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Police hunts for Turkish man after Dutch tram shooting

by News desk

Dutch security forces were hunting for a 37-year-old Turkish man suspected of having shot several people, one of them possibly fatally, on a tram in the city of Utrecht on Monday, in what authorities said appeared to be a terrorist attack.

Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht province, schools were told to shut their doors and paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure, and also at mosques.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks, saying he was deeply concerned about the incident, which came three days after a lone gunman killed 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

“The police asks you to watch out for 37-year-old Gokman Tanis (born in Turkey) in connection with this morning’s incident,” Dutch police said in a statement.

 They issued an image of the man and warned the public not to approach him. They gave no further details.

Earlier, the head of Dutch counter-terrorism said shots had been fired at several locations, without elaborating. Counter-terrorism units surrounded a house in Utrecht, Dutch television showed, but no one appeared to have been arrested.

“A lot is still unclear at this point and local authorities are working hard to establish all the facts. What we already know is that a culprit is at large,” Counter-Terrorism Agency head Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference.

 Aalbersberg, who said the shooting “appears to be a terrorist attack”, declined to comment on the number of injured or on their condition and did not confirm any deaths.

Local broadcaster RTV Utrecht quoted a witness of the tram incident as saying he had seen a woman lying on the ground amid some kind of confrontation and several men running away from the scene.

A reporter for Dutch broadcaster NOS said a white sheet had been placed over a body near the tram where the shooting had taken place.

Utrecht, the Netherlands’ fourth largest city with a population of around 340,000, is known for its picturesque canals and large student population. Gun killings are rare in Utrecht, as elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Police said the tram station stop in a square outside the city center had been cordoned off. Emergency services were at the scene.

Protest against Macron’s business reforms intensifies

By NewsDesk, with Agency report

Protest by France nationals against their president, Emmanuel Macron, over proposed business reformation, has intensified, lasting longer than expectation, with protesters violently attacking banks and stores on Paris.

It was reported that the action had hit landmark shopping street in a new flare-up of violence as France’s yellow vest demonstrations against Macron and his pro-business reforms.

Although, the country’s police was reported to had moved against the protests turned violent again after weeks of relative calm during marches and declining numbers of participants.

A branch of Banque Tarneaud spewed flames before firefighters arrived and two news-stands on the Champs Elysees avenue caught fire as bonfires burned in the streets.

Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

Police had arrested more than 80 protesters by mid afternoon as demonstrators looted stores around the Champs Elysees and ransacked the high-end Fouquet’s restaurant.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the protests were small compared with a few weeks ago, with only 8,000 people participating in Paris.

“But within this 8,000, there are more than 1,500 ultra violent people who are there just to smash things up, to fight and to attack,” he said, adding more than 1,400 police officers were mobilized.

“I’ve given instructions to the police this morning for great firmness so that nothing slips by,” he added.

Protesters have promised to draw bigger numbers to mark the fourth month since the movement erupted in mid November, over since-scrapped fuel tax hikes and the high cost of living.

Named after the high visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt quickly swelled into a broader movement against Macron and his reforms.

However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December, when Paris saw some of the worst vandalism and looting in decades.

After the spike in violence, Macron offered a package of concessions worth more than $11 billion aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and most pensioners.

His government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality after a series of injuries.

The 41-year-old former investment banker also launched a series of national debates which are aimed at determining what polices people want the government to focus on.

Saturday’s protests coincide with the end of the debates.

Pope goes back to South Sudan visitation plan

By NewsDesk,

Barely two years after Pope Francis’ plans to visit South Sudan was aborted due to an unresolved civil war in the region, the Pope has directed his aides to put back on plan visit to the country, even though date was not yet discussed.

Francis decision to visit the South Sudan was reported to had been reached to prove a closeness and encouragement for peace process.

expressed the wish to ascertain the conditions for a possible visit to South Sudan,” a

A statement issued by the Vatican on Saturday indicated that a meeting with South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir on Saturday, fascinated the Pope’s declaration to visit the country

It added that the Pope wanted to make the trip as \a sign of closeness to the population and of encouragement for the peace process”.

Meanwhile, the oil-producing South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, descended into civil war in December 2013 when a dispute between Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar sparked fighting, often along ethnic lines.

In September, Kiir, who is Catholic, and Machar, a Presbyterian, signed a peace deal calling on the two main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces and unify them into a national army before the formation of a unity government in May.

Three days ago, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report that the six-month-old peace deal risked collapse because none of these steps have occurred, just two months before the deadline.

More than half of the population of South Sudan is Christian, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim.

In 2017, Catholic Church leaders in the country said they had expected the pope would visit the capital, Juba, in the autumn of that year. The tentative plans were scrapped because of security concerns.

About 400,000 people have been killed, and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people uprooted by the civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.

The original trip was to have lasted only one day for security reasons and the pope was to have flown in after spending a night in another African country.

Francis is expected to visit several African countries this year, including Madagascar.

The pope was to have made the 2017 trip to South Sudan with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican communion, in an effort to promote unity in the mostly Christian country.

The conflict sparked Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and plunged parts of the country into famine.

More than 875,000 refugees have fled into neighboring Uganda since the war broke out.

The pope and Kiir discussed the return of refugees, the Vatican statement said.

Father throws baby into sea, cites challenges

By News desk

Thai police arrested a Jordanian man who confessed to murdering his one-year-old son by strapping the child into a stroller and pushing him into the Gulf of Thailand, the country’s immigration head said Tuesday.

The alleged infanticide occurred in the seaside town of Pattaya, where 52-year-old Wael Nabil Salman Zureikat was holidaying with his wife and one-year-old son.

His arrest follows the discovery of the toddler’s body on Monday by fishermen off Pattaya’s main pier.

“Last night, he confessed that he tied his son to the stroller and pushed it into the sea,” immigration head Lieutenant General, Surachate Hakparn, disclosed at a press conference.

The couple had checked into a guest house on March 6, and the boy was taken two days later by the father — who told his wife he was under the care of others.

His wife filed a complaint to the authorities, which led to the man’s arrest.

“The father said he could not raise the boy and did not want to have children,” Surachate said. “It is a heartbreaking story.”

The Jordanian will be charged under Section 289 of Thailand’s penal code for “intentional killing” of a child.

If found guilty, the maximum punishment is the death penalty.

Turkey deputy opposition leader faces three-year imprisonment

By News desk

An opposition Turkish deputy could face one-and-a-half to three years in prison for allegedly violating laws on meetings and demonstrations, said judicial sources on Friday.

Prosecutors are seeking the sentence for Ayse Surucu, a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy for Sanliurfa in Turkey’s southeast, at the 6th Heavy Penal Court in Sanliurfa, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

The suspect was not in court but was represented by her lawyer.

The trial was postponed to a future date after Surucu’s lawyer asked for more time.

Turkey’s government accuses the HDP of being linked to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, it has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.

UK decision on Hezbollah an act of irresponsibility- Iran

By News desk

Iran has described U.K. decision to classify Lebanese group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization as an act of irresponsibility.

“UK’s irresponsible measure not only fails to help improve stability and security in Lebanon but also tends to ignore a large group and its legal representative in an independent country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement released yestereday.

“Hezbollah is a social and popular body which enjoys constructive and active presence in Lebanon, like the country’s other parties, participates in elections and conducts official activities,” he said.

The spokesman said that Iran considers Hezbollah as a legitimate and rightful organization.

On Thursday, Britain’s parliament voted to officially add Hezbollah to a list of terrorist organizations.

As of next Monday, membership in — or support for — the group will be considered a criminal offense in the U.K., carrying sentences of up to ten years in prison.

Bahrain urges EU to blacklist Lebanon’s Hezbollah

By News desk

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa on Saturday called on the European Union to add Lebanese group Hezbollah to a list of terrorist organizations.

“Iran is exercising state terrorism,” he said in an interview with news men at the conclusion of a ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Abu Dhabi.

“Many OIC states, including Bahrain, have suffered from terrorism backed by Iran, which supports terrorist organization such as Hezbollah,” he said.

Though Iran denies accusations of supporting terrorist organizations. But the top Bahraini diplomat went on to call on the EU and other world countries “to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group, following the British suit”.

Barely three days ago, Britain’s parliament voted to officially label Hezbollah as a “terrorist group”.

As of next Monday, membership in — or support for — the group will be considered a criminal offense in the U.K., carrying sentences of up to ten years in prison.

Both Hezbollah and Iran have denounced the British decision to classify the Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.

183 Algerians injured as protest against President intensified

By News desk

A total of 183 people were injured during protests across Algeria on Friday against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for election to a fifth term, the state news agency APS said on Saturday, citing the health ministry.

Tens of thousands of protesters called on the ailing, 82-year-old Bouteflika to abandon plans to seek re-election in an April presidential vote — Algeria’s biggest anti-government rallies since the Arab Spring eight years ago.

He has not formally confirmed he will stand, although representatives have indicated he will do so. APS reported on Saturday that Bouteflika had named Abdelghani Zaalane as his campaign director.

Friday’s protests were mostly peaceful but scuffles between police and protesters broke out in the evening near the presidential place in the capital Algiers.

Algiers was quiet on Saturday.

Large-scale demonstrations — rarely seen in Algeria with its ubiquitous security services — against Bouteflika’s re-election move began a week ago, but Friday saw the biggest turnout yet.

Bouteflika suffered a stroke in 2013 and has been seen in public only a few times since. His re-election bid stoked resentment among Algerians who believe he is not fit to run the major oil- and gas-producing country.

Bouteflika’s campaign manager had said on Tuesday he would submit his official application on Sunday, the deadline for candidates. Bouteflika, who turned 82 on Saturday, has not directly addressed the protests.

Authorities said last week he would travel to Geneva for unspecified medical checks. Swiss television said on Friday Bouteflika was at Geneva University Hospital. There was no official confirmation that Bouteflika was in the Swiss city.

Many Algerians for years avoided politics in public, fearing trouble from the security services or disillusioned as the country has been run by the same group of veterans since the 1954-1962 independence war with France.

Bouteflika has ruled since 1999 and stamped out a decade-long Islamist insurgency early in his rule. Algerians have long tolerated a political system with little space for dissent as a price to pay for peace and stability.

A weak and divided opposition faces high hurdles in mounting an electoral challenge. Since the FLN party again picked Bouteflika as its presidential candidate, several parties, trade unions and business groups have endorsed him.

Trump attacks N.Korea after Vietnam meeting, discredit nuclear weapon benefits

By News desk

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that North Korea does not have any economic future with nuclear weapons as the Pentagon confirmed the United States and South Korea had agreed to end joint large scale spring military exercises.

“North Korea has an incredible, brilliant economic future if they make a deal, but they don’t have any economic future if they have nuclear weapons,” Trump said at a Conservative Political Action Conference.

He added that the relationship with North Korea seemed to be “very, very strong.”

According to a statement, acting Pentagon Chief, Patrick Shanahan spoke with his South Korea counterpart on Saturday and they agreed to adapt their training programs.

The two “made clear that the Alliance decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner,” the Pentagon said.

South Korea’s military issued a similar statement also confirming plans to end the spring joint military exercises.

Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon is planning to visit the United States in the coming week to meet U.S. officials to discuss the second U.S.-North Korea summit as well as the future agenda, according to a South Korean official.

The Pentagon said the U.S. and South Korea had agreed to “newly designed Command Post exercises and revised field training programs.” U.S. officials have long said the scope of the spring exercises, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, would be reduced.

Reuters and others reported on Friday that such an announcement would take place. To encourage talks, the United States and South Korea have suspended a number of military exercises since the first summit last year between Kim and Trump.

South Korea’s joint Chiefs of Staff and South Korea-United States Combined Forces Command said on Sunday that the two countries will conduct a military exercise from March 4 to 12.

The exercise,”Dong Maeng”, which means “Alliance” in English, has been modified from the previously held spring exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle and will focus on strategic, operational, and tactical aspects of general military operations on the Korean Peninsula.

“Exercise Dong Maeng provides us the opportunity to train and rehearse with our Republic of Korea, United States, and United Nations Sending State Partners,” said the ROK Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Park Han-Ki and the CFC Commander, Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams in a statement.

“It is important for professional armies to train and maintain to a standard of readiness. These exercises are crucial in sustaining and strengthening the alliance,” the statement added.

In Vietnam this week, the second meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without a deal on sanctions relief North Korea would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear program.

Trump on Saturday addressed criticism from the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after 17 months in a North Korean prison. They had complained when Trump said at a Hanoi news conference that he believed Kim had nothing to do with Warmbier’s death.

Trump said he was trying to maintain “a delicate balance” to coax the North Koreans into giving up their nuclear program.

The United States and North Korea have said they intend to continue talks, but have not specified when.

Some observers credited Trump for refusing to be drawn into a bad deal. Others criticized him for praising Kim’s leadership and accepting his assertion that he had been unaware of Warmbier’s treatment.

Analysts believe North Korea has 20 to 60 nuclear warheads which could threaten the U.S. mainland if fitted to its intercontinental ballistic missiles. The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions when North Korea conducted nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017.

Washington has demanded complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization before sanctions can be lifted, a position Pyongyang has denounced as “gangster like.”

Argentina president’s father, Macri, passes on at 88

By News desk

Franco Macri, the father of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, died late on Saturday at his home in Buenos Aires at 88, Mauricio Macri’s government said.

Macri, who had suffered health problems for years, was born in Italy before immigrating to Argentina and becoming an important businessman in the South American country.

He ventured into different sectors, including carmaking, construction and services. In 2016 he reached an agreement with Argentina’s justice system to settle a debt owed from a postal company he owned. The deal was annulled by Mauricio after he took office as president.

Macri’s government did not provide details on Franco’s death or arrangements for his funeral.