Duterte unaware of US help
President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said that he was not aware the US government was providing assistance to government troops in its battle against Muslim militants in Marawi. He also said he “never approached America” for help. “I am not aware of that until they arrived,” he told a media briefing when asked about US support in the fighting in Marawi. The military said on Saturday that US forces were providing technical assistance.
Three US soldiers killed
Three US soldiers were killed and another was wounded on Saturday in Nangarhar Province, the Pentagon said. A local official said the deaths and injury stem from an attack by an local soldier, who also died. A spokesman for the provincial governor said in a statement that the attack took place in the Achin District. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Facebook post earns death
Taimoor Raza has been sentenced to death for committing blasphemy on Facebook, lawyers said on Saturday, the first conviction on charges arising from social media. Judge Shabbir Ahmad Awan handed down the verdict in Bahawalpur, finding Raza guilty of insulting the prophet Mohammed, prosecutor Shafiq Qureshi said. Raza had a Facebook argument about Islam with someone who turned out to be a counter-terrorism department official, defense lawyer Rana Fida Hussain said. The official brought charges based on the comments made on the social networking site. Hussain said his client was innocent and that he would appeal the conviction.
Dissident loses citizenship
The government has stripped a French-Vietnamese former political prisoner and mathematics lecturer of his citizenship. Pham Minh Hoang, 62, who has dual nationality, was sentenced to three years in jail for attempted subversion in 2011, but was released after 17 months and ordered to serve three years’ house arrest. He was convicted for writing a series of articles under the pen name Phan Kien Quoc that prosecutors said tarnished the country’s image and were aimed at overthrowing the government. Hoang said that he had continued to publish “peaceful” articles on social media that were critical of the government since his release from prison. Revoking his citizenship effectively renders his status in the country illegal. “I am very upset and I’m waiting, I’m waiting to be expelled,” an emotional Hoang said by telephone yesterday. He said he received a copy of the letter on Saturday, and was surprised not to find a clear explanation for the decision. He is the only dissident to have his citizenship revoked in modern memory.
Netanyahus win libel case
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, yesterday won a libel suit against a journalist who claimed that Sara once kicked her husband out of their car during an argument. A Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ordered Igal Sarna to pay the couple about US$32,500 in damages over what it said was his unproven account in a Facebook post last year. Netanyahu testified that the alleged incident, which Sarna said he learned about from an acquaintance who cited one of the prime minister’s security guards, never took place. “He crossed the line,” Netanyahu said of Sarna, who writes for the mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth.
Thirty-seven injured in blaze
Thirty-seven people, including 10 children, were injured in a fire that broke out early yesterday in a migrant housing center in the northern city of Bremen, fire and police officials said. The fire started in a garbage bin in the basement of the building, which was home to more than 100 migrants, a police spokesman said. He said the cause of the fire remained under investigation, including any possible anti-immigrant motivation. The Bremen fire department said 14 of the injured, including the children, were taken to clinics in the city while others were treated on the scene. More than 70 firefighters and 27 vehicles were involved in extinguishing the blaze.
Migrants missing off coast
At least 10 migrants have died after their Europe-bound boats sank off the coast and about 100 people are missing, coastguard officials and aid groups said on Saturday. Eight bodies were found on an inflatable craft that can carry up to 120 passengers, said Colonel Fathi al-Rayani, head of the coast guard in Garabulli, 60km east of Tripoli. He estimated that “at least 100” migrants were missing. The boat was spotted deflated off Garabulli and the coast guard found the bodies inside, a reporter who accompanied them said.
Vessel named after Giffords
The US Navy’s newest ship was put into active service following a commissioning ceremony in Houston on Saturday, named after former US representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured during a 2011 shooting. Giffords told a crowd at the ceremony in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Galveston that she was honored the 421-foot (128m) ship will carry her name and the vessel is “strong and tough, just like her crew.” The navy has said it named the ship after Giffords because of the perseverance she showed after the shooting. Giffords was shot in the head at an event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. Six people died and Giffords was among the 13 people injured.
Boko Haram claims attack
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attack on the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Wednesday night that killed at least 14 people, the first major assault in 18 months on a key stronghold against the militants. “We have killed those we can and have left with the bounties of war we are displaying now,” said a voice on a video released by Boko Haram on Saturday, showing the group’s fighters among piles of ammunition and other supplies. “We are hale and hearty, contrary to claims that we have been killed.” The Boko Haram fighters attacked Maiduguri’s suburbs with anti-aircraft guns and several suicide bombers, a police official said on Thursday. The video showed a man who appears to be Abubakar Shekau, leader of one of two branches of the group, standing in front of fighters and weaponized vehicles and speaking Arabic, though the military has repeatedly claimed to have killed him.
Queen Mary 2 rescues sailor
The Queen Mary 2 cruise liner has rescued a sailor taking part in a trans-Atlantic yacht race after several vessels were damaged in rough seas. The Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth said that three boats set off emergency beacons on Friday amid 60-knot (111kph) winds and 15m waves. Canada’s coast guard sent ships and air support to the boats. Cruise line Cunard said the Queen Mary 2 rescued a lone yachtsman.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures