COPENHAGEN, August 10 -- An explosion damaged a police station in Copenhagen early on Saturday, in the second blast to hit the Danish capital in four days.
No one was injured in the blast, which happened outside a station in the Norrebro, just outside the city centre, police said on Twitter. On Tuesday (Aug 6), one person was slightly injured in an explosion outside the Danish Tax Agency's office, in what police said was a deliberate attack. Police told Reuters it was too early to say whether the two blasts were connected, but could not immediately comment further. Police were searching for a man running from the scene of the blast, Ekstra Bladet said. Serious attacks or violence are rare in the small Nordic country of 5.7 million people that prides itself on a reputation for safety and social tolerance.
KIEV, August 7 -- Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has told reporters that he held a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Donbass. Russia's Kremlin confirmed that the conversation between the two leaders took place.
"This morning I spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin," Zelensky told a briefing following an urgent meeting with security forces, convened after four Ukrainian military were killed in the Donbass operation zone. "I called him on short notice. I said that this is not bringing us closer to peace." Kiev claims the servicemen in Donbass came under fire launched by militias. The Ukrainian president noted that he had asked the Russian leader to exert influence on the other party to "stop the killings." After Wednesday’s telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian president plans to discuss the situation in Donbass with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I will make another phone call from Turkey to President Macron," Zelensky told a news briefing following an emergency meeting with key military and law enforcement officials after the death of four Ukrainian servicemen in the area of the military operation in Donbass. "Also, I plan to contact Chancellor Merkel in the near future to agree on an urgent meeting." Zelensky believes that the Normandy quartet leaders should meet urgently "to look each other in the eye and bring this war to an end."
On Tuesday, Zelensky called on the Normandy Four leaders — Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron — to convene a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the death of four Ukrainian servicemen, which Kiev blames on militias of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Donetsk has rejected the claims, stressing that the incident had occurred way beyond the contact line and not within the militias’ striking range. On August 7-8, Zelensky is to pay a visit to Turkey, where he will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and representatives of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities.
BANGKOK, August 7 -- Police investigators are rushing to try and unravel the mystery behind Friday morning’s arson and bomb attacks in Bangkok and the presumably related case of two unexploded devices found outside Royal Thai Police headquarters the day before.
Officers of various precincts are studying security camera recordings and interviewing people seen with suspects, including taxi drivers. There have been four arrests so far and warrants are expected to be sought for seven more suspects. Investigators are in total probing nine bombs – six that exploded and three that were safely disposed of – and six arson attacks in six different locations. A timeline compiled by The Nation based on information from police sources begins at 3.40pm on Thursday (August 1), when two bomb-like objects were noticed in front of Royal Thai Police HQ. Police initially characterized them as fake bombs – containing full detonating equipment but no explosive material.
It was later announced, however, that they were homemade bombs set to detonate between 8 and 9am on Friday. At 4.37am on Friday, Pathumwan police were alerted to fires at two department stores at the Samyan and Pathumwan intersections. Mall security and automatic extinguishers doused the flames and no one was hurt. At 4.40, Phayathai police got a call about a fire at the single-storey Sidewalk Market on Soi Phetchaburi 19 in Ratchathewi district, behind the Indra Regent Hotel. The blaze destroyed 60 clothing stalls. Officers from the Scientific Crime Detection Division found what were believed to be elements of fire bombs at the three fire locations, including timer circuit-boards attached to power banks and traces of alcohol. The fire bombs were similar to those used to cause disturbances in seven provinces in the upper South in 2016. In Bangkok, the first was set to detonate at the DD House Building half an hour before the other two. Security cameras at the malls recorded a man “planting” an object in the approximate right location at one mall, but no one was seen at the other. At 6.10am, a bomb exploded at the entrance to Building B at the Government Complex in Bangkok’s northern Chaeng Watthana district. No one was injured. Between 8.30 and 8.40, two more bombs exploded, one in front of the King Power Mahanakhon Building, injuring a security officer, the other in a carpark in front of the same downtown building, injuring an electrical technician. At 8.40, a bomb detonated in front of the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence in Nonthaburi’s Pakkret district. Again, no one was hurt. At 8.45, a second bomb exploded at Government Complex Building B, this time at the exit. At 9.10 there was an explosion in front of Supreme Command headquarters. No one was injured. At 11, a bomb disposal unit dismantled a second device in the same locale.
BANGKOK, August 6 -- At least 500 security officials will be deployed to protect Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and keep the peace in his visit to Yala on Wednesday morning to open the new head office of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre.
Security officials on Tuesday rehearsed measures for maintaining security for Prayut trip to the new head office of the SBPAC, which is located in the heart of Yala. The visit to the restive southern border province will go ahead despite a series of bomb attacks in Bangkok that some have said could be linked to insurgents. The 500 police, soldiers and rangers will be deployed around the new SBPAC head office while the prime minister is chairing its opening ceremony. The SBPAC purchased the Chang Lee Hotel building from the Assets Management Committee to renovate as its new head office. The SBPAC spent Bt147.84 million for the procurement, below its estimated price of Bt225.48 million. After the opening ceremony, the prime minister is scheduled to visit the Yala Rubber Market, which also functions as a market for buying durians from local people, officials said.
BAGHDAD, July 12 -- Four Islamic State (IS) militants and two paramilitary Hashd Shaabi members were killed Friday in an operation to hunt down the extremist militants in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a statement and a provincial official said.
Early in the morning, the Iraqi army, interior ministry's provincial intelligence and Hashd Shaabi units carried out an operation to hunt down IS militants in the rugged area in the northeastern part of the province after being tipped off by intelligence report, the Hashd Shaabi said in a statement. Sadiq al-Husseini, head of the security committee in Diyala provincial council, told Xinhua that the troops, so far, killed four IS militants, including a local leader, and destroyed three of their hideouts. Also during the operation, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of a joint police, intelligence and Hashd Shaabi force in al-Hafayer area at the edges of al-Sa'diyah town, some 125 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, al-Husseini said.
Brigadier General Ali al-Sudani, head of Diyala's intelligence, escaped the attack with wounds, but a Hashd Shaabi member was immediately killed and another died later in the hospital, while three other Hashd Shaabi members were wounded by the blast, al-Husseini added. Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, some IS militants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in the northern part of the province. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.
Author: Lora Smith
MADRID, July 10 -- On behalf of the EU, Morocco is making it more difficult to flee across the Mediterranean to Spain. In fact, the number of refugees is decreasing. But the deal has fatal consequences for migrants, human rights activists say.
"If only we could be left, we could save much more," says Manuel Capa. The trade unionist works for the sea rescue in the Spanish city of Valencia. If Morocco or Spain embark on a new course when it comes to migration, they will feel it immediately. And he does not like the new course of the Spanish government at all. According to the law of the sea every captain must take shipwrecked persons, if he is able to do so, Capa explains. Regardless of whose sea area he is in. "So, if a shipwrecked man was in the Moroccan Maritime Rescue Zone and Morocco did not take care of him because of the lack of resources or perhaps the will, then the Moroccans allowed us to go into their waters and save the humans." That has changed. A new protocol stipulates that Morocco is solely responsible for its zone. The Spanish saviors must often be left out. Trade unionist Capa says what happens to the people who are shipwrecked in Moroccan waters is incomprehensible. It remains unclear whether they were saved and if so, where they would be taken.
Does the government accept dead?
Helena Maleno from the non-governmental organization "Caminando Froteras" goes further. She accuses the Spanish government of a cynical game:
"We're basically doing the same thing as Salvini: We're retreating, but not so obvious, of course, we can not pull out the sea rescue, but we're taking some risk with the new measures."
Spain's motto is to close this route, whatever the cost. Maleno assumes that the government will not protest because of the dead.
140 million euros in aid
The Spanish maritime rescue rejects the allegations. In the first half of the year, the number of registered deaths had dropped significantly. Currently there are 81 people who did not make it to Spain alive. Last year, at 151, it was almost twice as many. The fact is that Spain and Morocco are working together again on migration. Spain's head of state, Sánchez, has worked hard to ensure that the European Union gives Morocco more support in terms of border management. With success: the EU promised Morocco a total of 140 million euros in aid in January.
The refugees are being transported inland
And Morocco has delivered. Anyway, this is the conclusion reached by an internal paper of the EU Commission, which is available in the Spanish newspaper El País. Support for Morocco, both from Spain and from the European Commission, is the basis for the declining trend in arrivals, it says. The Moroccan government is also not overshadowing their successes: The authorities have this year so far prevented 25,000 people from reaching by sea illegally Spain, according to an official Moroccan side.
Often, however, this is done with dubious methods, says Said Tbel, migration officer of the human rights organization Association marocaine des droits humains (AMDH) in Rabat:
"Since last summer, Morocco has again resorted to methods that violate the rights of migrants."
So many migrants were picked up on the coast in northern Morocco and spent in the south. It has become increasingly difficult for people to leave Morocco for Spain. Many boats were capsized, there are now many missing and dead. The human rights activist believes that the situation will worsen in the medium term. The Moroccan Ministry of the Interior was not available for an interview at short notice.
Author: Lora Smith
WASHINGTON, July 10 -- The United States is planning to create a military coalition to safeguard commercial shipping from Iranian threats in waterways off Iran and Yemen following attacks on two oil tanker last month, U.S. media reported.
"We are engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb," said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to reporters. Dunford also said he had discussed the plan with Mark Esper, the acting secretary of defense, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He added the Pentagon has developed a specific plan and it would be clear within a couple of weeks to see which nations join the coalition, according to the local media. Under the plan, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts while its allies would patrol waters near the U.S. command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags, the reports said. Dunford called the coalition "scalable," suggesting that it will start small but will expand as more countries show interest.
President Donald Trump expressed frustration in June, questioning why the United States is protecting shipping lanes for oil-dependent countries like China and Japan, suggesting that countries should be protecting their own ships. Bilateral tensions have increased with the United States stepping up its pressure on Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, claiming that it is destabilizing the Middle East.
Washington has blamed Tehran on the June attacks on two oil tankers respectively operated by a Japanese company and chartered by a Taiwanese oil refiner near the Strait of Hormuz, a key corridor through which major oil exports flow to the world, as well as a similar tanker attack in May in waters off the United Arab Emirates. A U.S. drone was also shot down in Iran by the Middle Eastern country's paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in late June, drawing the ire of Trump. Iran has threatened in the past that it would close the Strait of Hormuz, further increasing tensions with the United States and some of its neighbors. The United States and Gulf allies also have concerns about the vulnerability of the Bab el Mandeb, a strait between the Horn of Africa and Yemen, caused by Houthi rebels who are accused by the United States of being Iranian proxies.
Author: Lora Smith
MOSCOW, July 9 -- The Moscow District Military Court has sentenced three members of the Islamic State (terrorist group, outlawed in Russia) to between 10 and 15 years in jail over plotting terrorist attacks in Moscow.
"The court has found the defendants guilty and sentenced Anzor Tlupov, Bakhtovar Tuychiyev and Manuchekhr Tuychiyev to 13, 15 and 10 years, respectively," the judge said, noting that the three men would be serving their sentences in a maximum security colony. The defendants were charged with illegal production of explosives, setting up a terrorist group, engagement in the group's activities, plotting a terrorist attack and contributing to terrorism. The court found that three IS group’s members had been plotting a series of terrorist attacks in Moscow and the Moscow Region. At the moment of detention in summer 2018, they were trying to destroy explosive substances.
Author: Lora Smith
WASHINGTON, June 23 -- The United States military launched cyber attacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network on Thursday after Tehran downed an American surveillance drone, US officials have said.
US President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory military attack against Iran after the drone shoot down but then called it off, saying the response would not be "proportionate" and instead pledged new sanctions on the country. But after the drone's downing, Trump secretly authorized US Cyber Command to carry out a retaliatory cyber attack on Iran, two officials told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the attack. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. US media outlets Yahoo News and The Washington Post also reported the cyber attacks.
SINGAPORE, June 22 -- Some Singapore Airlines (SIA) flights to Europe may take "slightly longer" routings to avoid Iranian-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz amid ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States, an SIA spokesman said on Friday.
This would affect flights to and from some SIA destinations, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Dusseldorf, the spokesman added. The airspace over the Strait of Hormuz had been flagged as a potential danger zone by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday. The FAA issued an emergency order prohibiting US flight operators from flying in the overwater area, citing heightened tensions after a US drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. It also said in an advisory that it remained concerned about the escalation of tension and military activity within close proximity to high-volume civil aircraft routes, as well as Iran's willingness to use long-range missiles in international airspace with little or no warning.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an SIA spokesman said its flights will also look to avoid the affected area, and that it only chooses routes that are safe and cleared for use by the authorities.
"For context, our decisions on the use of airspace are made based on numerous factors, such as weather, safety and security conditions, advisories from international and regional bodies, information from external independent security consultants and any restrictions that may be imposed by the national authorities responsible for the airspace," the spokesman said.