ROTTERDAM, November 22 -- A teenager who was brought back to the Netherlands by her mother after allegedly going to Syria to marry a fighter there has appeared in a court on terrorism charges, Dutch prosecutors have said.
The 19-year-old, known only as 'Aicha,' appeared in court in Maastricht on Friday after returning to the Netherlands on Wednesday with her mother. She made a brief court appearance behind closed doors to decide if she should remain in detention, with another hearing scheduled for Monday to decide if she should be charged. A convert to Islam, Aicha had been arrested "on suspicion of crimes threatening state security".
Marc Bax, a spokesman for the court, said: "Today the examining judge has reviewed the custody order of Aicha and concluded that it was lawful." Aicha's mother, Monique, is said to have rescued her from the Syrian city of Raqqa, after the teenager travelled there to marry a fighter.
Aicha reportedly fled the Netherlands in February to marry Omar Yilmaz, a Dutch-Turkish fighter who trains fighters for various groups fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch army who also did national service in Turkey, is one of a group of Dutch nationals fighting in Syria. Monique said her daughter, previously known as Sterlina before adopting an Arab name, said she saw Yilmaz as a "Robin Hood" figure.
An estimated 130 Dutch nationals have left to fight in Syria, with 30 already having returned and 14 others killed in the fighting, according to the latest statistics from the Dutch intelligence services. Edwin Bakker, Director of the Centre for Terrorism and Counter-terrorism at Leiden University in the Hauge, told Al Jazeera that the authorities were primarily interested in hearing the girl's story.
"She is formerly a suspect of allegedly having joined ISIL, that has to be proven," he said. "I think authorities are primarily interested in hearing her story, who helped her get to Syria and how. "It used to be very rare until a year ago, but more and more this year girls have joined fighters in Syria. Many of them are very young."
"Sixty people were arrested for demonstrating in unauthorised areas, and 30 for disturbing the peace," during the procession attended by thousands and broadcast live on national television, police spokeswoman Yvette Verboon told the AFP news agency.
"Arrests were made on both sides," Verboon said amid an increasingly acrimonious and racially-charged debate in the Netherlands.
State broadcaster NOS showed images of minor scuffles breaking out on the main square, where Saint Nicholas appeared on a balcony, with protesters unfurling a large banner reading "Black Pete Racism".
Public prosecutor spokesman Wouter Bos said all those held for demonstrating in the wrong place were anti-Black Pete protesters and they would be fined $275 each.
The debate around Black Pete, called Zwarte Piet in Dutch, has divided the Netherlands. Many say that Pete - traditionally dressed in a gaudy medieval costume with a blackened face, red lips and an afro wig - is a racist stereotype dating from the colonial era.
Black Pete's defenders say he is black from coming down the chimney and refuse to admit there might be anything racist about the historic character. This year Saint Nicholas and dozens of Petes arrived in Gouda aboard a gift-filled boat from Spain in a national event looked forward to by children. For the first time, the mayor introduced other coloured Petes, angering many.
They include "Cheese Petes" with yellow faces, "Stroopwafel Petes" with striped, light brown faces resembling the traditional Dutch syrup biscuit of the same name and a white-faced "Clown Pete". Nevertheless, protesters attended Saturday's annual procession wearing T-shirts reading "Black Pete Colonial Symbol" or "Black Pete Doesn't Fit".
"Some black kids feel hurt at this time of year," said a man at the procession who gave his name as Knoledge. "It's a real shame that in a civilised country, in 2014, you still have to defend equality," he told AFP. "If we were seen as equals, Black Pete would have been changed a long time ago so that this celebration is for all Dutch people," he said.
At a press conference after the procession, the man playing the role of Saint Nicholas was asked if he had followed the Black Pete debate.
"It will all work itself out," he said. "Nobody should be worried."
BRISBANE, November 16 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has left the G20 summit in Australia early, live footage showed, after he came under intense pressure from the West over Moscow's alleged support for separatist fights in eastern Ukraine.
But Putin said his decision to leave early had nothing to do with tensions over Ukraine. Instead, he said he had a long flight and wanted to catch up on some sleep ahead of a full day's work back home on Monday.
"We need nine hours to fly from here to Vladivostok and another nine hours from Vladivostok to Moscow," he said in comments reported by the RIA Novosti news agency. "Then we need to get home and return to work on Monday. There's a need to sleep at least four to five hours."
The two-day summit in Brisbane, which gathered leaders of the world's most powerful economies, was focused on economic growth but was to some extent overshadowed by the tension over Ukraine. Leaders at the event, who included US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, committed to reform measures aimed at lifting their collective growth by an extra 2.1 percent by 2018.
"This will add more than $2 trillion to the global economy and create millions of jobs," the leaders said in the summit communique. The fact that the Russian President left before the official communique announcement could be seen as a snub, Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Brisbane, said.
"But it has been the case that he himself was snubbed by Western leaders," Thomas said.
In unusually frank language between two leaders, Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, was reported to have told Putin as they shook hands to "get out of Ukraine".
According to Jason MacDonald, Harper's spokesman, the prime minister told the Russian leader: "I guess I will shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine."
Russia accused of bullying
British Prime Minister David Cameron was among other leaders who publicly criticised Russia, accusing it of "bullying a smaller state in Europe" and warning that Moscow would face further sanctions if it continues "destabilising Ukraine".
"I think what has been good about this G20 is that a very clear message has been delivered by the countries of the European Union and America to Russia about how we're going to approach this in the months and years ahead," Cameron told a news conference after the summit.
Putin, in remarks made before he left, thanked Tony Abbott for hosting the event, despite the Australian prime minister threatening to confront him over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July. The West says the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed by pro-Russian rebels, using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges. The plane was carrying 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents. The announcement of Sunday's communique was delayed about an hour after Putin left.
"These events usually take place on time. It could be that Western leaders were still trying to formulate their response to his early departure,"
DONETSK, November 16 -- The recovery of wreckage in eastern Ukraine from downed Malaysia Airlines flight 17 has begun, the Dutch Safety Board announced on its website Sunday.
Officials have commissioned the recovery and transport of the wreckage back to the Netherlands as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash. They intend to reconstruct a section of the aircraft, the safety board said.
The recovery operation is expected to take several days, and security and other factors will be assessed daily. The wreckage will be transported to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv before being sent to the Netherlands.
BAGHDAD, November 16 -- A video has been circulating online purporting to show members of the Islamic State group beheading several Syrian soldiers and a US aid worker.
The footage released on Sunday showed the beheading of at least 12 people, whom ISIS said were Syrian pilots and officers in President Bashar al-Assad's forces. This clip was circulated through credible social media accounts that have previously shared videos that were later verfied.
But it remains hard to verify the authenticity of the footage, Khan said. "To Obama the dog of rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we are slaughtering your soldiers and with god's permission we will break this final and last crusade," a masked man said before he was shown beheading one of the men.
The video also showed a bloodied head on the ground, whom ISIL said in the video was that of US aid worker Peter Kassing.
"This is Peter Edward Kassig, a US citizen of your country. Peter, who fought against Muslims in Iraq, was serving as a soldier in the American army, does not have much to say," a masked person standing near the head said.
"His previous cellmates have already spoken on his behalf."
MOSCOW, November 15 -- Russia’s television Channel One said on Friday it had a photo presumably made by a foreign spy satellite in the last seconds of Malaysia’s MH17 flight over Ukraine.
Channel One showed Ivan Andriyevsky, the first vice president of the Russian Union of Engineers, demonstrating a photo sent by a George Beatle, who had introduced himself as an air traffic controller with a 20-year working record.
The e-mail had an enclosed snapshot of a missile launch from under the fighter’s left wing directed right at the Boeing cockpit.
“We see a space shot made from a low orbit. Such photo shots are typically made in air and ground surveillance purposes,” Andriyevsky said. “Coordinates on the photo hint that it was made by an American or a British satellite. We have thoroughly analyzed this photo to find no signs of fake.”
The Boeing 777-200 of the Malaysia Airlines en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on July 17 in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Region, some 60 km (over 37 miles) from the Russian border, in the zone of combat operations between the Donetsk self-defense forces and the Ukrainian army. All the passengers and crewmembers onboard the aircraft - 298 people - died. Most of the passengers - 196 people - were Dutch citizens.
KUALA LUMPUR, November 15 -- Satellite image specialist Merlindown finally contacts GoMo News with its theory
It appears that a British based satellite image specialist firm, Merlindown Science, concluded back in May  that the missing Malaysian Airlines aircraft, flight MH370, actually disappeared off the coast of Vietnam.
The company has only just now contacted GoMo News with its theory. Merlindown’s theory helps to explain why some of those onboard nearly managed to make cellular calls from the stricken Boeing 777-222 airliner.
Before finally breaking up mid-air off the coast of Vietnam, the aircraft seems to have circled back close to Malaysia. [See accompanying map].
What GoMo News particularly likes about this events is that it cites a massive cover-up by Malaysian authorities.
The crux of Merlindown’s theory concerning the disappearance of Flight MH370 is that part of the fuselage fell off and the aircraft finally exploded somewhere off the Vietnamese coast. The company alleges that the Malaysian authorities knew that the Boeing 777-222 hadn’t been maintained properly despite warnings that there were problems with this type of aeroplane.
Merlindown argues that a section of the portside underbelly of Flight MH370 broke free. This event cut of the plane’s communications equipment – rather than being some kind of act of sabotage or terrorist attack. The loss also caused the plane to circle back close to Malaysia. Making it possible that the co-pilot nearly managed to make a cellular call.
As we previously report here, “as the aircraft flew close to Penang [in Malaysia], co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid “made a desperate call from his mobile phone as the plane was flying low.”"
We’ve looked at the map provided by Merlindown and at the point marked ’5′ on the illustration, the aircraft could have indeed been close enough to get a cellular signal from Penang. Another reason why we like this theory is that Merlindown doesn’t give any credence to Inmarsat’s theories – just like GoMo News.
DARMSTADT, November 15 -- The European spacecraft that landed on a comet in a historic mission earlier this week has carried out two tricky maneuvers, by drilling into the rocky surface and rotating itself to catch more sunlight.
Both operations carried considerable risks, because they could have toppled the probe or pushed it out into the void, but scientists at the European Space Agency said the maneuvers appeared to have worked.
Since landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko about 500 million kilometres away, the lander has performed a series of tests and sent reams of data, including photos, back to Earth.
But with just two or three days of power in its primary battery, the lander now has to rely on solar panels to generate electricity. The European Space Agency said the lander, which has fallen asleep on with its batteries depleted and not enough sunlight available, may communicate again on Saturday at about 10:00 GMT.
"From now on no contact would be possible unless sufficient sunlight falls on the solar panels to generate enough power to wake it up," ESA wrote on its blog early Saturday.
"My rotation was successful (35 degrees). Looks like a whole new comet from this angle,'' read a message posted on the lander's official Twitter account. Earlier, the scientists tweeted : "First comet drilling is a fact!''
The space agency said late on Friday that the batteries eventually depleted and without enough sunlight to recharge them, Philae fell into "idle mode", and all instruments and most of the systems on board shut down. However, "Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," said Stephan Ulamec, lander manager.
Scientists were concerned to find on Thursday that not only had Philae unexpectedly bounced twice before coming to rest untethered to the surface, but photos indicated it was next to a cliff that largely blocked sunlight from reaching two of its three solar panels.
With time running out, scientists decided to risk moving the lander and performing one of the most important experiments it was sent into space for.
Researching universe origins
Material beneath the surface of the comet has remained almost unchanged for 4.5 billion years, making the mining samples a cosmic time capsule that scientists are eager to study.
Mission controllers said Philae was able to bore 25 centimetres into the comet to start collecting the samples, but it is unclear whether it has enough power to deliver any information on them. It also was not immediately clear whether the rotation had succeeded in putting the lander's solar panels out of the shadow. Scientists are likely to know for sure early on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Rosetta, Philae's mother ship, which is streaking through space in tandem with the comet will use its 11 instruments to analyse the comet over the coming months. Scientists hope the $1.6b project that was launched a decade ago will help them answer questions about the origins of the universe and life on Earth.
YANGON, November 14 -- US leader raises concerns over direction of reforms, citing mistreatment of minorities and cramping of free expression.
US President Barack Obama has warned that Myanmar's reforms are by "no means complete or irreversible" after talks with democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi at her Yangon home. Speaking at a joint press conference on Friday, opposition leader Suu Kyi urged a "healthy balance between optimism and pessimism" towards the nation's stuttering reform process.
"They realise the difficulties that still lie ahead, but they must charge on," said reports from Yangon. The talks marked a US show of support for Suu Kyi as Myanmar prepares for elections next year amid uncertainty about the direction of reforms.
Obama met with the opposition leader after arriving from the capital Naypyidaw, where he discussed the nation's troubled reform process with President Thein Sein.
"The democratic process in Myanmar is real," Obama said after speaking with the president late on Thursday. "We recognise change is hard and you do not always move in a straight line, but I'm optimistic." However, the US leader also raised concerns over the direction of reforms, citing the cramping of freedom of expression, ongoing conflicts and the treatment of Myanmar's minority groups - especially the Muslim Rohingya.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party is widely expected to sweep polls in late 2015, but its figurehead is banned from the presidency by a constitutional clause.
On his last visit in 2012, Obama received a fanfare welcome from thrilled locals a year after Thein Sein began to open up the country. Most political prisoners have been released and Suu Kyi has been elected as a lawmaker, while foreign investors have arrived in lockstep with the lifting of most sanctions. But the atmosphere has slowly soured, with many observers saying reforms have stalled.
"So far they are being seen as too superficial," Ortigas said, noting the US has vowed it will provide greater support when the country implements broader reforms.
Suu Kyi cautioned against US "over-optimism" ahead of the visit by Obama, who has invested a large amount of political capital in Myanmar's transition from military rule. His visit has coincided with the start of a debate on constitutional reform, in particular over the clauses effectively blocking a presidential bid by Suu Kyi and reserving 25 percent of seats for the military.
"I wondered when Obama first came, whether things will be better," 52-year-old street stall holder Minny Oo Aung told the AFP news agency in Yangon, where security is high, with clusters of police about every hundred metres. "But there has been no improvement in our society or economy."
BAGHDAD, November 14 -- Fighters belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS) have been driven out of the town of Beiji, the Iraqi government said.
Reports from Baghdad, said the victory was a significant as it "now allows Iraqi forces to make their way to the important refinery some 15km away from the town". "It is a very big victory for them," our correspondent said.
The Iraqi army has been trying over the past week to break through a seige of Iraq's biggest oil refinery.
ISIS captured the city in June, stopping production at the facility.
Since then, fighters have been using desperate tactics, including suicide bombers, car bombs and snipers, to hold onto control.