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) — An
oil tanker rammed a Norwegian navy frigate Thursday in a harbor on the
country's western coast, tearing a large hole in its side, the military
said. The frigate's 137 crew members were evacuated amid fears that it may
Eight people on the KNM Helge Instad
were injured in the 4 a.m. collision in Sture, north of Bergen, said Rear
Adm. Nils Andreas Stensoenes, the head of Norway's navy. Two of them were
taken to a nearby hospital.
The ship, which had recently taken part
in the vast Trident Juncture NATO military drill in Norway, is "strongly
listing," Stensoenes told a news conference Thursday afternoon. The frigate
was lying in the water almost on its side with its stern under the water.
The 134-meter (442-foot) long frigate,
built in Spain in 2009, is part of a NATO fleet in the Atlantic. The
alliance has been informed of the accident, he said.
The Maltese-flagged oil tanker, Sola
TS, was not damaged and its 23-man crew remained on board. The shipping site
Sysla reported the tanker had been loaded with crude oil and was on its way
Stensoenes said the cause of the
accident was not clear and the Navy would wait for the findings of Norway's
Accident Investigation Board. Earlier reports had said a towboat was also
involved in the collision, but Stensoenes denied that report.
He said the frigate had been pushed by
towboats into shallow water where it could not sink fully.
"We are in a security phase for the
time being," he said. He declined to comment on what would happen to the
weapons on board the ship.
Some 10,000 liters of helicopter fuel
from the frigate has leaked into the sea, said Johan Marius Ly of the
Norwegian Coast Guard. The fuel was expected to evaporate quickly.
Norway's largest oil and gas company,
Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, said its non-emergency activities at the
Sture terminal where the collision occurred were shut down as a precaution
for many hours but were gradually starting up again late Thursday afternoon.
The Accident Investigation Board said
because the tanker is Maltese-registered, the Marine Safety Investigation
Unit (MSIU) of Malta will participate in the investigation.
Update November 3 -
Storms, floods in Sicily kill at least 12 people; 2 missing
The swollen Milicia river runs in the area where
nine people lost their lives when their home was flooded in Casteldaccia,
near Palermo, Sicily, Sunday, Nov. 4. (Ruggero Farkas/ANSA via AP)
Rome (AP) — Storms lashing
Sicily have killed at least 12 people with torrential floods, Italian
authorities said Sunday, including nine members of two families who were
spending a long weekend in a country home near Palermo that was overrun by
water from a rapidly swelling river.
After surveying the stricken
Mediterranean island by helicopter Sunday, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte
said two of the victims were a German couple whose car was swept away by
flood waters near Agrigento, a tourist town known for its ancient Greek
State broadcaster RaiNews24 said the
owner of the flooded home in Casteldaccia was the sole survivor of the
deluge that hit late Saturday. He had stepped outside to walk the family
dogs when the torrent filled his home with rushing water and mud.
Italian media said the man clung to a
tree, then ended up on the roof of a nearby house. He used his cellphone to
call for help but it was too late for the victims, who included a
1-year-old, 3-year-old and a teenager.
The two families had gathered in the
villa during Italy's long weekend centering on the Nov. 1 All Saint's Day
national holiday. Some members of the group went out earlier to buy desert
and escaped the flood, Italian media said.
Casteldaccia Mayor Giovanni Di Giacinto
told Sky TG24 that the flood water reached 2 meters (move than 6 feet) high
inside the home.
Premier Conte called the disaster "an
Rescuers retrieved the bodies from the
home. A Sicilian prosecutor opened an investigation to determine if human
error, such as possible inadequate drainage of the river, played a role in
the deaths or if the home was built illegally close to the river.
Only days earlier, other storms
battered much of northern Italy, killing at least 15 people, uprooting
millions of trees near Alpine valleys and leaving several Italian villages
without electricity or road access for days.
Conte said a special Cabinet meeting
could be in the coming days to deliberate aid for storm-ravaged communities,
as well as to approve 1 billion euros ($1.15 billion) to ensure safe
hydrogeological conditions in Italy, including proper cleaning of riverbeds.
The other known casualty in Sicily was
a man whose body was also found on a guardrail along a Palermo-area road
after floodwaters swept away his car, Italian news reports said.
Across the island, in the town of
Cammarata, near Agrigento, the fire department said its divers worked to
recover the bodies of the couple whose car was caught up in the flooding
waters of the Saraceno River.
Also in Agrigento province,
firefighters rescued 14 people from a hotel in the town of Montevago, which
was threatened by floodwaters from the Belice River.
Elsewhere in Sicily, at least two other
people were missing Sunday after floodwaters swept away their cars,
including a doctor heading to the hospital in the hill town of Corleone.
In Casteldaccia, Maria Concetta Alfano
said she, her husband and their adult disabled daughter fled after barking
dogs drew their attention to the rising waters in the Milicia River, the
Italian news agency ANSA said. It quoted the husband, Andrea Cardenale, as
saying he drove away as "water was up to the hood of the car."
Voters in Pacific territory choose to keep ties with France
A man drapes his country's flag over his
shoulders as residents of New Caledonia's capital, Noumea, wait in line at a
polling station before casting their vote as part of an independence
referendum, Sunday, Nov. 4. (AP Photo/Mathurin Derel)
Noumea, New Caledonia (AP) — A
majority of voters in the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia chose to
remain part of France instead of backing independence, election officials
announced Sunday as French President Emmanuel Macron promised a full
dialogue on the region's future.
The decision to keep ties with France
was watershed moment for the archipelago that lies east of Australia and has
sun-kissed lagoons as well as a nickel mining industry. The independence
referendum itself was a milestone in New Caledonia's three-decades-long
decolonization process, which was borne out of deep resentment by the
region's native Kanaks of decades of ill treatment by their European
Final results Sunday saw 56.4 percent
of voters choosing to remain part of France compared to 43.6 percent support
for independence, the high commissioner's office said.
The poll had a record-high
participation rate of 80.6 percent of registered voters — so many that some
polling stations in the capital, Noumea, had to stay open about an hour
longer than planned Sunday to handle the crush.
More than 174,000 registered voters
were invited to answer the question: "Do you want New Caledonia to gain full
sovereignty and become independent?" France has ruled New Caledonia since
the mid-19th century.
"I'm asking everyone to turn toward the
future to build tomorrow's New Caledonia," Macron said, speaking from the
presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. "The spirit of dialogue is the sole
Praising both sides for their
"responsible" campaigns, Macron added that "contempt and violence" were the
only losers in the historic poll.
The high commissioner's office reported
limited outbreaks of unrest in Noumea as votes were counted, with seven cars
set ablaze, some roads closed and two instances of stone-throwing. But
otherwise the vote was overwhelmingly peaceful.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is set
to meet with New Caledonian officials Monday morning for talks about the
political future of the territory of 270,000 people. New Caledonia receives
about 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in French state subsidies every year,
and many had feared the economy would suffer if ties were severed.
Residents of the region include the
native Kanaks, who represent about 40 percent of the population, people of
European descent, which make up about 27 percent and others from Asian
countries and Pacific islands.
Most Kanaks had tended to back
independence, while most descendants of European settlers had favored
keeping the French connection.
The referendum is the result of a
process that started 30 years ago to end years of violence between
independence supporters and opponents that had overall claimed more than 70
lives. The two sides agreed upon a 1988 deal and another agreement a decade
later included plans for an independence referendum.
Voter Monette Saihulinwa said she
"I don't necessarily want our lives to
change," the 50-year-old said.
Others hailed the ballot as historic.
"We've been waiting for 30 years for
this vote," said Mariola Bouyer, 34. "This vote must demonstrate that we
want to live in peace, no matter our race, our roots. It's building a
The New Caledonia archipelago became
French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III — Napoleon's nephew and heir — and
was used for decades as a prison colony. It became an overseas territory
after World War II, with French citizenship granted to all Kanaks in 1957.
Under French colonial rule, the Kanaks faced strict segregation policies and
Data recovered from crashed Lion Air data recorder: official
hand body bags containing the remains of the victims of the crashed Lion Air
jet to colleagues upon arrival at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia,
Saturday, Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Fauzy Chaniago)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —
Investigators succeeded in retrieving hours of data from a crashed Lion Air
jet's flight recorder as Indonesian authorities on Sunday extended the
search at sea for victims and debris.
National Transportation Safety
Committee deputy chairman Haryo Satmiko told a news conference that 69 hours
of flight data was downloaded from the recorder including its fatal flight.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crashed just
minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on Oct. 29, killing all 189 people on
board in the country's worst airline disaster since 1997.
The flight data recorder was recovered
by divers on Thursday in damaged condition and investigators said it
required special handling to retrieve its information. The cockpit voice
recorder has not been recovered but searchers are focusing on a particular
area based on a weak locator signal.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief
Muhammad Syaugi said Sunday the search operation, now in its 7th day and
involving hundreds of personnel and dozens of ships, would continue for
another three days.
Syaugi paid tribute to a volunteer
diver, Syahrul Anto, who died during the search effort on Friday. The family
of the 48-year-old refused an autopsy and he was buried Saturday in
More than 100 body bags of human
remains had been recovered. Syaugi said the number would continue to
increase and remains were also now washing up on land.
He said weak signals, potentially from
the cockpit voice recorder, were traced to a location but an object hadn't
been found yet due to deep seabed mud.
Flight tracking websites show the plane
had erratic speed and altitude during its 13 minute flight and a previous
flight the day before from Bali to Jakarta. Passengers on the Bali flight
reported terrifying descents and in both cases the different cockpit crews
requested to return to their departure airport shortly after takeoff. Lion
has claimed a technical problem was fixed after the Bali fight.
Syaugi said a considerable amount of
aircraft "skin" was found on the seafloor but not a large intact part of its
fuselage as he'd indicated was possible Saturday.
He and other top officials including
the military chief plan to meet with families on Monday to explain the
The Lion Air crash is the worst airline
disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died on a Garuda flight
near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore
plunged into the sea, killing all 162 on board.
Indonesian airlines were barred in 2007
from flying to Europe because of safety concerns, though several were
allowed to resume services in the following decade. The ban was completely
lifted in June. The U.S. lifted a decadelong ban in 2016.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia's youngest
airlines but has grown rapidly, flying to dozens of domestic and
international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast
Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.
Egypt says perpetrators of attack against Christians killed
In this Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 photo, relatives
and friends carry the coffin of, Maria Kamal, who was killed in an attack on
a bus Saturday, after funeral services at the Church of Great Martyr Prince
Tadros, in Minya, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Cairo (AP) — Egypt said Sunday
that security forces have killed 19 militants in a shootout, including the
gunmen suspected of killing seven Christians in an attack on pilgrims
traveling to a remote desert monastery.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees
the police, said the militants were tracked to a hideout in the desert west
of the central province of Minya, the site of Friday's attack, which also
left 19 people wounded.
It said the alleged militants opened
fire when they realized they were being besieged by security forces. It did
not say when the shootout took place or explain how it had determined that
the perpetrators of Friday's attack were among the 19 killed.
The ministry published photographs
purporting to show the bodies of the slain militants, as well as rifles,
shotguns and pistols. Other images showed the inside of a tent with the
black banner of the Islamic State group — which claimed responsibility for
Friday's attack — unfurled on the ground.
An IS affiliate centered in the Sinai
Peninsula has repeatedly targeted Christians, in part over their support for
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
El-Sissi led the 2013 overthrow of an
elected but divisive Islamist president and has since waged a sweeping
crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists and other activists.
Friday's attack was the second in as
many years to target pilgrims on their way to the monastery of St. Samuel
the Confessor, after a May 2017 assault left 29 dead.
Christians make up about 10 percent of
Egypt's 100 million people and have long complained of discrimination. They
have accused police of negligence after this and other attacks, and say
authorities often go easy on Muslim assailants after outbreaks of sectarian
They have found a measure of protection
under el-Sissi which, according to Christian activists, did not extend to
members of the ancient community in rural regions where radical Muslims whip
up anti-Christian sentiments, often over the construction or restoration of
churches or romantic relationships between Christians and Muslims.
Pope Francis on Sunday decried the
attack and invited the faithful in St. Peter's Square to pray with him for
the seven people killed on Friday. He said he was praying for the "pilgrims
killed for the sole fact of being Christians," asking that those grieving be
Addressing a meeting of youths in the
Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, el-Sissi on Sunday sought to send
out a message of reconciliation. He said Friday's attack pained all
Egyptians, adding that his rule has been more tolerant of minorities than
that of his predecessors.
"The state now is tasked with building
churches for its citizens, because they (Christians) have the right to
worship," he said, alluding to a 2016 law that, in theory, regulates the
construction of churches and mosques without bias. "If followers of other
religions lived in Egypt, we would have built places of worship for them
too," said the Egyptian leader who has been in office since 2014.
WWI centenary to be marked in London and Paris, not Berlin
A field of graves belonging to WWI soldiers in
the main cemetery in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (AP
Berlin (AP) — German Chancellor
Angela Merkel will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on
French soil, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be in London
for a ceremony in Westminster Abbey with Queen Elizabeth II.
But while Germany's leaders visit the
capitals of its wartime enemies, at home there are no national
commemorations planned for the centenary of the Nov. 11 armistice that ended
the four-year war that left 17 million dead, including more than 2 million
Next week, the German parliament is
holding a combined commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the declaration
of the first German republic, the 80th anniversary of the brutal Nazi-era
pogrom against Jews known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), and the
29th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Almost as an afterthought,
parliament notes there's also art exhibition in the lobby called "1914/1918
- Not Then, Not Now, Not Ever."
More than just being on the losing side
of World War I, it's what came next that is really behind Germany's lack of
For Germany, the Nov. 11 armistice did
not mean peace like it did in France and Britain. The war's end gave rise to
revolution and street fighting between far-left and far-right factions. It
also brought an end to the monarchy, years of hyperinflation, widespread
poverty and hunger, and helped create the conditions that brought the Nazis
to power in 1933.
The horrific legacy of the Holocaust
and the mass destruction of World War II simply overshadows everything else
in Germany, said Daniel Schoenpflug, a historian at Berlin's Free
University's Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute. His new book, "A World on Edge,"
explores the immediate aftermath of the war through individual perspectives.
"One can't reduce it to the simple fact
that one country won the war and the other lost," Schoenpflug said. "Germany
is a country that draws practically its entire national narrative out of the
defeat of 1945" — and not the defeat of 1918.
By contrast in Turkey, which was also
on the losing side in World War I, the war's end produced a similar collapse
of the Ottoman empire and a war of independence, but also gave rise to
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern Turkish republic.
In Germany, even though the end of
World War I is now viewed through the prism of Hitler and the Holocaust, in
the immediate postwar period there actually was a time of utopianism, with
movements promoting idealistic visions of peace and democracy, Schoenpflug
Yet on the other side of the political
spectrum, utopianism on the right also gave birth to fascism, he said.
And as initial euphoria over the end of
World War I faded, hopes for the future quickly gave way to feelings of
resentment at the reparations and conditions imposed on Germany by the
victorious powers. The Nazis and right-wing nationalists were able to garner
support by pushing the "stab-in-the-back" myth, which held that Germany's
civilian leaders sold out the army by agreeing to the Nov. 11 surrender.
"There was a war of dreams, a clash of
utopias" between the right and the left, Schoenpflug said.
Although there aren't any national
commemorations in Germany marking the war's end, individual events are
planned, including an exhibition at the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
A special World War I religious service is also being organized by the
German Bishops Conference at the Berliner Dom cathedral.
And in addition to German officials
taking part in events in London and Paris, the Foreign Ministry said they
and their British counterparts have worked together to coordinate the
ringing of church and secular bells around the world on Nov. 11 to mark the
"The bells will ring at midday to
commemorate the more than 17 million victims of World War I and as a call
for understanding and reconciliation across borders," the ministry said.
Lion Air crash search finds debris, belongings on seafloor
National Search and Rescue Agency inspect debris retrieved from the waters
where Lion Air flight JT 610 is believed to have crashed, at Tanjung Priok
Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Fauzy Chaniago)
Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — The
search for the crashed Lion Air plane has found aircraft debris and
passenger belongings on the seafloor but the object thought to be the
fuselage is still eluding it, an Indonesian official said Wednesday, as
chilling video of passengers boarding the fatal flight emerged.
Search and Rescue Agency chief Muhammad
Syaugi said the seafloor findings give the search team confidence they will
find the body of the aircraft. The location of the airplane's "black box"
flight data recorder has been identified, he said, but strong currents
prevented it from being recovered.
"We saw belongings such as life
jackets, pants, clothes scattered on the seabed," Syaugi said. "We believe
the fuselage will be around there, we hope that our target can be found."
The 2-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet
plunged into the Java Sea early Monday just minutes after taking off from
Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
The disaster has reignited concerns
about safety in Indonesia's fast-growing aviation industry, which was
recently removed from European Union and U.S. blacklists, and also raised
doubts about the safety of Boeing's new generation 737 MAX 8 plane.
Syaugi said one of the ships with
high-tech equipment being used in the search dispatched a remote-operated
vehicle that recorded parts of the aircraft on the seafloor but not the
22-meter (72-foot) -long object detected at a depth of 32 meters (105 feet)
that is believed to be the fuselage. He said the area is about 400 meters
(1,300 feet) from the coordinates where the airplane lost contact.
Three other objects in separate
locations were reached by divers but turned out to be two sunken boats and a
fish trap. A remote-operated vehicle was sent to the black box location "but
the currents on the seabed were very strong, the ROV was carried away,"
Searchers have sent 57 body bags
containing human remains to police identification experts who on Wednesday
said they'd identified their first victim, a 24-year-old woman, from a ring
and a right hand.
Anguished family members have been
providing samples for DNA tests and police say results are expected within
Musyafak, the head of Said Sukanto
Police Hospital, said nearly 150 samples for DNA testing have been collected
but more are still needed, especially from parents and children of victims.
Boeing Co. experts were expected to
arrive in Indonesia on Wednesday and Lion Air has said an "intense" internal
investigation is underway in addition to the probe by safety regulators.
Data from flight-tracking sites show
the plane had erratic speed and altitude in the early minutes of a flight on
Sunday and on its fatal flight Monday. Safety experts caution, however, that
the data must be checked for accuracy against the plane's black boxes.
Several passengers on the Sunday flight
from Bali to Jakarta have recounted problems that included a long-delayed
takeoff for an engine check and terrifying descents in the first 10 minutes
in the air.
Two interviewed on Indonesian TV
recalled details such as a strange engine sound, a smell of burnt cables,
and panicked passengers crying out for God to save them as the plane rapidly
lost altitude. Later in the flight, a man who was either the captain or
first officer walked through the plane and returned to the cockpit with what
looked like a large manual.
Lion Air has said maintenance was
carried out on the aircraft after the Sunday flight and a problem, which it
didn't specify, was fixed.
Indonesian TV broadcast a smartphone
video of passengers boarding Flight 610, its mundane details transformed
into unsettling moments by knowledge of the tragedy that would transpire.
It showed passengers' boarding passes
being checked and people walking along a concourse and then down stairs with
bright red and white Lion Air jets visible on the tarmac.
At one point, the passenger who shot
the video, Paul Ferdinand Ayorbaba, zoomed in on the flight number on his
boarding pass. A part of the video shows passengers walking up the boarding
stairs to a Lion jet.
"My husband sent that video to me via
WhatsApp. It was his last contact with me, his last message to me," said
Inchy Ayorbaba, interviewed at the Jakarta police hospital where she had
taken their three children for DNA tests.
The messaging app's timestamp showed
the video was sent about 35 minutes before the plane took off, said
Ayorbaba, who first saw the message at 6:30 a.m., some 10 minutes after the
plane departed, and then went back to sleep.
Lion Air's technical director was
removed from duty Wednesday at the order of the Transport Ministry. It also
has ordered all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes operated by Lion Air and national
carrier Garuda to be inspected. Lion has ordered 50 of the jets, worth an
estimated $6.2 billion, and currently operates nine.
Daniel Putut, a Lion Air managing
director, said Tuesday evening the airline has many questions for Boeing.
"Of course there are lots of things we
will ask them, we all have question marks here, 'Why? What's the matter with
this new plane,'" Putut said.
The crash is the worst airline disaster
in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people died in the crash of a Garuda
flight near Medan. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to
Singapore plunged into the sea, killing all 162 on board.
Indonesian airlines were barred in 2007
from flying to Europe because of safety concerns, though several were
allowed to resume services in the following decade. The ban was completely
lifted in June. The U.S. lifted a decadelong ban in 2016.
Lion Air, a discount carrier, is one of
Indonesia's youngest and biggest airlines, flying to dozens of domestic and
international destinations. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast
Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.
Pakistan acquits Christian woman facing death for blasphemy
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group chant
slogans during a protest after a court decision, in Lahore, Pakistan,
Wednesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Zarar Khan and Munir Ahmed
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistan's top
court on Wednesday acquitted a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on
blasphemy charges in 2010, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by
hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar
announced the verdict to a packed courtroom and ordered Asia Bibi released.
She has been held at an undisclosed location for security reasons and is
expected to leave the country.
The charges against Bibi date back to a
hot day in 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow
farmworkers. Two Muslim women refused to drink from a container used by a
Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was tried,
convicted and sentenced to death.
The mere rumor of blasphemy can ignite
mob violence and lynchings in Pakistan, and combatting alleged blasphemy has
become a central rallying cry for hard-line Islamists.
Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab
province, was shot and killed by one of his guards in 2011 for defending
Bibi and criticizing the misuse of the blasphemy law. The assassin, Mumtaz
Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hard-liners since he was hanged
for the killing, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near
Ahead of the verdict, Khadim Hussain
Rizvi, a hard-line cleric who has brought tens of thousands of people into
the streets for past rallies, called on his supporters to gather in all
major cities to express their love for the prophet and to protest if Bibi is
released. Authorities have stepped up security at churches around the
Shortly after the ruling, hundreds of
Islamists blocked a key road linking the city of Rawalpindi with the
capital, Islamabad. Islamists gathered in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi,
in the northwestern city of Peshawar and elsewhere. Police urged
demonstrators to disperse peacefully.
In the eastern city of Multan, police
arrested several demonstrators after clashes.
Paramilitary troops deployed in
Islamabad to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where
security for the judges was being beefed up.
Bibi's family and her lawyer say she
never insulted the prophet. In previous hearings her attorney, Saiful
Malook, pointed to contradictions in testimony from witnesses. The two
Muslim women who pressed charges against Bibi denied they quarreled with
her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.
Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, a lawyer for
one of the plaintiffs, rejected the verdict, saying Bibi had confessed to
making derogatory remarks against the prophet to seek pardon.
The three-judge panel upheld the
blasphemy law itself, saying it was consistent with verses from Islam's holy
book, the Quran. But they said prosecutors had failed to prove that Bibi
violated the law. In addition to citing the Quran, the judges also
referenced Shakespeare's King Lear, saying Bibi was "more sinned against
Critics of the blasphemy law have said
it is used to settle personal scores or to attack minority communities.
Bibi's case was closely followed internationally amid concern for Pakistan's
religious minorities, who have frequently come under attack by extremists in
Bibi's husband hailed Wednesday's
"I am very happy. My children are very
happy. We are grateful to God. We are grateful to the judges for giving us
justice. We knew that she is innocent," said Ashiq Masih.
"My wife spent so many years in jail
and we hope that we will soon be together in a peaceful place," he said.
4 rescued, at least 19 missing in Philippine landslide
Rescuers dig through the earth to search for
survivors after a massive landslide in Natonin township, Mountain Province
in northern Philippines Wednesday, Oct. 31. (DPWH MPDSEO via AP)
Manila, Philippines (AP) —
Rescuers have pulled out four survivors and three bodies but several more
were missing after a massive landslide set off by a typhoon crashed down on
two government buildings in a northern Philippine mountain province,
officials said Wednesday.
Regional police Chief Superintendent
Rolando Nana said at least 19 more people still are missing from the
landslide in the far-flung town of Natonin in Mountain province. Smaller
land- and rockslides on roads leading to Natonin have slowed the advance of
more rescuers and earth-moving equipment.
Disaster response officer Jennifer
Pangket said there could be up to 24 people still trapped in the landslide,
which occurred as Typhoon Yutu pummeled the region Tuesday. At least nine
people have died due to the typhoon, which blew out of the northern
Philippines on Tuesday.
"It's a massive landslide and boulders
also came rolling down from the mountain. The buildings got demolished and
entombed. They're gone," government engineer Junel Emengga told The
Associated Press by phone from the site of the landslide.
More than 100 workers, police,
firefighters and volunteers were scrambling to find more survivors in the
avalanche using shovels and their hands because earth-moving equipment could
not go through roads blocked by smaller landslides, he said.
One new building was being constructed
and an old one was being expanded, he said.
Emengga said he and other staffers of
the Department of Public Works and Highways did not work at the four-story
buildings Tuesday because of the typhoon but other workers from a private
company continued to work. Nearby residents also sought shelter in the
buildings when their homes were hit by the landslides and fierce wind, he
Typhoon Yutu weakened considerably from
its earlier super typhoon status over the Pacific Ocean before slamming into
the Philippines' northeastern Isabela province before dawn Tuesday. Aside
from the landslides, it also knocked down trees and power posts and ripped
roofs off houses and stores, officials said.
The storm weakened further as it blew
across mountains and then barreled westward through provinces still
recovering from the deaths and devastation wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut in
Yutu blew out into the South China Sea
later Tuesday and weakened into a storm, Philippine forecasters said.
One of the world's most disaster-prone
countries, the Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each
year. It is also located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," the arc of seismic
faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanic activity are
Towering statue of India's independence leader unveiled
Indian policemen gather next to the Statue of
Unity at Kevadiya colony in Gujarat state, India, Wednesday, Oct. 31. (AP
New Delhi (AP) — India's prime
minister on Wednesday unveiled a towering bronze statue of Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel, a key independence leader being promoted as a national
icon in the ruling party's campaign ahead of next year's general elections.
Patel, who hailed from Prime Minister
Narendra Modi's native Gujarat state, was also India's first home minister
after the 1947 independence from Britain.
He was known as the "Iron Man of India"
for integrating various states in the post-independence era, when the
creation of Pakistan led to massive bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims
moving between the two nations.
The statue is part of a broader project
by Modi to counter the opposition Indian National Congress Party's firm
claim on India's history by way of the country's first prime minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru, his mentor, peace activist Mahatma Gandhi, and his
daughter, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her
guards in 1984.
Nehru's great-grandson, Rahul Gandhi,
leads the Congress Party, and if a unified opposition wins a majority of
seats in parliamentary elections due next spring, he could be a candidate
for India's next prime minister.
The Patel statue "puts the opposition
in a quandary because any criticism of Modi's showmanship will enable him to
depict critics as being legatees of those who denied Patel his rightful
place in the nation and history," said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a Delhi-based
political analyst and author of the book "Modi: The Man, The Times."
"In the process, not only will the
Statue of Unity literally dwarf statues of all other Indians leaders, but
the event will also enable the memory of Sardar to rise imposingly over
Congress Party leaders," Mukhopadhyay said.
At 182 meters (597 feet), Patel's
bronze figure in Kevadiya, a village in Gujarat, is one of the tallest
statues in the world — almost 10 stories higher than the 153-meter
(501-foot) Spring Temple Buddha statue in China and nearly twice the height
of the Statue of Liberty, which stands at 93 meters (305 feet).
The 42-month project built by 250
engineers and 3,000 workers began in 2013, when Modi was the top elected
official in Gujarat. After he became prime minister in 2014, he pledged to
complete it despite some critics balking at the nearly $403 million price
tag, which they said could be better spent on welfare programs for India's
Standing on the banks of the Narmada
River on Wednesday as Indian air force pilots dropped flower petals on
Patel's imposing figure, Modi said the statue would serve as a beacon of
hope for India and "keep on reminding the whole world" about Patel's
The monument will have a museum with
40,000 documents, 2,000 photographs and a research center dedicated to
Patel's life and work.
"Though Patel was from Gujarat state,
all Indians were proud of him because of his stature," said Rashesh Patel, a
42-year-old businessman among the crowd gathered for the inauguration
The Patel statue could, however, soon
be topped by the 212-meter (696-foot) Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial
commemorating a 17th-century Indian warrior king, which is set to open in
Mumbai in 2021.
Austria says it won't sign UN global migration pact
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice
Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and President Alexander Van Der Bellen,
from left, review recruits on the occasion of national holiday celebrations
at Vienna's Heldenplatz, Austria, Friday, Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Berlin (AP) — The Austrian
government said Wednesday that it won't sign a global compact to promote
safe and orderly migration, citing concerns about national sovereignty as it
joined neighboring Hungary in shunning the agreement.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz
took office last December in a coalition with the nationalist,
anti-migration Freedom Party. Austria currently holds the European Union's
rotating presidency, and Kurz has made curbing unregulated migration a
The Global Compact for Safety, Orderly
and Regular Migration, which isn't legally binding, was finalized under U.N.
auspices in July. It is due to be formally approved at a meeting in
Marrakech, Morocco, from Dec. 11-12.
The Austria Press Agency reported that
Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said Austria won't sign the
document or send an official representative to Marrakech. They cited, among
other things, fears about a possible watering-down of the distinction
between legal and illegal migration.
"There are some points that we view
critically and where we fear a danger to our national sovereignty," Kurz
"Some of the contents go diametrically
against our position," added Strache, the Freedom Party's leader.
"Migration is not and cannot become a
human right," Strache said. "It cannot be that someone receives a right to
migration because of the climate or poverty."
In September 2016, all 193 U.N. member
states, including the United States under President Barack Obama, adopted a
declaration saying no country can manage international migration on its own
and agreeing to launch a process leading to the adoption of a global compact
But last December, the United States
said it was ending its participation in negotiations on the compact, stating
that numerous provisions were "inconsistent with U.S. immigration and
refugee policies" under President Donald Trump.
In July, Hungary said it would withdraw
from the process.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said
then that the pact was contrary to Hungary's interests because while it had
some positive aims, like fighting human trafficking, overall it considered
migration an unstoppable and positive phenomenon worthy of support.
The compact has 23 objectives that seek
to boost cooperation to manage migration and numerous actions ranging from
technical issues like the portability of earnings by migrant workers to
reducing the detention of migrants.
Missing girl's family presses Vatican about found bones
A military soldier guards the entrance of the
Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's embassy to Italy, in Rome, Wednesday,
Oct. 31. (Fabio Frustaci/ANSA via AP)
Vatican City (AP) — Lawyers for the family
of a 15-year-old girl who went missing in 1983 pressed Italian
prosecutors and the Vatican on Wednesday for more details regarding
human bone fragments found in an annex of the Holy See's embassy in
The find, announced late Tuesday, raised immediate
speculation over possible links with the disappearance of Emanuela
Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican employee whose fate remains one of
the Vatican's most enduring mysteries. The news agency ANSA reported
that prosecutors were focusing on whether the remains could be linked
either to Orlandi, who disappeared on June 22 1983, or another
15-year-old girl, Mirella Gregori, who went missing a month earlier in
Rome, on May 7, 1983.
"We are asking Rome prosecutors and the Holy See by
what means the bones were found and how their discovery was placed in
relation to the disappearances of Emanuela Orlandi and Mirella Gregori,"
lawyer Laura Scro said, adding that the Vatican statement "provides
The Vatican said human bone fragments were found
this week during renovations of a room annexed to the embassy, and that
Italian forensic experts had been asked by prosecutors to determine the
age and gender of the body and the date of death. Experts say that could
be determined in a week to 10 days, if adequate DNA can be extracted
from the fragments.
The Orlandi and Gregori disappearances have never
been formally linked. The Orlandi disappearance is by far the
higher-profile, with its Vatican links and many twists. The teen
disappeared after leaving her family's Vatican City apartment to go to a
music lesson in Rome.
Over the years, her case has been linked to
everything from the plot to kill St. John Paul II to the financial
scandal of the Vatican bank and Rome's criminal underworld.