Friday, July 25th17.9°C
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5 Palestinians killed in West Bank

The U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state made a new attempt Friday to nail down a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, as Israel's 18-day military operation in the Gaza Strip fueled new unrest in the West Bank, where five Palestinians were killed during protests.

Also Friday, Israel's military announced that an Israeli soldier whom Hamas had claimed to have captured in Gaza earlier this week was in fact killed in battle that day. The capture of an Israeli soldier could have been a game changer in Israel-Hamas fighting and the international efforts to end it.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to try to bring a week-long pause in the Israel-Hamas fighting, beginning as soon as this weekend.

Kerry delayed his anticipated departure from Cairo for several hours to talk again by phone to Qatari officials who are serving as a go-between with Hamas, which the U.S. considers terrorist organization and cannot negotiate with directly.

Over the last week, in his travels from Cairo to Ramallah to Israel, Kerry has made clear that he wanted to secure at least a temporary pause in the violence before he returned to Washington. But U.S. efforts have been frustrated by deeply-ingrained hostilities between Israel and Palestinian officials, and by mistrust among Mideast nations who have taken sides in the conflict even as they agree to push for a cease-fire.

The West Bank has become increasingly restive over Israel's Gaza operation, in which more than 800 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,200 wounded since July 8, according to Palestinian health officials.

In the West Bank, protests against the Gaza operation operation erupted Friday in the northern village of Hawara, near the city of Nablus, and the southern village of Beit Omar, near the city of Hebron.

Palestinian hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed in Beit Omar and two in Hawara.

The mayor said four people were wounded and that one of them, a 19-year-old, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus of his injuries.

After the shooting, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli troops who opened fire, killing a 22-year-old from Hawara, the mayor said.

Rafidiyeh hospital confirmed the deaths.

The Canadian Press


21772


Crash survivor crawls, calls dad

The 10 survivors of Taiwan's worst air disaster in more than a decade include a 34-year-old woman who called her father after scrambling from the wreckage and seeking help at a nearby home.

Hung Yu-ting escaped through a hole in the fuselage that opened up after the plane plowed into homes Wednesday while attempting to land on the outlying resort island of Penghu, killing 48 people.

"She called me on the phone to say the plane had crashed and exploded but that she had already crawled out and I should come right away to get her," said Hung's father, Hung Chang-ming, who lives just a few hundred meters (yards) from the crash site.

Hung rushed to the scene, but his daughter had already been taken away by rescuers.

"When I was halfway there the fire was still really big, but it was smaller when I arrived on the scene," Hung told reporters. "There were two other injured outside and the first ambulance had already taken away three, including my daughter."

Hung Chang-ming joined rescuers and other residents in putting out the fire and rescuing other survivors before going to the hospital to check on his daughter.

Hung Yu-ting was recovering Friday from burns to her arms, legs and back suffered during her escape. The condition of the other survivors wasn't immediately known.

Other relatives weren't so lucky, some recalling the last phone conversations with their loved ones.

Shu Chi-tse said he had spoken to his son, Shu Chong-tai, just before the flight left the southern city of Kaohsiung on Taiwan's main island for the short ride west across the Taiwan Strait.

"He is a good boy. He cares for me and his mom. He loves his grandma a lot," Shu said.

Among the dead were all four members of the flight crew, a family of six and a family of four. They included several children, among them 9-year-old Ho Po-yu, who was returning home to Penghu with his mother after attending a summer camp for young choral singers.

Stormy weather and low visibility are thought to have been factors in the crash of the twin-propeller ATR-72 operated by TransAsia Airways.

The investigation is expected to focus on a four-minute gap between the pilot's request for a second approach and the plane's crashing into village homes at 7:10 p.m., during which visibility dropped by half.

One of the questions is why the pilots decided to proceed with the flight despite rough weather on the heels of a typhoon that had forced the cancellation of about 200 flights earlier in the day. However, aviation authorities said conditions were safe for flying and two other planes had landed at Penghu prior to the crash.

The Canadian Press


Violin theft gets man 3.5 years

A Milwaukee man who provided the stun gun used in the theft of a $5 million Stradivarius violin in January was sentenced Thursday to 3 1/2 years in prison.

Universal K. Allah, 37, pleaded guilty in May to being party to felony robbery, a charge with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. His attorney and family asked for leniency, noting that Allah loaned the weapon but didn't participate in the attack.

Milwaukee County Judge Dennis Moroney was not moved. He told Allah that being party to the crime makes him just as culpable as the man who carried out the attack, especially since Allah knew his acquaintance planned to use the weapon to steal a rare musical instrument.

"You knew what was going on. You knew he was not capable of getting a gun, he wasn't eligible to get a gun. Yet you helped him get armament to hurt another human being," Moroney said, anger evident in his voice. "You're not exactly a Boy Scout in this operation, let's be frank."

The instrument, which is almost 300 years old, was missing for nine days before police recovered it in good condition. Moroney said the crime was an attack not only on the concertmaster from whom it was taken but on the Milwaukee community as a whole.

Before sentencing, Allah apologized to the court, the violin's owner and the concertmaster to whom it had been loaned.

"I just want to humbly apologize to you for making this mistake," Allah said. "This is a total setback within my life. I plan on changing my life, changing everything from this point on."

Moroney seemed more influenced by the statement of Frank Almond, the concertmaster who was attacked with the stun gun Jan. 27 in a parking lot after he finished a musical performance. Almond said he wasn't seeking revenge or retribution, but that a severe penalty was "critical."

Almond said he was lucky he didn't suffer a career-ending arm or wrist injury when he crumpled to the icy pavement that night. He was also alarmed to learn how closely the perpetrators had been stalking him and his family for years.

"They knew where I lived, they knew the names of my children and other details of my day-to-day life," Almond said.

Moroney ordered Allah to pay restitution to Almond to cover about $3,500 in lost wages, $400 in violin repairs and about $140 for his ambulance bill.

The other man charged in the attack is Salah Salahadyn, who court documents describe as the mastermind who'd been plotting for some time to carry out his "dream theft" — snatching a Stradivarius from a musician in broad daylight.

Salahadyn's public defender, Alejandro Lockwood, had requested a second plea hearing, a step that often indicates a plea deal has been reached. But the Thursday hearing was postponed after Lockwood asked to be allowed to withdraw from the case.

Lockwood provided little explanation in court except to say that Salahadyn didn't agree with his decision, and that Lockwood had a conflict of interest. He recommended that Salahadyn get an attorney who wasn't a member of the public defender's office.

The violin's owner has remained anonymous. But she filed a victim-impact statement extoling the virtues of the nearly 300-year-old instrument, calling it a direct link to history.

"It is, after all, an amazing work of craftsmanship that in the right hands is capable of producing matchless, exquisite sound that expresses every emotion," her statement said.

Many Stradivarius violins, crafted by renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari, are owned by private collectors who lend them to top violinists to be played in symphonies. Experts say a Stradivarius violin deteriorates if it's not used but remains in good condition when played regularly.

Experts estimate 600 to 650 Stradivarius instruments remain, or about half of what the master produced. Although they can be worth millions of dollars apiece, they're rarely stolen because they're catalogued so well that a thief would have a hard time selling one.

The Canadian Press


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116 perish in plane crash

Update July 24

An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people — including five Canadians — crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighbouring Burkina Faso. It was the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

The plane, owned by Spanish company Swiftair and leased by Algeria's flagship carrier, disappeared from radar screens less than an hour after takeoff, en route from Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou to Algiers.

French fighter jets, U.N. peacekeepers and others hunted for signs of wreckage of the MD-83 plane in the remote region, where scattered separatist violence may hamper an eventual investigation into what happened.

The wreckage was found about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the border of Burkina Faso near the village of Boulikessi in Mali, a Burkina Faso presidential aide said.

"We sent men with the agreement of the Mali government to the site and they found the wreckage of the plane with the help of the inhabitants of the area," said Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a close aide to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and head of the crisis committee set up to investigate the flight.

"They found human remains and the wreckage of the plane totally burnt and scattered," he said.

He told The Associated Press that rescuers went to the area after they had heard from a resident that he saw the plane go down 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Malian town of Gossi. Burkina Faso's government spokesman said the country will observe 48 hours of mourning.

Malian state television also said the wreckage was found in the village of Boulikessi and was found by a helicopter from Burkina Faso. Algeria's transport minister also said the plane's remains had apparently been found. French officials could not confirm the discovery late Thursday night.

"We found the plane by accident" near Boulikessi, said Sidi Ould Brahim, a Tuareg separatist who travelled Thursday from Mali to a refugee camp for Malians in Burkina Faso. "The plane was burned, there were traces of rain on the plane, and bodies were torn apart," he told The Associated Press.

Families from France to Canada and beyond had been waiting anxiously for signs of Flight 5017 and their loved ones aboard. Nearly half of the passengers were French, many en route home from Africa.

"Everything allows us to believe this plane crashed in Mali," French President Francois Hollande said Thursday night after an emergency meeting in Paris. He said the crew changed its flight path because of "particularly difficult weather conditions."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, his face drawn and voice sombre, told reporters, "If this catastrophe is confirmed, it would be a major tragedy that hits our entire nation, and many others."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was saddened at news of the crash.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragedy," he said in the statement, adding that it was confirmed Canadians are among the victims.

Tweets from the account of Lynne Yelich, Canada's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said consular officials are ready to provide assistance.

Radio-Canada reported Thursday that the family of Isabelle Prevost of Sherbrooke, Que., confirmed the 35-year-old woman was one of the passengers on the flight.

Danny Frappier said he received a call Thursday morning telling him his partner was aboard the flight, which at that point was only reported as missing.

He said Prevost was on vacation in Africa and it was the family that was putting her up that first contacted him. Frappier said he tried to get information from official sources but that it came in dribs and drabs.

‘‘The only confirmation I have is that she was on the flight,‘‘ he told The Canadian Press late Thursday.

‘‘We‘ll try to have as good a night as possible and we‘ll see who confirms what.‘‘

‘‘We're hoping there's part of her body that can be repatriated, some kind of proof that she was really there, that she's really dead, I don't know.‘‘

The couple has three children, aged 5, 7 and 9.

Radio-Canada earlier quoted Prevost's partner as saying their children were meant to travel with her but that it was decided they should stay with him.

The network also quoted Burkina Faso native Mamadou Zoungrana, who works as a technologist at the Papineau Hospital in Gatineau,Que., as saying that his wife and their two sons, aged six and 13, were on the flight. CBC reported they are not Canadian citizens.

Before the plane vanished, the pilots sent a final message to ask Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rain, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said.

French forces, who have been in Mali since January 2013 to rout al-Qaida-linked extremists who had controlled the north, searched for the plane, alongside the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

Algerian Transport Minister Omar Ghoul, whose country's planes were also searching for wreckage, described it as a "serious and delicate affair."


France's foreign minister said no wreckage had been found, but that the plane "probably crashed."

Air navigation services lost track of the MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 0155 GMT (9:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday), the official Algerian news agency APS said.

"Despite an intensive search, at the moment I speak no trace of the aircraft has been found," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris. "The plane has probably crashed."

Two French fighter jets are among aircraft scouring the rugged north of Mali for the plane, which was travelling from Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, to Algiers, the Algerian capital.

More than 50 French were onboard the plane along with 27 Burkina Faso nationals and five passengers Canada and several other countries. The flight crew was Spanish.

The flight was being operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, the company said in a statement, and the plane belonged to Swiftair.

The plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT), asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said.

The disappearance of the Air Algerie plane comes after a spate of aviation disasters. Fliers around the globe have been on edge ever since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in March on its way to Beijing. Searchers have yet to find a single piece of wreckage from the jet with 239 people on board.

Last week, a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down by a surface-to-air missile while flying over a war-torn section of Ukraine. A Canadian was among the almost 300 who perised in that disaster. The back-to-back disasters involving Boeing 777s flown by the same airline were too much of a coincidence for many fliers.

Then this week, U.S., Canadian and European airlines started cancelling flights to Tel Aviv after a rocket landed near the city's airport. Finally, on Wednesday, a Taiwanese plane crashed during a storm, killing 48 people.


Original story July 24

Burkina Faso's transport minister says five Canadians were among those onboard an Air Algerie flight that officials said disappeared from radar over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported.

The plane was carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital, according to the plane's owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso. Nearly half of the passengers were French.

Air navigation services lost track of the MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, Wednesday evening, the official Algerian news agency APS said.

The list of passengers includes 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgium, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said. The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots' union.

The plane sent its last message about half an hour later, asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area, Ouedraogo said.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the plane vanished over northern Mali. He spoke Thursday from a crisis centre set up in the French Foreign Ministry. Cuvillier didn't specify exactly where the plane disappeared over Mali, or whether it was in an area controlled by rebels.

But Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Algerian state television said that 10 minutes before disappearing, it was in contact with air traffic controllers in Gao, a city essentially under the control of the Malian government, though it has seen lingering separatist violence.

The plane had been missing for hours before the news was made public. It wasn't immediately clear why airline or government officials didn't make it public earlier.

Air Algerie Flight 5017 was being operated by Spanish airline Swiftair, the company said in a statement. The Spanish pilots' union said the plane belonged to Swiftair.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou to Algiers wasn't immediately clear. Ouagadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but the Tuaregs have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government.

A senior French official said it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a plane.

The official, not authorized to speak publicly, said on condition of anonymity that they primarily have shoulder-fired weapons — not enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude.

The report that five Canadians were on the Air Algerie flight comes a week after a Canadian was among the nearly 300 who perished when a Malaysian passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine in an area controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Andrei Anghel was a 24-year-old medical student from Ajax, east of Toronto.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the Air Algerie flight was carrying 110 passengers and six crew, and left Burkina Faso for Algiers at 0117 GMT Thursday (9:17 p.m. EDT Wednesday), but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 0510 GMT (1:10 a.m. EDT Thursday).

Swiftair said it has not been possible to make contact with the plane and was trying to ascertain what had happened. It said the crew included two pilots and four cabin staff.

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," APS quoted the airline as saying.

The MD-83 is part of a series of jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing Co.

The Canadian Press


Airline disaster remains returned

Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

Human remains continue to be found a full week after the plane went down — underlining concerns about the halting and chaotic recovery effort at the sprawling site spread across farmland in eastern Ukraine. Armed separatists control the area and have hindered access by investigators.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens — were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster. Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was travelling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kyiv to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.

Meanwhile, global aviation leaders will meet in Montreal next week to initiate discussions on a plan to address safety and security issues raised by the shoot-down of jet, an aviation official said late Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue publicly by name.

International experts found more remains still at the crash site both Wednesday and Thursday, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters in Donetsk on Thursday. OSCE observers, sent to monitor the conflict, escorted a delegation from Australia to examine the wreckage Thursday for the first time. More Australian specialists are expected to join them Friday, Bociurkiw said.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels co-operate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes Thursday brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working in Hilversum at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead. Around the world some 1,000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.

Staff will "examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days," police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said in a telephone interview. "Then we have to see if there is a match."

There are three scientific methods of identifying bodies — dental records, finger prints and DNA.

After the experts believe they have positively identified a body, they defend their findings to an international panel. If both agree, the positive identification will be sent to a Dutch prosecution office, which has the power to release the body to the next of kin.

Zorko warned that the process of identification could be drawn out.

"Unfortunately this type of investigation often takes time," she said. "Count on weeks and maybe even months."

The Dutch Safety Board said investigators in England successfully downloaded data from Flight 17's Flight Data Recorder. It said "no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorder was found." It did not release any details of the data.

Meanwhile, police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes by Thursday on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum.

On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the number of Dutch victims had risen by one to 194, taking into account a woman with joint German and Dutch nationalities who earlier had been listed as German.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the crash, but offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

Russia on Thursday brushed off the accusations. Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a video statement that if the U.S. officials indeed had the proof the plane shot down by a missile launched from the rebel-held territory, "how come they have not been made public?"

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands.

The Obama administration on Thursday accused Russia of firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine to hit Ukrainian military sites and asserted that Moscow is boosting its supply of weaponry to pro-Russian separatists.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russian to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. She said the evidence derived from "some intelligence information" but declined to elaborate, saying it would compromise sources and methods of intelligence collection.

In Brussels, ambassadors from the 28 European Union nations agreed Thursday to add more names to the list of Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians subject to EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans for allegedly acting against Ukraine's territorial integrity. Seventy-two people are already covered by the measures.

 

The Canadian Press


Forces close in on rebel stronghold

War literally came to Alexander Litvinenko's living room, when a missile punched a gaping hole into the wall of his ninth-floor apartment. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death.

Others in the residential neighbourhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor's office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country.

"They're bombing the civilian population instead of taking their fight to the battlefield," said Natalya Kiselyova, a dental hygienist in the neighbourhood.

Kiselyova, 38, said she heard the whistle of rockets that landed in the neighbourhood, leaving a crater near a playground and slashing the bark off trees. "In western Ukraine they think we're terrorists. We're ordinary people who want to get up in the morning, go to work and sleep at night."

While the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week riveted international attention on the Ukraine conflict, locals have been struggling for months with spiraling violence. The Ukrainian military, buoyed after the fall of rebel stronghold Slovyansk this month, is now trying to encircle Donetsk and cut off any supply routes from Russia.

Government forces have a delicate task ahead as they try to chase out rebels from densely populated areas. New York-based Human Rights Watch last week called on Poroshenko to investigate cases in which Ukrainian forces appear to have targeted civilians.

Meanwhile, Ukraine blames the rebels for attacks on civilians, saying "terrorists" are trying to discredit government forces.

"We have evidence that the terrorists are intentionally shelling residential areas," said Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko.

"Ukrainian forces never use artillery or aviation against villages and towns," he said.

Even with the threat of Ukrainian strikes, a semblance of normalcy lingers as government forces close in. Buses ply the streets; people walk their dogs in parks; and municipal workers weed flower beds in the manicured city centre. At the same time, most businesses are closed and the city's wide avenues are largely devoid of people and cars. About 40 per cent of Donetsk's 1 million inhabitants have left the city, rebel leader Alexander Borodai said this week.

Residents in a neighbourhood in the western part of Donetsk had a scare Thursday when a shell pierced the top of a nine-story building. Nobody was hurt, and people gathered at the site said they were told by rescue workers that it had most probably been a dummy shell used for aiming artillery.

"We have nowhere to hide. We've been told to hide in the stairwells," said local resident Tatyana Slipenko, 56, who heard the impact while she was doing needlework in her apartment. She said she didn't plan to leave the city.

"Where should we go? This is our land. We're not going anywhere yet, even though we all have relations in Russia."

Litvinenko, the man whose apartment was wrecked, voiced no desire for revenge.

"The solution I see is to stop the shooting. Then Europe and Russia should step in to help start talks," he said. "Nothing will be resolved by force."

The Canadian Press


Car bombing kills 21

Iraqi officials say a double car bombing in central Baghdad has killed 21 people and wounded 33, hours after lawmakers elected the country's new president.

Police officials say the bombs went off minutes apart on Thursday near a restaurant in central Baghdad's busy commercial Karradah neighbourhood as people were gathering to break their daily fast for the holy month of Ramadan.

Dark smoke billowed over Baghdad at dusk as ambulances ferried victims from the site.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi lawmakers elected veteran Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum as the nation's new president, as they struggle to form a new government amid the militant blitz that has engulfed much of northern and western Iraq.

The Canadian Press


Murderer gasps in death chamber

A condemned murderer took nearly two hours to die and gasped for about 90 minutes during an execution in Arizona that quickly rekindled the national debate on capital punishment in the U.S.

The execution of 55-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing. The Arizona Supreme Court also called an impromptu hearing on the matter and learned of his death during the discussions.

"He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour," Wood's lawyers wrote in a legal filing demanding that the courts stop it. "He is still alive."

It is the third prolonged execution this year in the U.S., including one in Ohio in which an inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly a half-hour. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Gov. Jan Brewer said later that she's ordering a full review of the state's execution process, saying she's concerned by how long it took for the administered drug protocol to kill Wood.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and a half. During the gasps, his jaw dropped and his chest expanded and contracted.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. Wood finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

"Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress," said state Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Defence lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

"Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution," Baich said. "The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent."

Family members of Wood's victims in a double 1989 murder said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

"This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let's worry about the drugs," said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz. "Why didn't they give him a bullet, why didn't we give him Drano?"

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his saviour. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

"I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all," Wood said.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them out of concerns that the drug makers could be harassed.

Wood's execution was Arizona's third since October and the state's 36th since 1992.

He was convicted of fatally shooting Dietz and her father, 55-year-old Gene Dietz, at their auto repair shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debbie Dietz had a tumultuous relationship during which he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

On the day of the shooting, Wood went to the auto shop and waited for Gene Dietz, who disapproved of his daughter's relationship with Wood, to get off the phone. Once the father hung up, Wood pulled out a revolver, shot him in the chest and then smiled.

Wood then turned his attention toward Debbie Dietz, who was trying to telephone for help. Wood grabbed her by the neck and put his gun to her chest. She pleaded with him to spare her life. An employee heard Wood say, "I told you I was going to do it. I have to kill you." He then called her an expletive and fired two shots in her chest.

The Canadian Press


Israel hits UN school, kills 15

Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.

Pools of blood soiled the school courtyard, amid scattered books and belongings. There was a large scorch mark in the courtyard marking the place where one of the tank shells hit.

The strike occurred during a day of heavy fighting throughout the coastal territory as Israel pressed ahead with its operation to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the dead and injured in the school compound were among hundreds of people seeking shelter from heavy fighting in the area.

It was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, since the Israeli operation began July 8.

UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, has said it has found militant rockets inside two vacant schools.

The strike came on a day of heavy fighting throughout the Gaza Strip as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade amid international efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors.

An airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Abassan killed five members of another family, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Abassan is near Khan Younis, in an area that saw intense fighting on Wednesday.

The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say. Israel has lost 32 soldiers, all since July 17, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground operation it says is aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no reference to the cease-fire efforts in underscoring his determination to neutralize the rocket and tunnel threats.

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.

"We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel... And we shall return it," Netanyahu said at a joint appearance with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

The Canadian Press


Teen pilot dies in ocean crash

A US teenager who was attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight was killed when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and crews were searching Wednesday for his father, who was also onboard.

Family spokeswoman Annie Hayat said the plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa Tuesday night. Hayat said the body of Haris Suleman had been recovered, but crews were still looking for Pakistani-born Babar Suleman.

The teenager's sister, Hiba Suleman, said the trip had been a dream of her father's for years and that her brother was also excited about it. Haris Suleman had recently obtained his pilot's license and instrument rating, which authorized him to fly an aircraft over oceans, and planned to be the pilot in command except in an emergency.

Hiba Suleman told reporters Wednesday that her father and brother had undergone training in how to handle an ocean landing and wore protective suits while flying over water.

The Sulemans left Indiana on June 19 in hopes of making the trip in 30 days to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command to do so. The father and son were using the trip to raise money for the Citizens Foundation, a non-profit that builds schools in Pakistan.

They missed the 30-day timetable, in part due to food-borne illness, but planned to return home Sunday.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the single-engine Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances. The tail number provided by the FAA shows the plane is registered to a limited liability company whose address matches Babar Suleman's home address in Plainfield, Indiana.

U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said witnesses reported seeing the Honolulu-bound plane crash about a mile from shore shortly after taking off from Pago Pago International Airport.

The Sulemans had made stops throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, and the teenager told The Indianapolis Star earlier this month that he was enjoying each visit.

"There is so much beauty and culture in each country that I couldn't possibly witness all that I want to in the span of two days," he said in an email to the newspaper. "That's the maximum time we've been able to spend at a stop."

The Canadian Press


Flash floods now a concern

Wetter, cooler weather has helped firefighters make progress in their efforts to get the largest wildfire in Washington state's history under control.

With more rain in the forecast, they just hope too much moisture doesn't lead to flash floods after so much ground vegetation has been burned away.

The Carlton Complex of fires, which has burned nearly 400 square miles in the north-central part of the state, was 16 per cent contained as of Tuesday, fire spokeswoman Jessica Payne said. A day earlier, the fire was just 2 per cent contained.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch from Wednesday morning through Wednesday evening because of expected heavy rainfall.

"It takes as little as 10 minutes of heavy rain to cause flash flooding and debris flows in and below areas affected by wildfires," the advisory said. "Rain runs off almost instantly from burned soils ... causing creeks and drainages to flood at a much faster rate than normal."

Still, the weather change was a positive development.

"The cooler weather and the moisture has cooled aspects of the fire down," fire spokeswoman Susan Peterson said Tuesday evening. "In some instances, firefighters were able to do a direct attack.

"We had additional crews come in, and they were able to put lines in closer to the fire itself."

Speaking at a fundraiser Tuesday in Seattle, President Barack Obama said the wildfire, along with other Western blazes, can be attributed to climate change.

"A lot of it has to do with drought, a lot of it has to do with changing precipitation patterns, and a lot of that has to do with climate change," the president said.

Obama also said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate had authorized an emergency declaration to ensure communities that lost power because of burned power lines and poles get electrical power.

At more than 250,000 acres, the Carlton Complex is larger than the 1902 Yacolt Burn, which consumed 238,920 acres in southwestern Washington and was the state's largest recorded forest fire, according to HistoryLink.org, an online resource of Washington state history.

The fire is being blamed for one death. Rob Koczewski, 67, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday while he and his wife were hauling water and digging fire lines near their home. Koczewski was a retired Washington State Patrol trooper and U.S. Marine.

The number of homes destroyed in the Carlton Complex fire remained at 150, Payne said. Two structures, an outbuilding and a seasonal cabin, were confirmed destroyed Tuesday in the Chiwaukum Creek Fire near Leavenworth, she said.

More than 2,100 firefighters and support crew are involved with fighting the fire, Payne said. She said firefighters have had success with fire lines on the east side of state Highway 153 between Carlton and Twisp.

Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state's Military Department, said the National Guard has already been offering aerial support, but 100 National Guard troops were now being used on the ground for firefighting, and additional troops were receiving firefighting training for potential future use.

Fires are currently burning in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California, and both Oregon and Washington have declared states of emergency.

The Canadian Press


Plane crash kills 51 people

A plane making a second landing attempt in stormy weather crashed at an airport on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday, killing 51 people and injuring seven, fire officials said.

Taiwan was battered by Typhoon Matmo early Tuesday morning, and the Central Weather Bureau was advising of heavy rain through the evening, even though the centre of the storm was in mainland China.

The flight was heading from the capital, Taipei, to the island Penghu, halfway between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait. Pictures from the airport showed a handful of firefighters using flashlights to look at wreckage in the darkness.

Penghu is a lightly populated island that averages about two flights a day from Taipei.

Taiwan's Central News Agency cites the Civil Aviation Administration as saying the flight carried 54 passengers and four flight crew and was operated by a Taiwanese airline, TransAsia Airways.

The Canadian Press


New arrest links gun to bomber

A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer during the manhunt, people with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday.

Stephen Silva made an initial appearance in federal court on charges related to heroin trafficking and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number. An attorney for Silva, Jonathan Shapiro, said Tuesday evening that he had received the case only a few hours earlier.

"According to news reports, law-enforcement officials say it is the same weapon that was used ... in the MIT officer Sean Collier shooting. However, this has not been charged in the indictment," Shapiro said.

"I am in the process of meeting with my client and reviewing the available evidence which will eventually be presented in a court of law in accordance with our system of justice," Shapiro said in a statement. "Out of respect for that system and for my client, I cannot make any further comment on the case."

The 9 mm Ruger pistol described in the indictment is the same handgun that was used to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier during the manhunt for the bombing suspects, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation. The grand jury indictment, which was filed July 15, does not mention Collier's slaying or any connection to Tsarnaev.

The origin of the gun was among the lingering mysteries of the investigation into the April 2013 attack, in which three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the finish line. Collier, a 26-year-old MIT campus police officer, was ambushed several days later and shot multiple times in his car.

According to the indictment, Silva knowingly had possession of the gun, "which had the importer's and manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, and altered and had previously been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce."

The indictment also alleges that Silva conspired to distribute heroin this summer in the Boston area.

Silva is a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He said in court Tuesday that he graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2011, the same year as Tsarnaev. Silva was ordered to remain in custody ahead of a bail hearing scheduled for Aug. 6.

Dzhokhar's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police several days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped but was soon found, wounded and hiding in a boat dry-docked in a backyard in suburban Watertown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Four other men have been charged with crimes related to the bombing investigation.

On Monday, a federal jury found Azamat Tazhayakov guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy for trying to protect Tsarnaev by agreeing with another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, to get rid of a backpack and disable fireworks they took from his dorm room. Kadyrbayev is to be tried next month on the same charges. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are both natives of Kazakhstan.

Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to investigators about being in the dorm room with Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov the night the items were taken, is to have a separate trial in September. And a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Khairulluzon Matanov, is to be tried next year on charges that he lied to investigators about the extent of his friendship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the contact he had with both brothers in the days following the bombings.

The Canadian Press


Swallowed by the sand

A young man died after a hole he dug on a Northern California beach collapsed and trapped him in the sand for at least five minutes, authorities said Tuesday.

The man dug a roughly 10-foot-deep hole at Francis State Beach and was standing in it around 5:30 p.m. Monday when the sand started caving in around him, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Jonathan Cox said.

About 30 people, including the man's friends and bystanders, frantically dug with their hands, buckets and other improvised tools to expose his head. They were able to free his head in about five minutes, just as firefighters arrived at the scene, Cox said.

"When they got there, they discovered he was unconscious," he said.

Cox said paramedics managed to open his airways while about 30 firefighters, aided by the bystanders, used shovels and other equipment to pull out his body.

Rescuers extricated him in about 35 minutes and tried to revive him, but he died at the scene, Cox said.

The man who died at the beach about 30 miles southwest of downtown San Francisco was identified by the San Mateo County Coroner's office as Adam Pye, 26, of San Lorenzo.

He dug the hole on a campground area of the beach, about 10 to 15 feet from the water line, Cox said.

The Canadian Press




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