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.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and