New government formed
President Thomas Boni Yayi on Sunday named a new government after sacking his entire Cabinet in part over concerns of some members’ alleged links to a businessman accused of trying to poison him. Yayi named a 26-member team and opted not to appoint a prime minister, a presidency statement said. There had been disagreements between Yayi and former prime minister Pascal Koukpaki and he will not be part of the new team. Koukpaki and another member of the government were suspected of being close to the businessman charged with the alleged poison plot, Patrice Talon, a presidential advisor said. There are no opposition politicians in the new government. Talon is currently in France, where a court is considering whether he should be extradited.
Jihadists plan jail break
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi said he would free jailed Islamist militants soon in a statement found on a jihadist Web site. Wuhayshi did not say how he would free those jailed, but al-Qaeda militants staged at least two prison breaks last month. Intercepted communication between al-Wuhayshi and al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahri was part of intelligence that prompted Washington to close 19 US embassies and send some staff in Yemen home last week. “We ask God to make us a cause for unlocking your incarceration and relieving your agony,” al-Wuhayshi said in the statement. “Your brothers are pounding the walls of injustice and the thrones of oppression. These walls and thrones are coming down every day and victory is but one step. Victory is one hour of perseverance.”
Group claims Eid bombings
An al-Qaeda affiliate said it carried out Saturday’s Eid al-Fitr bombings, which killed dozens of people, in response to a government campaign to arrest suspected militants, the SITE Monitoring group reported yesterday. The statement from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posted on jihadist forums claimed responsibility for the attacks across Baghdad and in southern provinces targeting people celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, SITE said. It has been one of the country’s deadliest Ramadan holidays in years, as Sunni Islamist militants wage an insurgency against the Shiite-led government. “They will pay a high price for what they did and they will not be secure day or night during Eid or other times, so they should watch their footsteps and stop the detention campaigns and cease harming the Sunni clans,” the ISIL statement said, according to a SITE translation.
Mosque closed after attack
The Sri Lanka Muslim Council closed down a new mosque in Colombo yesterday after attacks by a Buddhist mob. The council said it had agreed to shut its Grandpass mosque and move to an older place of worship that the government had earlier earmarked for demolition. “We have a compromise deal worked out last night,” council president N. M. Ameen told reporters. “The government will rescind the order acquiring the old mosque premises and will grant more land and help with renovations and improvements.” Buddhist-led mobs vandalized the new mosque on Saturday, wounding at least four people. Sporadic clashes also erupted on Sunday. Buddhists had objected to the setting up of the new mosque near a Buddhist temple even though it was built to replace the older mosque to be torn down for city works.
Soldier held over attack plan
Police have arrested a young soldier on suspicion of planning to fire shots at a mosque near the eastern city of Lyon, the Ministry of the Interior said on Sunday. The 23-year-old man, who investigators say is “close to the radical far-right,” was detained at his airbase near Lyon. He was remanded in custody on Wednesday last week and charged with the possession of ammunition and plans to damage a place of worship “in connection with a terrorist enterprise.” Judicial officials said he told investigators that he planned to fire the shots at the Minguettes mosque at Venissieux on Thursday last week at the end of Ramadan. He also admitted to throwing an incendiary device at a mosque door in southwestern Libourne in August last year.
Petrobras accused of bribes
State-run energy giant Petrobras funneled kickbacks to officials from political parties, the weekly Epoca magazine reported on Sunday. Epoca cited evidence from lobbyist Joao Augusto Rezende, a former head of BR Distribuidora, a Petrobras subsidiary. The lobbyist for the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition, said between 60 and 70 percent of the graft money was passed on to the PMDB. Epoca also reported that Joao Vaccari Neto, the ruling Workers Party’s finance secretary, received the equivalent of US$8 million in kickbacks from construction conglomerate Odebrecht as part of a Petrobras international contract during Rousseff’s 2010 presidential campaign. The weekly quoted Augusto as saying he and Vaccari arranged for the money to be transferred to the Rousseff campaign. However, Vaccari was quoted as saying he was not in charge of the Rousseff campaign’s finances and that all donations were made “within the law.”
Prince Johan Friso dies
Prince Johan Friso, who went into a coma following a skiing accident in February last year, has died, the government said yesterday. “Prince Friso died from complications that arose as a consequence of the brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation following his skiing accident,” the government said in a statement. The prince, 44, was skiing off-piste in Lech, Austria, when he was buried in an avalanche. He was initially treated at a London hospital and was brought back to The Hague last month.
Alleged war criminal dies
Laszlo Csatari, a 98-year-old Hungarian who topped the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of alleged war criminals, has died in hospital, his lawyer said yesterday. Csatari was alleged to have been actively involved in the deportations of thousands of Jews to death camps in World War II from a town in present-day Slovakia. After being sentenced to death in absentia in 1948 he made it to Canada where he worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship in the 1990s. He returned to Hungary where he lived until prosecutors began investigating his case in late 2011 on the basis of information from the Wiesenthal Center. In June Hungarian prosecutors charged him, saying he was “actively involved in and assisted the deportations” in 1944 of Jews from a ghetto in Kassa, now known as Kosice. The former police officer “regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare hands and whipped them with a dog-whip without any special reasons, regardless of their sex, age or health,” prosecutors said. He had been under house arrest ever since.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big