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Indonesian police kill dozens ahead of Asian Games

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

Indonesian police have shot dead more than 70 people this year in a crackdown on petty criminals ahead of the Asian Games, which are due to start this weekend, a human rights group said on Friday.

At least 77 people have been killed across the country between January and August, a 64-per cent increase on the same period last year, Amnesty International said.

Many of the killings took place during security operations which were “explicitly devised” to prepare the host cities for the sporting event, Amnesty said.

More than 11,000 athletes and officials from 45 countries are participating in the Asian Games, which are scheduled to begin on Saturday in Jakarta and Palembang.

“These shocking figures reveal a clear pattern of unnecessary and excessive use of force by the police, and a constant veil of impunity that taints public security institutions,” Usman Hamid, Amnesty International executive director in Indonesia, said in a statement.

“The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights,” he said, urging the government to investigate the killings “promptly and effectively.”

Police have defended the use of lethal force, saying officers took “firm and measured action” because the suspects were armed and were endangering the lives of officers.

Human rights groups have also criticized Indonesian police for their increasing use of lethal force in dealing with suspected drug traffickers.

Police shot dead at least 80 drug suspects in 2017, compared to 18 the previous year, according to Amnesty.

Last year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered police to shoot drug dealers if they resisted arrest, in remarks that drew comparison to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

Man attacks girlfriend for failing to pay utility bill

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

A Florida man David Mann has attacked his 78-year-old girlfriend claiming she failed to pay their DirecTV bill, resulting in a loss of service.

The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office said Mann, 39, was arrested for battery of a person over the age of 65.

Mann allegedly threw the victim onto a bed in their home and choked her during an argument, FOX30 Jacksonville reported.

The suspect was apparently upset the DirecTV service had been turned off.

The victim thereafter, called in the police.

Police said ammunition was discovered in Mann’s Brycesville home which he was not permitted to have.

It was unclear whether the ammunition belonged to Mann, a convicted felon or the victim.

Police however, said they additionally charged Mann with possession of a weapon.

139 aid workers killed in line of duty

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

United Nation has renewed its call for civilians and aid workers everywhere to be better protected following the killing of 139 of them and 72 kidnapped in 2017.

It said 102 of those aid workers have been wounded also in the line of duty.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Humanitarian Affairs chief, Mark Lowcock,  stated this while remembering all the humanitarians killed in the line of duty, just ahead of World Humanitarian Day.

In 2008, the General Assembly designated Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day to raise awareness of humanitarian assistance and pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to provide it.

Marking the fifth consecutive year in which more than 100 aid workers lost their lives on the job, the UN said 2017 was the highest recorded annual death toll since 2013, when 156 humanitarians were killed.

In March, three aid workers were killed in Rann town in Borno, following an attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, while at least one other aid worker was critically injured and another three were missing.

Also in 2017, of the 42,972 people reportedly killed or injured by explosive weapons, three out of every four victims were civilians – a 38 per cent increase on 2017.

Lowcock said: “It is unconscionable that civilians and the aid workers who are trying to help them are killed and maimed in conflict zones with utter impunity.

“We need this to end. It is imperative that we hold men with guns and power accountable when civilians and aid workers are illegally targeted”.

Each year on Aug. 19, the world pays tribute to the humanitarians who deliver aid to vulnerable communities in some of the most dangerous crises on the planet; some of whom make the ultimate sacrifice.

The 2018 World Humanitarian Day also marks the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, which took the lives of 22 staff and other civilians.

The August 2011 bombing of the UN building in Abuja by the Boko Haram terrorists, also killed at least 21 and wounded 60.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted in his Protection of Civilians report published in May, that attacks in just six conflict-affected countries were responsible for more than 26,000 civilian deaths or injuries.

The UN chief emphasized that to reverse such high numbers of civilian casualties required sustained advocacy.

In addition to ensuring safe, unimpeded passage of supplies, Governments and non-State military groups are legally obligated to protect civilians and aid workers in armed conflicts.

“It is imperative that we hold men with guns and power accountable when civilians and aid workers are illegally targeted,” Lowcock argued.

The UN and humanitarian partners have launched a ‘living petition’ as the theme for the 2018 Day, calling on world leaders to better protect civilians and aid workers.

Taliban stages show of force in Ghazni ahead of possible peace talks

By News Desk, with Agency report,

A major Taliban assault on Ghazni triggered five days of fighting with Afghan security forces, leaving scores dead, crumbled infrastructure and many buildings smoldering.

The Afghan government on Tuesday said Ghazni was under government control, but residents told reporters the insurgents remain entrenched in the city.

But even as Afghan troops, backed by US forces, gradually regained control of the southeastern Afghan city, the Taliban overran an Afghan army base in the restive northern province of Faryab on Tuesday, killing 17 soldiers, according to Afghan defense ministry officials.

In Ghazni, the UN said unverified reports put civilian casualties at more than 100.

NATO has dismissed the Taliban assault as an “eye-catching, but inconsequential headline”, yet the demoralised Afghan security forces struggled to overpower the insurgents despite backing from US airpower.

“The Taliban got near the city in a step-by-step way. They started by taking checkpoints near the city, then military outposts, then military barracks, and then they entered the city and they controlled up to seven districts inside the city,” explained Wassim Nasr, Expert on Islamist militant groups.

The Taliban on Tuesday released a 12-minute video showing footage of the group inside the city. The video, released by the group’s official El Emara media wing, featured a compilation of footage shot inside and on the outskirts of the city.

“Images issued by the Taliban showed them inside the city in one of the squares inside the town,” explained Nasr. “We see how they took the region, in a step-by-step way, despite residents saying days earlier that the Taliban were closing in on the city and even collecting taxes from villages on outskirts of the city.”

Why Ghazni?

Ghazni is barely two hours drive from Kabul, and straddles the Kabul-Kandahar highway, effectively acting as the main artery to the insurgents’ strongholds in the south.

“Ghazni located near Kabul and the implications are important,” said Nasr. “Ghazni is close to the tribal areas in [neighbouring] Pakistan, which will enable insurgents to move more freely into those districts.”

Like other cities the Taliban have stormed in the past — such as the western city of Farah in May, and Kunduz in the north in 2015 — Ghazni is also a provincial capital, which are typically bigger and higher-value targets.

“Ghazni has always been a contested province, with a heavy Taliban presence” in most districts, said Kabul-based military analyst Jawed Kohistani, in an interview.

Why now?

The Taliban, analysts said, are demonstrating strength amid tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start peace negotiations are starting to bear fruit.

“A major military and territorial victory on the eve of perhaps important and direct talks can win the Taliban even more political weight,” Kohistani said.

In June, Washington indicated a shift in its longstanding policy that negotiations must be Afghan-led. Last month Taliban representatives met US officials for talks in Qatar, militant sources reported.

The meetings come as the government and the Taliban declared a brief, unprecedented, and widely celebrated ceasefire in June.

Anticipation had been mounting about the possibility of a second government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated in Afghanistan on August 21.

Talks about talks have been held many times, but the only direct negotiations with the Taliban for peace took place in Pakistan in 2015. They were derailed by the confirmation that Taliban leader Mullah Omar was dead.

Afghan officials caught off guard?

The Taliban’s latest Ghazni operation has raised questions about the ability of Afghan security forces three years after NATO combat troops pulled out, and the political leadership in Kabul, analysts said.

Afghan forces have taken staggering losses since they took over security for the country at the end of 2014.

As parliamentary and district elections approach in October, Ghani, for his part, has appeared more focused on the campaign trail than confronting the Taliban.

On Sunday, the third day of fighting in Ghazni, Ghani delivered a wide-ranging speech to mark International Youth Day. In the nearly hour-long address he did not refer to the fighting once.

“The successful Taliban onslaught in Ghazni will definitely raise a lot of questions about the management of Afghan security and military leadership and increase calls for reform,” said Kohistani.

US-led forces in Afghanistan have been offering regular statements, but downplayed the fighting, branding it a “failure” by the Taliban to take the city.

What happens now?

According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Taliban and regional expert, the Ghazni operation was a show of force by the Taliban.

“The strategy is to launch big attacks, to show their power, hold the city or town for some days, get their prisoners released, capture some weapons, get some money, create fear — and then leave,” said Yusufzai.

Kunduz, which briefly fell to the Taliban in September 2015, was later recaptured by Afghan forces backed by US aircraft and NATO soldiers.

The militants launched a major attempt to take over Farah in May this year, triggering intense fighting with US and Afghan forces, who forced the Taliban fighters to the outskirts of the city after a day-long battle.

Minister quits four days after appointment

By News Desk,

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Monday accepted the resignation of his Minister of Culture Mauricio Rojas, who spent just four days on the job.

Rojas’s resignation came after revelations that he had questioned the role of the country’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which honors the victims of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

“We don’t share his opinions and comments with respect to the mission of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which preserves the testimony, evidence and what was learned during a very dark period in our country,” Pinera said when he announced the resignation.

In 2016, Rojas criticized the concept of the museum, saying it represented “a shameful and deceitful use of a national tragedy that touched so many of us,” according to the daily El Mercurio.

His controversial comments were published by another daily over the weekend, sparking outrage from different groups, including the museum’s directors.

Rojas, a former speech writer for Pinera, had taken the post when Pinera made changes to his cabinet on Thursday.

Consuelo Valdes Chadwick, the ex-director of the Mirador Interactive Museum, was chosen to replace him.

Incident outside UK parliament being treated as terrorism – Police

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

A man has been detained on suspicion of terrorist offences, British police said on Tuesday, after a car hit pedestrians and crashed into barrier outside the UK parliament.

Police said they were treating the incident as a terrorism-related and the driver, aged in his late 20s, was in custody at a south London police station.

“He was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. “There was nobody else in the vehicle, which remains at the scene and is being searched. No weapons have been recovered at this stage.”

 

Spanish rescue boat finds life and death off coast of Libya

By News Desk,

The wreck of the raft was a dot on the sea but as our rescue boat approached we saw a woman make an effort to wave, so at least there was life.

Once speed boats launched from the Open Arms drew alongside, though, it was clear she was the only survivor. The woman, who gave her name as Josepha, was brought aboard in a state of deep shock and treated by doctors.

We found her early on July 17 and she told the doctors she had spent the previous night clinging to the wreckage, singing hymns and calling on God for deliverance. Two doctors recounted her story to me.

Face down amid the raft’s mass of loose planks and deflated rubber lay the corpse of a woman in a striped T-shirt and trousers. She had been dead for some time, medics said.

Then there was a four-year-old boy, who the boat’s doctors said had died hours before.

The crew lifted the two bodies onto the Open Arms, covered them and put them on ice on deck. The crew’s emotions swung from a sense of accomplishment at the rescue to sadness.

I spent 29 days taking pictures on the flagship rescue boat of Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms as it patrolled the designated Search and Rescue zone off the coast of Libya.

In that time, we saw no other rescue boats and the crew said there were none active in the zone. Reuters was unable to verify this.

The rescue was just one drama in a migration of almost 1.8 million people across the Mediterranean from the Middle East and Africa since 2014 that has seen hundreds of thousands embark from Libya on small boats, according to United Nations figures.

Thousands have drowned and boats like the Open Arms, a retired 36-metre tugboat built in 1973, have taken up the task of offering rescue.

NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK

After being lifted aboard the Open Arms and during her medical examination, Josepha told doctors she was from Cameroon.

They said she did not give them her last name or any details of her story or explain who the other passengers on the raft were. It was also unclear how the raft was damaged.

Locating migrants adrift is like finding a needle in a haystack, but on the night of July 16 the crew say they got lucky as they scanned radio frequencies.

Just before 9 p.m. we heard a commercial ship, Triades, tell the Libyan coastguard that they had seen a raft adrift. The captain swung the Open Arms toward its reported location and spotted the remains of the raft at 7.30 a.m. the next day.

After the rescue, it was three and a half days before we arrived at the only harbor that would take her, in Spain’s Palma de Mallorca. By the time we reached land, she was still unable to walk unassisted.

The drama did not end there.

The founder of Open Arms, Oscar Camps, filed a lawsuit in Palma accusing the captain of Triades and the captain of the Libyan coast guard of involuntary manslaughter and failing to help the migrants.

Under international maritime law, ships should attempt the rescue of anyone in danger at sea.

In Spain, an accuser files a lawsuit to the local court, in this case in Palma, and the presiding judge decides whether to take the case further.

The court in Palma said the claim was still being processed and an investigating magistrate had consequently not yet been assigned.

The Triades, a merchant ship flying under a Panamanian flag and owned by Greek shipping company Newport SA, was docked at the Turkish port of Dortyol on Monday.

Newport declined to comment. Reuters could not contact the captain of the Triades through Newport, which declined to give the captain’s contact details, or through the port authorities at Dortyol.

Reuters talked to Ibrahim Ozen, a general manager at Global Container Line, a company that provides information about the port’s activities, for contact with the ship.

Ozen said on Thursday he would attempt to reach someone on the Triades. He had not replied by Monday and did not respond to further questions.

A spokeswoman for Open Arms said Josepha would answer no further questions because of the lawsuit.

Camps said radio traffic between the Triades and Libya’s coast guard showed the ship’s crew had seen the raft but failed to provide help. I heard the radio exchange between the Triades and the coast guard which corroborates Camps’ account.

Camps also accused Italy and Malta of refusing to let Open Arms dock after the rescue, forcing it to make a much longer journey to Spain. Italy said this was not the case and accused the charity of lying about the circumstances of the rescue.

In a Twitter post, Italy’s interior minister denied that the country had refused to let Open Arms dock with Josepha and the bodies on board.

“Despite the willingness of our Sicilian ports (to let the boat dock) the NGO ship is going to Spain,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter.

Camps, citing Josepha’s account, said the Libyan coastguard had abandoned the three migrants amid the shattered remains of the raft because they refused to board their patrol ship. It was unclear how the raft came to be partially destroyed.

Libya’s coastguard denied in a statement it abandoned the raft at sea.

“It is not in our religion, our ethics or our conduct to abandon human lives at sea, where we only came to save them,” it said in a statement that also disputed Camps’ version of events.

Man to stand trial for killing, eating girlfriend

By News Desk,

An Indiana man Joseph Oberhansley accused of raping, killing and eating parts of his ex-girlfriend’s dead body is now mentally competent to stand trial, and is ready to tell the court all he knows about the incident, a state psychiatrist says.

The 35-year-old Oberhansley, of Jeffersonville, U.S., has been committed at the Logansport State Hospital since October 2017, when a judge ruled that he wasn’t competent to stand trial for the 2014 killing of girlfriend Tammy Jo Blanton.

Prosecutors alleged that Oberhansley broke into the Jeffersonville home of Blanton in September 2014, and that he raped her, fatally stabbed her and ate parts of her body.

“This matter has been going on for four years now, and it’s high time that the victim’s family saw justice done,” Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Jeremy Mull told the Courier Journal after the hearing.

The letter from the psychiatrist filed with Clark County Circuit Court noted that Oberhansley’s competency has been restored since he was committed there last October to undergo competency restoration.

In some of his early court appearances after his arrest, Obserhansley had outbursts in court and said his name was Zeus, WAVE3 reported.

Oberhansley’s attorneys requested in court Thursday to have a month to talk with him and form an opinion on his competency.

During the hearing, Oberhansley spoke up, telling the judge he needed to fire his attorneys, according to the Courier Journal.

“They’re trying to control my thoughts,” he said in court; they’re trying to control my mind.”

Judge Vicki Carmichael told him he needed to work with his attorneys, and scheduled another hearing on Sept. 21 to discuss the matter.

Prosecutors have previously said they will seek the death penalty for Blanton’s killing.

Before his arrest in 2015, Oberhansley was free on parole for a previous killing when he was a teenager, according to WAVE3.

Court jails Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader for life

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

The head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other leaders of the banned group were sentenced to life in prison on Sunday, judicial sources said, on charges of incitement to murder and violence during protests five years ago.

The sentence is the latest among several trials and re-trials against Mohamed Badie and other senior leaders of the party that ruled Egypt before the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests.

The sources told Reuters that Giza Criminal Court sentenced several top leaders including Badie, group spokesman Essam al-Erian, and senior member Mohamed El-Beltagy to life terms.

State news agency MENA said another defendant was jailed for 15 years and three others for 10 years.

Badie and the other defendants were convicted of incitement to violence on July 15, 2013, including the killing of five demonstrators and wounding of 100 during protests in an area in Giza known as al-Bahr al-Azim.

The court had previously sentenced 15 people to life imprisonment in the al-Bahr al-Azim case in September 2014 but an appeals hearing had subsequently struck down the ruling and ordered a retrial.

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014, authorities have justified a crackdown on dissent and freedoms as being directed at terrorists and saboteurs trying to undermine the state.

Last month, a court referred the files of Badie and other Brotherhood leaders in a separate case to Egypt’s most senior Muslim religious authority, the Mufti, for his opinion on whether they should be sentenced to death.

This case related to a 2013 sit-in that ended in the deaths of hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and dozens of police when security forces broke it up violently.

Egyptian law requires any capital sentence to be referred to Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam for an opinion before executions can take place. His opinion has yet to be announced.

Death sentences have been handed down to hundreds of his political opponents on charges such as belonging to an illegal organization or planning to carry out an attack. Mursi, who was ousted in 2013 after a year in office, is serving a life-sentence in jail.

Trump backs boycott of Harley Davidson in steel tariff dispute

By News Desk, with Agency Report,

President Donald Trump backed boycotting American motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson Inc. on Sunday, the latest salvo in a dispute between the company and Trump over tariffs on steel.

The Wisconsin-based motorcycle manufacturer announced a plan earlier this year to move production of motorcycles for the European Union from the United States to its overseas facilities to avoid the tariffs imposed by the trading bloc in retaliation for Trump’s duties on steel and aluminum imports

In response, Trump has criticized Harley Davidson, calling for higher, targeted taxes and threatening to lure foreign producers to the United States to increase competition.

“Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Harley Davidson has repeatedly declined to comment on Trump’s remarks over the course of the dispute. The company could not be immediately reached for comment on Sunday.

Harley has forecast that the EU tariffs would cost the company about $30 million to $45 million for the remainder of 2018 and $90 million to $100 million on a full-year basis.

Trump met Saturday with a group of bikers who support him, posing for pictures with about 180 bikers at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on vacation.

Motorcycle companies based outside the United States include Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd and Yamaha Corp, Europe’s BMW and Ducati as well as India’s Hero MotoCorp Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd, among others.