Pregnant Woman, Child Among Dead In Canaries Migrant Boat Tragedy

Spain,-Canary-Islands,-Lanzarote-Island,-Famara-beach
Spain,-Canary-Islands,-Lanzarote-Island,-Famara-beach.

 

At least four people died, including a woman thought to be pregnant and a child and another four were missing after a migrant boat overturned off Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, rescuers said on Friday.

The vessel was carrying 49 people when it hit a rocky area just off the island’s northern shores, with rescuers pulling 41 people to safety, emergency services said.

“Three people died, among them two women, one of whom we believe was pregnant,” Enrique Espinosa, head of Lanzarote’s emergency services, told AFP.

Rescuers searching for five survivors later found another body, he said: “It was a boy, about eight years old.”

Among the survivors were 20 men, 17 women, two children and two babies, the emergency services said.

The boat overturned close to the shore near Orzola, a village on the northern tip of the island, in a stretch of sea that is dangerous to navigate, he said.

“It is a very rocky area and… if you don’t know it well, you will crash straight onto the reef.”

The incident happened late on Thursday when there were a lot of people out in the streets who all rushed to help.

“It was at 10:00 pm on a summer evening and a lot of people were in the street. Thanks to that, everyone jumped into the water to try to rescue them,” he said.

Espinosa said the migrants were sub-Saharan Africans who told rescuers they had set off two days ago from the Moroccan town of Tantan, which lies 250 kilometres (160 miles) east of Lanzarote.

Rescue efforts resumed earlier on Friday but were being hampered by rough seas, he said.

Overnight, another two boats carrying 110 migrants managed to reach two other islands in the Canaries, the emergency services said.

Among them were 96 men, eight women and six minors.

Migrant arrivals on the Atlantic archipelago have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.

10 boats missing at sea

At its shortest, the sea crossing from the Moroccan coast is around 100 kilometres (60 miles), but it is a notoriously dangerous route because of strong currents. Vessels are also typically overcrowded and in poor condition.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration said 850 people had died en route but Caminando Fronteras, Spanish NGO which monitors migrant flows, said it was twice as many, giving a figure of 1,851.

On May 31, the NGO, which serves as a crucial contact for alerting the coastguard to vessels in trouble at sea, raised the alarm about 10 boats that had set sail from Western Sahara and Senegal carrying 481 people.

“They have disappeared,” a spokeswoman for the NGO told AFP on Friday, saying there had been no trace of the boats, four of which set sail from Dakhla, five from Laayoun and one from Senegal.

“We have spoken to relatives and even in some cases with the boats which are missing at sea. We know the weather in the last few weeks has been quite rough in the area and that many boats have disappeared.”

Last year 23,023 migrants reached the Canaries, a figure eight times higher than in 2019, interior ministry figures show.

So far this year, 5,734 migrants have survived the perilous journey to the Spanish archipelago, more than double the number for the same period last year, figures to June 15 show.

Federer Set For French Open Pullout And End Four-Decade Paris Stretch

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer could end his French Open career which has stretched over four decades with an injury-enforced withdrawal on Sunday as the 39-year-old rests his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.

The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

He is due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star admitted there are doubts he’ll make it.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer who is likely to be playing his last French Open.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?

“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.

“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Wimbledon target

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer.

“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.

“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3hr 30min at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”

As Federer weighs up leaving a tournament where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Serena eyes history

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Tamara Zidansek on Sunday became the first Slovenian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will face either 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old had never previously got beyond the second round of a major.

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas is seen as a favourite to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all in the other half of the men’s draw.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

On Sunday, he faces 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

He could then meet twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

AFP

At Least 138 Killed In Deadliest Burkina Faso Attacks Since 2015

In this file photograph taken on November 11, 2019, an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) of the French Army patrols a rural area during the Bourgou IV operation in northern Burkina Faso along the border with Mali and Niger. AFP

 

Suspected jihadists have massacred at least 138 civilians in Burkina Faso’s volatile north in the deadliest attacks since Islamist violence erupted in the West African country in 2015, officials said Saturday.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore denounced an attack near the borders with Mali and Niger, where jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been targeting civilians and soldiers.

“Several injured have succumbed to their wounds and new bodies have been discovered. The still provisional toll is 138 deaths,” one local official said Saturday evening.

“The bodies were buried in mass graves,” the official said, adding that “there are dozens of injured” after the overnight attack by armed assailants.

“We must remain united and solid against these obscurantist forces,” Kabore said, condemning the massacre in the village of Solhan as “barbaric” and “despicable.”

Declaring three days of national mourning, ending Monday night at 11:59 pm, the government stated that “terrorists,” a term for jihadists, killed civilians of all ages and set fire to homes and the main market.

A security source lamented “the heavy human toll, the worst recorded to date,” while warning it could still increase.

Meanwhile, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres’ spokesman said that he was “outraged” over the massacre.

Guterres “strongly condemns the heinous attack and underscores the urgent need for the international community to redouble support to the Member States in the fight against violent extremism and its unacceptable human toll,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, offering Burkinabe authorities the UN’s “full support”.

The assailants struck around 2:00 am (0200 GMT) against a position of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Motherland (VDP), an anti-jihadist civilian defence force that backs the national army, before attacking homes and carrying out “executions,” a local source said.

Opposition leader Eddie Komboigo demanded that “the massacre of our people, we never tire of repeating, must stop unconditionally. Every measure must be taken to protect the Burkinabe” people.

The VDP was set up in December 2019 to help Burkina’s poorly-equipped military fight jihadists but it has suffered more than 200 fatalities, according to an AFP tally.

The volunteers are given two weeks’ military training before working alongside the security forces, typically carrying out surveillance, information-gathering or escort duties.

‘Neutralise these terrorists’

The government said that “the defence and security forces are at work to neutralise these terrorists and restore calm to populated areas.”

A security forces official said that men were deployed to secure populated areas and to remove and bury bodies.

Solhan, a small community around 15 kilometres from Sebba, the main city in Yagha province, has suffered numerous attacks in recent years.

On May 14, Defence Minister Cheriff Sy and military top brass visited Sebba to assure people that life had returned to normal, following a number of military operations.

The massive attack by suspected jihadists came hours after another attack Friday evening on Tadaryat village in the same region in which 14 people were killed, including an armed volunteer who had come to help them.

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks from groups including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).

The attacks first started in the north near the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.

Around 1,400 people have died and more than a million have fled their homes.

AFP

At Least 50 Dead In Two Attacks In Eastern DR Congo

In this file photo taken on February 18, 2020 An Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldier takes part in a foot patrol in the village of Manzalaho near Beni, following an attack allegedly perpetrated by members of the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
In this file photo taken on February 18, 2020, An Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldier takes part in a foot patrol in the village of Manzalaho near Beni, following an attack allegedly perpetrated by members of the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Alexis Huguet / AFP

 

 

At least 50 people were killed overnight in two new attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s deeply troubled east, monitors said Monday.

A local official blamed the notorious ADF militia, which has been linked to the Islamic State group, but others said the attacks may have been ethnic in origin.

Citing a provisional toll, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said 28 people had been killed in Boga and 22 in Tchabi, villages lying about 10 kilometres (six miles) apart in an area known for Allied Democratic Forces attacks and community friction.

The respected monitor said this was the highest death toll it had recorded in a single day since it was founded in 2017. It had earlier given a tally for the attacks of 39 dead.

One community leader said children and the elderly were among the victims.

The DRC army gave a slightly higher provisional toll of 53 after a meeting of security forces in Bunia, the capital of Ituri province where the attacks took place. Local MP Gracien Iracan spoke of 60 dead.

“Seven trucks arrived to remove the victims — it’s a dramatic situation,” Iracan told AFP.

“They’re still finding bodies, so the toll is likely to grow,” he added, while “many wounded people are still hiding in the bush, everyone fled there”.

A UN source told AFP that South African blue helmets from the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission’s small base in Tchabi had exchanged fire with the attackers when they tried to intervene.

A local civil society leader attributed the attacks to the ADF, a historically Ugandan Islamist group blamed for a string of massacres in the past 18 months.

The two villages lie on the border between North Kivu and Ituri provinces in an area where the ADF is believed to be active.

In this file photo taken on February 18, 2020, An Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldier takes part in a foot patrol in the village of Manzalaho near Beni, 2020, following an attack allegedly perpetrated by members of the rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). (Photo by Alexis Huguet / AFP)

‘Targeted’ assault

Lawmaker Iracan said that “a very large number of attackers showed up. The assault was well targeted, they killed two local leaders. We can’t rule out that they were settling scores,” he added.

The KST said the wife of a traditional leader in Benyali-Tchabi had been killed in the attack on Tchabi.

Two local officials reached in Boga by AFP said the assailants had attacked a camp for displaced people.

They said 36 bodies had been found so far in Boga, a figure that has yet to be independently confirmed.

Those same officials also cautioned against immediately blaming the ADF, given the ethnic conflicts in the region.

Suspicions that the violence was ethnically motivated stem from the fact that the displaced people’s camp in Boga mostly hosted displaced people from the Nyali group — but a nearby site housing Banyabwisha people was spared.

“We think it was the same group” behind the attacks on both villages, the head of the Nyali community in Tchabi told AFP by phone.

“They attacked around 1:00 am. There are children and the very old among the dead… at the moment we’re preparing to bury them,” he added.

Military government

The ADF is the deadliest of an estimated 122 armed militias that roam the mineral-rich east of the DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that ran from 1996 to 2003.

As of Friday, the KST estimated that at least 1,228 civilians have been killed in the Beni territory of North Kivu alone since November 2019, when DRC forces launched a crackdown that splintered the ADF into smaller groups.

Three other attacks since last Tuesday, blamed on the ADF, have claimed 39 lives.

On March 11, the United States said the ADF was linked to IS, which is also known by the acronym ISIS. The ADF was called ISIS-DRC, or Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen.

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi on May 6 proclaimed a 30-day “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri in a bid to curb bloodshed by the ADF.

Under the move, military and police officers have taken over from civilian authorities.

AFP

Israel, Egypt Hold Talks Toward Gaza ‘Permanent Ceasefire’

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (2nd-R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip's rulers Hamas Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (2nd-R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip’s rulers Hamas. Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli and Egyptian officials held talks in both countries Sunday aimed at bolstering the Cairo-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest deadly flare-up of violence between the Jewish state and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem to discuss “strengthening cooperation” between their countries, Netanyahu’s office said.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tasked Kamel and his delegation, who were also to visit the occupied Palestinian Territories, with hammering out a permanent ceasefire deal, senior Egyptian security officials told AFP.

On the same day, Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made the first official visit by an Israeli top diplomat to neighbouring Egypt in 13 years, for talks with his counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Ashkenazi tweeted on his arrival that they would “discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza with a pivotal role played by the international community”.

The Egyptian foreign ministry tweeted that the ministers’ talks were “part of Egypt’s relentless and continued efforts to revive the peace track and to build on the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip”.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was also expected in Cairo for talks, senior Egyptian security officials said, without providing further details.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, health officials said.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, medics said.

Prisoners

Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s demand “for the prompt return” of Israelis being held in the Gaza Strip, according to the statement.

Ashkenazi also said Israel was “fully committed” to repatriating Israeli prisoners held by Hamas.

Since Israel’s 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Islamist group has held the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, although Hamas has never confirmed their deaths.

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza alone and whose families say they have mental health issues.

Israel is meanwhile holding more than 5,000 Palestinians in its jails.

Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in the densely populated Gaza enclave, which was pummelled by Israeli air strikes.

Hamas has pledged not to touch “a single cent” of international aid to rebuild Gaza.

Israel, which has enforced a land and maritime blockade on the enclave since 2007, accuses the group of diverting international aid to military ends.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said he and Kamel also discussed “mechanisms and processes to prevent the strengthening of Hamas and its use of the resources that will be directed to the civilian population in the future”.

Root causes

The latest violent flare-up was sparked by increased tensions in Jerusalem, including over Israeli security forces cracking down on Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

A bitter divide between Hamas and Fatah has long plagued Palestinian politics, but analysts say the latest escalation has served to unite the geographically fragmented Palestinian community in a way not seen in years.

Sisi also tasked Kamel with working to help iron out political divisions between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Egyptian officials said.

The UN Human Rights Council decided Thursday to create an open-ended international investigation into violations surrounding the latest Gaza violence.

It said it would also look at the “underlying root causes of recurrent tensions and instability, including systematic discrimination” in the occupied Palestinian Territories and inside Israel.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced particular concern about the “high level of civilian fatalities and injuries” from the bombing of Gaza and warned the Israeli strikes on the enclave “may constitute war crimes”.

AFP

Israeli ‘Change’ Bloc Steps Up Effort To Oust Netanyahu

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP.

 

Israelis waited Sunday to see whether nationalist hardliner Naftali Bennett would agree to join a governing coalition that could end the rule of the country’s longest-serving leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lawmakers opposed to right-wing Netanyahu were in intense talks ahead of a Wednesday deadline, as a ceasefire held following the latest deadly military conflict with Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu, 71, who faces trial on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges which he denies, has clung to power through a period of political turmoil that has seen four inconclusive elections in under two years.

After a March vote in which Netanyahu’s Likud party gained the most seats but again failed to form a government, former TV anchor Yair Lapid is now trying to build a rival coalition.

Centrist Lapid has until Wednesday 11:59 pm local time (2059 GMT) to build a coalition of at least 61 deputies, a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

The 57-year-old is seeking to forge a diverse alliance the Israeli media has dubbed a bloc for “change”, which would include Bennett as well as Arab-Israeli lawmakers.

In his determination to bring down the hawkish prime minister, Lapid has offered to share power and let Bennett, 49, serve the first term in a rotating premiership.

Bennett was expected to speak Sunday evening after a meeting with his party, a spokeswoman said.

Netanyahu, in office for 12 consecutive years after an earlier three-year term, tried to cling to power Sunday by offering his own, last-ditch power-sharing agreement to several former allies including Bennett.

He warned that Israel would otherwise be ruled by a dangerous “left-wing” alliance.

‘Desperate position’

A Lapid government would also include the centrist Blue and White party of Benny Gantz and the hawkish New Hope party of Netanyahu’s former ally Gideon Saar.

Avigdor Lieberman’s pro-settlement Yisrael Beitenu party as well as historically powerful Labour and the dovish Meretz party would also join.

The shaky arrangement would the backing of some Arab-Israeli lawmakers of Palestinian descent in order to pass a confirmation vote in parliament.

The intense talks follow weeks of escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, including a deadly 11-day exchange of rocket fire from Gaza and devastating Israeli airstrikes.

The war with Hamas that ended with a May 21 truce, as well as tensions in the occupied West Bank and in mixed Jewish-Arab towns in Israel, initially appeared to leave Netanyahu more likely to hold onto power.

But political scientist Gayil Talshir at Hebrew University told AFP on Sunday that Israel was now “closer than ever” to a coalition of change, adding that “Netanyahu is in a desperate position”.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats in the March elections but failed to form a governing coalition after his far-right partners refused to sit with Arab factions or receive their support.

Lapid, whose party won 17 seats, was then given four weeks to form a government.

Netanyahu had previously pushed for yet another election, which would be the fifth since April 2019.

“Now that he sees a change coalition may be announced this evening or tomorrow, he has to move forward with a more serious deal,” Talshir told AFP.

More elections?

On Sunday Netanyahu offered a rotation agreement to Bennett and Saar. But Saar on Twitter said he remained committed to “replacing the Netanyahu regime”.

Netanyahu in a video then called on Saar and Bennett to “come now, immediately” to meet him and join a three-way rotation government, warning they were “in crucial moment for the security, character and future of the state of Israel”.

Lapid’s “change” coalition also still faced several obstacles.

Some right-wing lawmakers object to a partnership with politicians from Israel’s Arab minority, around a fifth of the population.

The recent Gaza conflict sparked inter-communal clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis in mixed cities.

Arab politicians have also been divided about joining a government headed by Bennett, who supports expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians hope to create a future state.

Even with support from an Arab party, a new coalition in Israel is unlikely to reverse years of Israeli settlement construction or bring peace any time soon with Hamas in Gaza.

If the anti-Netanyahu camp does not manage to form a government on time, a majority of 61 lawmakers could vote to ask the president to name a new premier.

Another scenario would be for the country to gear up for yet another general election — Israel’s fifth in a little more than two years.

‘Known Radical’ Killed In Shootout After Knife Attack On French Police

French gendarmes inspect the site where a suspect has been seen after a municipal policewoman was attacked with a knife on May 28, 2021, in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, western France. A suspect ran away after a knife attack on a policewoman in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, on May 28, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP
French gendarmes inspect the site where a suspect has been seen after a municipal policewoman was attacked with a knife on May 28, 2021, in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, western France. A suspect ran away after a knife attack on a policewoman in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre, near Nantes, on May 28, 2021. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

A “known radical” suspected of carrying out a knife attack in France died from injuries sustained in a shootout with police Friday, hours badly wounding a female officer in another act of violence against police.

The man, who was on a terrorist watch-list according to the interior ministry, had been on the run after the attack in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre near the western city of Nantes.

A total of 250 officers were trying to find him, and two gendarmes were wounded in the exchange of fire that resulted in his arrest, authorities said.

No motive for the stabbing has emerged, but the attacker was “a known radical and suffering from a very serious psychiatric illness”, one source involved in the investigation said.

After stabbing the officer at a police station, inflicting life-threatening injuries, the suspect stole her service weapon and fled on foot.

He then broke into the flat of a young woman, holding her there, and it was from there he fired on the gendarmes, prosecutor Pierre Sennes said.

The police officer he had stabbed was taken to hospital and later declared to be out of danger.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the attempted murder of the police officer and the gendarmes, and for the sequestration of the young woman.

“My first thoughts go to the police officer who was seriously wounded,” Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote on Twitter.

“She has all my support and… the support of the entire government.”

‘On watch-list’

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, visited the scene in the afternoon.

“This French-born French national, around 40 years old and known to police services, was released from prison in 2016 where he was pointed out because of a strict practice of Islam and radicalisation”, he said.

That had led to his inclusion on a watch-list of potential terrorist sympathisers, he added.

Arrested in 2013 for aggravated theft, on his release he was ordered to follow treatment for schizophrenia.

Darmanin said the suspect had opened fire on the officers who shot back. He had died shortly after the shootout.

An AFP photo reporter at the scene said he heard around a dozen rounds discharged in two rapid bursts during the standoff, in a residential area.

Special police forces carrying shields and wearing helmets used rubbish bins and bushes for cover as they opened fire.

One witness told AFP he saw a civilian on the ground surrounded by police after the shootout.

Pupils in the area’s primary and middle schools were kept indoors while police tracked the suspect, a city official told AFP.

“We drew the curtains and told the children to lie on the ground. They’ve been there for two hours,” one local teacher told AFP by text message during the manhunt.

The suspect’s former lawyer, Vincent de la Morandiere, told AFP that his client’s psychological state had “deteriorated gradually during his various spells in prison”.

One neighbour described him as “very discreet and polite” while another said “he told me he had psychological problems. He lived alone and didn’t have any visitors. He told me he had a child”.

La Chapelle-sur-Erdre is a town of 20,000 inhabitants just north of Nantes near the Atlantic coast.

The attack came the same day Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti called on French judges to show “firmness” when dealing with people found guilty of attacks on police forces.

Spate of attacks

French police officers have demanded better protection and harsher punishments for attacks against them after a spate of assaults in recent months.

Earlier this month, officer Eric Masson was shot dead while investigating activity at a known drug-dealing site in the southern city of Avignon.

Masson’s death came after the April 23 killing of Stephanie Monferme, a police employee who was stabbed in the town of Rambouillet outside Paris in the latest jihadist attack in France.

There was no immediate indication that the French authorities intended to open a terror probe into Friday’s attack.

But several attacks over the last year have reignited concerns about the spread of radical Islam inside France and immigration.

In September, a Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which had printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

On October 16, a young Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty who had showed some of the caricatures to his pupils.

And on October 29, three people were killed when a recently arrived Tunisian went on a stabbing spree in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

In the most severe recent attack against French police, three officers and one police employee were stabbed to death in October 2019 by a IT specialist colleague who was himself then shot dead. He was later found to have shown an interest in radical Islam.

In France’s deadliest peacetime atrocity, 130 people were killed and 350 were wounded when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Stade de France stadium, bars, and restaurants in central Paris and the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.

AFP

Neymar Says Nike Claim Of Split Over Sex Assault Probe A ‘Lie’

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League first leg semi-final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on April 28, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Neymar said Friday Nike’s claim that it parted ways with him last year because he refused to cooperate with its internal investigation into an employee’s accusation he sexually assaulted her was an “absurd lie.”

The allegation is the latest to stain the image of the Brazilian superstar, whose 222-million-euro ($270 million) transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 makes him the world’s most expensive footballer.

Nike said Thursday it had ended its sponsorship deal with Neymar over an employee’s claim he tried to force himself on her and his failure to cooperate with its investigation.

“(To) state that my contract (with Nike) was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation is an absurd lie,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.

“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was that was allegedly offended. I don’t even know her. I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach with this person.”

Nike said the alleged assault happened in 2016, but was only reported to the company in 2018.

The US sportswear giant had sponsored Neymar, 29, since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.

It did not give a reason when it terminated its deal with him in August 2020.

The superstar is now a poster boy for Puma. His deal with the German sportswear giant was announced in September 2020.

‘They did nothing’

The Nike employee accused Neymar of trying to force her to perform oral sex on him in a New York hotel room during a promotional trip for a new line of sneakers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the story.

Neymar denied the accusation, and said Nike had nevertheless continued sending him on promotional tours.

“In 2017 I traveled again to the USA for another advertising campaign, with the same people, and nothing was told to me, nothing changed!” he wrote.

“In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, advertising campaigns, countless shooting sections. And they told me nothing. Such a serious matter and they did nothing.”

In a previous statement, a Neymar spokeswoman said he and Nike had split for commercial reasons.

The player’s father accused the company of “blackmail.”

“It’s all very strange” that the accusation only came to light years later, after Neymar left Nike, he told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.

Tarnished star

Nike said in a statement it was prepared to investigate in 2018 when the woman first came forward, but “respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.”

The firm therefore did not go further until 2019, when she expressed an interest in pursuing the matter, it said.

That was the same year another woman filed a rape complaint against Neymar in his native Brazil.

He vehemently denied that accusation, and the case was eventually dropped.

Neymar is currently in Brazil training with the national team north of Rio de Janeiro ahead of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The superstar seemed “normal, the same as always,” teammate Emerson told a news conference.

Neymar extended his contract with French champions PSG earlier this month, through the 2024-2025 season.

With his on-pitch exploits and huge following on social media, Neymar is one of the biggest names in sports.

But his shine has often been tarnished.

His image as an eternal spoiled child was revived late last year by rumors of a huge year-end party he organized in Brazil in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has also raised eyebrows with his alleged diving, hard-partying lifestyle, and love of bling, which critics say contrasts with the relative lack of it in his trophy case.

AFP

Eight Killed By Employee In California Rail Yard Mass Shooting

Emergency responders. gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California.
Emergency responders gather at the scene of a shooting where nine people were reported dead including the shooter on May 26, 2021 at the San Jose Railyard in San Jose, California. AMY OSBORNE / AFP

 

An employee shot dead at least eight people at a rail yard in California on Wednesday, police said, in the latest mass shooting to hit the United States.

The male suspect also died and several others suffered major injuries in the incident at the public transit maintenance yard in San Jose, just south of San Francisco.

Bomb squads were deployed after reports of explosive devices within the compound, and were trying to “clear out every room and every crevice” of the building, Russell Davis, a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy, told journalists.

“There are eight victims that are pronounced deceased at this point and there is one suspect that’s pronounced deceased,” said Davis, adding those numbers could rise.

“The suspect is a VTA employee,” he added, referring to the local Valley Transportation Authority.

Police had rushed to investigate multiple early morning 911 calls reporting gunshots. No immediate details were provided on whether the shooter was killed by police or took his own life, or about the type of weapon he used.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“What’s clear, as the president has said, is that we are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence in this country,” she added, renewing calls for Congress to pass long-awaited gun control reforms.

‘Horrific’

Dozens of patrol cars and fire engines as well as FBI officials lined the streets near the rail yard in San Jose, a Silicon Valley tech hub of almost a million people.

Local officials said the shooting — which was initially reported before 7:00 am local time (1400 GMT) — had taken place at a union meeting, with at least 80 staff on site at the time.

Several people were receiving medical treatment, said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“Our hearts are pained for the families of those we have lost in this horrific shooting,” he tweeted.

The incident took place in a VTA yard that is used to store and maintain trains.

“Our thoughts and love go out to the VTA family, the organization and what they have had to go through,” VTA board of directors chairman Glenn Hendricks told reporters.

“I could not be more proud of the VTA organization. This is a horrible tragedy that occurred.”

The VTA tweeted that its employees had been evacuated.

US ‘epidemic’ of gun violence

The United States has a long and painful history of deadly gun violence, in the form of a steady daily toll of shootings as well as high-profile mass killings that have targeted schools, work places and shopping centers.

Homicides, mostly gun-driven, have surged in the US over the past year.

Mass shootings have occurred in recent months at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, an office building in California, a grocery store in Colorado and at several spas in Atlanta.

In August 2019, another mass shooting in the Bay Area left two children and a 25-year-old man dead at a garlic festival in Gilroy, around 30 miles (almost 50 kilometers) south of San Jose.

President Joe Biden last month branded US gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.”

There were more than 43,000 gun-related deaths in the United States last year, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

AFP

COVID Death Toll Passes Three Million As India Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. – The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The global COVID-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers.

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia — and three times the death toll of the Iran-Iraq war, which raged from 1980-1988.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally.

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record.

India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

– South Asian ‘wake-up call’ –
India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, and families are clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Some doctors say they are alarmed at how many young people are now getting seriously ill — like Raj Karan, who got sick while campaigning for elections in the northern city of Luckno.

The 38-year-old died soon after.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” his friend Ajay Singh Yadav, told AFP.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the “truly frightening” South Asian surge was a “wake-up call to the world”.

Richer countries that have waged mass inoculation efforts have seen their virus numbers plummet.

Britain, which has given 60 percent of the population at least one vaccination dose, now records around 30 deaths a day — down from 1,200 in late January.

Olympic fears

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, its spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered nationwide for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

The virus continues to hit events around the world.

On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell to her husband, Prince Philip, coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people could attend his funeral.

Family members — all masked — sat socially distanced in the church, with bottles of hand sanitiser placed among the floral tributes inside.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

“We try not to get upset in our work, but it is sad, it is a lot of people,” said one gravedigger in Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America.

More than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil.

Despite the high infection rates there however, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it would allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe

France, which banned flights from Brazil last week, on Saturday announced compulsory quarantine for anyone arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa, because of concerns about their coronavirus variants.

Earlier Saturday, Spain extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa.

A day after Italy announced a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26, entertainment industry workers marched in Rome Saturday calling for more state support — and a calendar for the reopening of the country’s arts venues.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Israel announced it was scrapping the obligation to wear masks outside from Sunday.

Libya launched its vaccination drive on Saturday, prioritising the elderly and health care workers.

Indonesia, East Timor Flood Death Toll Surges Past 160

This handout photo taken on April 5, 2021 and released by the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) shows rescuers looking for survivors in Nelemamadike village, East Flores, after torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in Indonesia and East Timor. HANDOUT / NATIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE AGENCY / AFP

 

 

Rescuers were searching for dozens of people still missing Tuesday after floods and landslides swept away villages in Indonesia and East Timor, killing more than 160 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

Torrential rains from Tropical Cyclone Seroja turned small communities into wastelands of mud, uprooted trees, and sent around 10,000 people fleeing to shelters across the neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said it had recorded 130 deaths in a cluster of remote islands near East Timor, where another 34 have been officially listed as dead since the disaster struck on Sunday.

Search and rescue teams in Indonesia were racing to find more than 70 people still missing and using diggers to clear mountains of debris.

The storm swept buildings in some villages down a mountainside and to the shore of the ocean on Lembata island, where some small communities have been wiped off the map.

“This area will never be inhabited again,” said Lembata district official Eliyaser Yentji Sunur, referring to a flattened part of Waimatan village.

“We won’t let people live here. Like it or not, they’ll have to relocate.”

Waimatan resident Onesimus Sili said floods early Sunday destroyed his community before anyone knew what happening.

“Around midnight, we heard a very loud rumbling sound and we thought it was a nearby volcano erupting,” he told AFP.

“By the time we realised that it was a flash flood, the houses were already gone.”

Authorities in both nations were scrambling to shelter evacuees while trying to prevent any spread of Covid-19.

On Tuesday, East Timor recorded its first virus death — a 44-year-old woman — since the pandemic broke out last year.

The tiny half-island nation of 1.3 million sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, officially known as Timor-Leste, quickly shut down its borders to avoid a widespread outbreak that threatened to overwhelm its creaky health care system.

But the disaster has heightened fears of a spike in cases as thousands cram into shelters across Timor’s inundated capital Dili and elsewhere.

‘Clothes on their back’

Local officials in Lembata were bracing for its meagre health facilities to be overwhelmed as the number of injured coming from isolated villages soars.

“These evacuees fled here with just wet clothes on their backs and nothing else,” said the area’s deputy mayor, Thomas Ola Longaday.

“They need blankets, pillows, mattresses and tents.”

There was also a dire shortage of trained doctors.

“We don’t have enough anaesthesiologists and surgeons, but we’ve been promised that help will come,” Longaday said.

“Many survivors have broken bones because they were hit by rocks, logs and debris.”

Nearby in East Flores municipality, torrents of mud washed over homes, bridges, and roads.

Earlier images from Indonesia’s search and rescue agency showed workers digging up mud-covered corpses before placing them in body bags.

Hospitals, bridges, and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, which is now moving toward the west coast of Australia.

But Indonesia “could still see extreme weather (from the cyclone) for the next few days,” said national disaster agency spokesman Raditya Jati.

Authorities were still working to evacuate remote communities and provide shelter to those hit by the storm, he added.

Fatal landslides and flash floods are common across the Indonesian archipelago during the rainy season.

January saw flash floods hit the Indonesian town of Sumedang in West Java, killing 40 people.

And last September, at least 11 people were killed in landslides on Borneo.

The disaster agency has estimated that 125 million Indonesians — nearly half of the country’s population — live in areas at risk of landslides.

The disasters are often caused by deforestation, according to environmentalists.

AFP

Ronaldo Overtakes Pele, Tops World Goalscoring List

 

Cristiano Ronaldo hit back at his critics with a quick-fire hat-trick as Juventus brushed aside Cagliari 3-1 on Sunday, five days after their Champions League elimination, while Inter Milan moved nine points clear at the Serie A summit.

Portuguese star Ronaldo bore the brunt of the criticism for Juve’s latest European flop after failing to score in either leg of the last-16 defeat by Porto, while also being partly at fault for what proved to be the goal that knocked them out.

But the 36-year-old scored a header in the 10th minute at the Sardegna Arena, added a second from the penalty spot 15 minutes later, and completed a ‘perfect’ treble on 31 minutes with a fine left-footed strike.

Defending champions Juventus are 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, who beat Torino 2-1 earlier Sunday, but with a game in hand.

Andrea Pirlo’s side pulled just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title hopes took a big hit following a 1-0 home defeat to Napoli.

“Our approach was spot on and it was important to get off on the right foot after being knocked out the other night,” said Pirlo.

“Ronaldo was angry like the rest of the team. He reacted like a true champion.”

He could also have been sent off after a quarter of an hour, receiving only a yellow card for dangerous play as his boot struck Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno in the face while attempting to meet a Federico Chiesa cross.

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A with 23 goals this season, ahead of Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, who has 19.

His career tally is now 770 goals, overtaking Brazil legend Pele’s 767 scored in official matches which he matched earlier this month.

Before kick-off, Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici dismissed talk about Ronaldo’s future with the club.

“It makes me laugh. I would never have imagined discussing the value of Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Paratici.

“It’s a privilege to have him with us, he’s part of our future.”

Inter pull clear of Milan

Lautaro Martinez scored a brilliant 85th-minute winner in a tight game against 18th-placed Torino to keep Inter on track for a first league title since 2010.

Antonio Conte’s Inter once again needed their strike duo of Lukaku and Martinez to find a way to win in Turin.

Christian Eriksen came off the bench on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact, playing a part in the move which resulted in Torino defender Armando Izzo fouling Martinez in the penalty area.

Lukaku fired home the resulting spot-kick in the 62nd minute.

Inter looked to be wobbling when Antonio Sanabria pulled Torino level eight minutes later, finishing off goalmouth scramble.

But Martinez snatched the victory by getting his head to an Alexis Sanchez cross for his 14th league goal this term.

Inter stretched their winning run to eight matches to move further ahead of AC Milan.

“Victories like these are crucial,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini, with Conte serving a touchline ban.

AC Milan’s hopes of a first title since 2011 diminished as they failed to win for their third consecutive game at the San Siro, days before they host Manchester United in their last 16 Europa League decider.

Matteo Politano scored the only goal just after the break with Milan finishing the game a man down after Ante Rebic was sent off in injury time for arguing with officials.

Napoli’s Champions League hopes have been revived as they move above Roma into fifth before the two sides play next weekend after the capital side fell 2-0 at 19th-ranked Parma.

Valentin Mihaila opened the scoring on nine minutes with Hernani added a second from the spot to snap Parma’s 17-match winless run.

AFP