Zim government calls on citizens to return home

JOHANNESBURG – The new dispensation in Harare needs the buy-in and investment of millions of Zimbabweans who left the country and settled elsewhere, particularly the multitudes resident in neighbouring South Africa, if the vision of turning around the Zimbabwean economy is to be realised, Zimbabwe consul general Henry Mukonoweshuro told expatriates in Johannesburg.

Addressing the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards ceremony in Johannesburg on Saturday night, Mukonoweshuro appealed to Zimbabweans based in South Africa to seriously consider moving back and investing in their motherland, now led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“As we meet today, in the new dispensation as we called it since last November, the government of Zimbabwe is very proud. We, as the representatives of the government of Zimbabwe are very proud to say as you toil, as you make names in these foreign lands, you should now start looking north of the Limpopo (River). As the president (Mnangagwa) always says, his mantra – Zimbabwe is now open for business,” said Mukonoweshuro.

“It (Zimbabwe) is indeed open for business, mostly from the diasporans. You will recall a Zimbabwe that you left probably 15, 20, or 35 years ago, and I think you are still yearning for a return to that Zimbabwe – the bread basket of Southern Africa. We believe we can do it together. With the experience that you have gained, with the synergies that you have created in these developed countries, I think you can team up, look north, and say let us trek back together, let us go back and build that Zimbabwe which gave us education, which gave us basic skills,” he said.

READ: Zimbabwe will not return land to white farmers: Mnangagwa

Founded in 2010 by Conrad Mwanza, the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards have different chapters in various counties, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, where millions of Zimbabweans relocated, escaping decades of economic meltdown and political turmoil during the iron-fisted rule of former president Robert Mugabe.

Renowned South African-based Zimbabwean business mogul Justice Maphosa cautioned that Zimbabweans based in foreign countries could miss out on economic opportunities in their own nation if they did not heed their government’s call, as other nationalities, particularly South Africans, were now intensifying trade and investment in Zimbabwe.

“We are very slow, as Africans, to take up and pick up opportunities, almost to the point of fear, almost to the point of a wait and see attitude… we wait for the Chinese, British, Americans, Canadians, Australians to start it and show us. Let me give you an example – how many South Africans are investing in Zimbabwe now? Get into the planes now, and see who is investing in Zimbabwe. Many of those people (travelling to Zimbabwe) are not there for holidays, they are there to see if it is believable,” said Maphosa.

READ: Zimbabwe’s new president promises to compensate white farmers

The businessman urged his compatriots to invest back home.

“I would say anyone who has got even a five cents of business worth in himself should go and invest in Zimbabwe. The country Zimbabwe offers a premium that very few African countries offer. Let me take you back – what was Rwanda in 1994, or even before the genocide? It was nothing and nobody. What is Rwanda today? They have just held (hosted) the African Union and they have held it successfully, meaning they have got infrastructure,” he said.

For building a massive business empire in South Africa, his philanthropy initiatives, and founding the Big Time Strategic Group SA, which has a diversified portfolio in ICT, aviation, property, project management, and farming, Maphosa received a special recognition accolade from the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards team.

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Israel warned by UN as protesters head for Gaza demonstrations

Gaza Secretary general urges Israeli forces to use ‘extreme caution’ amid fears of fresh violence

Black smoke rises while Palestinians protest on the Gaza side of the border with Israel.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has warned Israel to exercise “extreme caution” in its response to continuing demonstrations in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have joined protests at camps close to the border.

The warning came amid fears of fresh deadly violence on Friday after Israeli fire claimed 18 Palestinian lives at demonstrations at the Gaza border fence a week ago.

Guterres’s comments were followed by an explicit warning by the UN human rights spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell that unjustified recourse to live fire could amount to wilful killing of civilians, a breach of the Ffourth Geneva convention.

Guterres’s appeal came as Israel deployed tanks and snipers along the Gaza border in anticipation of further protests on Friday, a week after the bloodiest single day since a 2014 war. Another two Gazans have been killed since.

First reports from Gaza suggested three people had been wounded as clashes erupted in five hotspots along the border fence, with Israeli troops reportedly using live fire.

According to reports in the Israeli media, the Israel defence forces were anticipating that as many as 50,000 demonstrators could participate on Friday, with the rules of engagement allowing live fire to be used against anyone who approaches the border fence apparently unchanged.

Palestinian paramedics set up ahead of protests on the Israel-Gaza border near Khan Yunis. Photograph: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images In a statement the Israeli military underlined its determination to prevent any protesters approaching close to the fence itself. “The IDF will not allow any breach of the security infrastructure and fence, which protects Israeli civilians, and will act against those who are involved in these attacks,” it said.

Guterres said in a statement: “I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully.

“I call upon all parties on the ground to avoid confrontation and exercise maximum restraint.”

Protesters burned tires as Gazans streamed towards the protest camps to demonstrate in support Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

According to reports, a bulldozer had put up an earth berm near the protest camp nearest to the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, designed to protect it from Israeli fire.

Cities at war: how Gaza is bracing for the next blow – video The Gaza strip’s border with Israel is highly sensitive for both sides, carving a line south from the dunes of the Erez crossing in the north across a low ridgeline to Egypt and the area of Rafah in the south.

Overseen in places by observation balloons, in other places the border is comprised of a double fence and an Israeli security road.

As tensions mounted on Friday Israeli forces fired tear gas that landed inside the encampment near the large agricultural village of Khuza’a, briefly sending people fleeing.

Yehia Abu Daqqa, a 20-year-old student, said he had come to demonstrate and honour those killed in the past.

“Yes, there is fear,” he said of the risks of advancing toward the fence. “We are here to tell the occupation that we are not weak.”

Palestinians run for cover from tears gas canisters fired at them east of Gaza City in the Gaza strip. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images Friday’s march is the second in what Gaza’s Hamas rulers have said would be several weeks of protests against a decade-old border blockade of the territory. Israel has accused Hamas of trying to carry out border attacks under the cover of large protests and said it would prevent a breach of the fence at all costs.

A leading Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, issued a rare appeal to Israeli soldiers to refuse “grossly illegal” orders to fire at unarmed protesters.

A White House envoy urged Palestinians to stay away from the fence. Jason Greenblatt said the United States condemned “leaders and protesters who call for violence or who send protesters including children to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed”.

Twenty two Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the past week, among them 16 involved in last Friday’s protests, according to Gaza health officials. This includes a 30-year-old who died on Friday of injuries sustained last week, the officials said.

Black Panther is debut film for first Saudi cinema

Black Panther will be the first movie shown when Saudi Arabia opens its first cinema in 35 years – bringing an end to a ban in the deeply conservative Kingdom.

The Marvel blockbuster will be screened at a gala premiere in the capital Riyadh on 18 age: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has spearheaded reforms in the deeply conservative KingdomApril.

The plush new cinema’s main theatre will be built with 500 leather seats, orchestra and balcony levels, as well as marble bathrooms. Three more screens will be added by mid-summer.

The move follows a deal with AMC Entertainment Holdings to open up to 40 theatres acoss the country during the next five years.

Unlike other public venues in the Kingdom, the cinemas will not be segregated by gender.

The first steps towards lifting the ban got under way in January this year when feature-length films for children were screened in a makeshift cinema equipped with a popcorn machine in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

AMC’s first cinema will be located in the King Abdullah financial district in a building originally intended to be a symphony concert hall, AMC chief executive Adam Aron said.

He added: “We think it’s going to be the prettiest movie theatre in the world. It’s a dramatic building.”

Image: A makeshift cinema was created for children in the Red Sea City of Jeddah in January this year

Culture and information minister Awwad Alawwad said: “The restoration of cinemas will… help boost the local economy by increasing household spending on entertainment while supporting job creation in the Kingdom.”

John Fithian, president of the US-based National Association of Theatre Owners, met Saudi officials in Riyadh in December to discuss what type of material the cinemas would be allowed to showcase.

He said he believed most Hollywood movies will be allowed, though some will require editing.

Mr Aron added that he expected the same versions of films shown in Dubai or Kuwait would be considered suitable for audiences in Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom’s cinemas were shut down in the 1970s by its powerful clerics.

Last year, authorities said the ban would be lifted as part of social reforms spearheaded by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the government tries to broaden the economy and lessen its dependence on oil.

The drive has already opened the door to concerts, comedy shows as well as women being allowed to drive and attend football matches.

Malaysia approves law banning fake news ahead of elections

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s parliament on Monday passed a law prohibiting fake news that critics fear will be abused to silence dissent ahead of a general election.

Despite warnings such a law would lead Malaysia closer to dictatorship, the bill was approved 123 to 64 after a heated debate. The bill originally proposed a 10-year jail term and a fine of up to $128 000 for offenders, but the approved legislation sets the maximum prison sentence at six years.

Rights activists say the law appears aimed at shutting down discussion of a multibillion-dollar financial scandal involving Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is widely expected to call for national elections in the next few days.

They also fear the bill, which covers all media and extends even to foreigners outside Malaysia, could be used against critics of gerrymandering or other aspects of the electoral process after parliament last week swiftly approved controversial new constituency boundaries for the elections, which are due in August but widely expected soon.

“The existing laws are sufficient, why do we need one more act? This will see one step forward to dictatorship, this is more than autocracy,” opposition lawmaker Lim Guan Eng told parliament.

Azalina Othman, minister in charge of law, said social media such as Twitter and Facebook have acknowledged they are unable to monitor fake news on their platforms. She said the bill gives power to the court, not the government, to decide what is fake news.

“No one is above the law. We are all accountable for our actions,” she said.

Fake news

Government officials have accused the opposition coalition of using fake news to win votes and warned that any news about the indebted 1MDB state fund that has not been verified by the government is fake.

The US and several other countries are investigating allegations of cross-border embezzlement and money laundering at 1MDB, which was set up and previously led by Najib to promote economic development, but which accumulated billions in debt. The US Justice Department says at least $4.5bn was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib, and it is working to seize $1.7bn taken from the fund to buy assets in the US, potentially its largest asset seizure ever.

Najib, who denies any wrongdoing, has fired critics in his government and muzzled the media since the corruption scandal erupted three years ago.

Support for Najib’s ruling coalition has dwindled in the last two elections. In 2013, it lost the popular vote for the first time to the opposition. Yet analysts say Najib is expected to win a third term due to infighting in the opposition, the unfavourable electoral boundary changes and strong support for the government among rural ethnic Malays.

Other Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and the Philippines, have also proposed laws to clamp down on fake news.

Trump vows to deploy military to Mexican border

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed to deploy the military to the border with Mexico, something he described as a “big step.”

Cultivating his tough-on-migration image during a White House meeting with Baltic leaders, Trump said “we are going to be guarding our border with our military” as he lashed out at his predecessor.

“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he claimed, without elaborating.

Trump has raged at Mexico for allowing around 1500 demonstrators from Central America to walk toward the US border

Like each of the last five years, they set off from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas for the US border, where many hope to apply for asylum.

Spurred on by right wing media, Trump has leapt on the “caravan” as evidence of the need for a border wall.

“If it reaches our border our laws are so weak and so pathetic… it’s like we have no border.”

“We need to have a wall that’s about 700-800 miles” of the border, he said.

Struggle icon Winnie Mandela dies

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday, April 2 after a long illness.
Victor Dlamini, a spokesperson for the Mandela family confirmed in a media statement.
Born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape in 1936‚ Madikizela-Mandela moved to Johannesburg to study social work after matriculating.
In 1957, she met lawyer and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela and they married a year later and had two children together.
The marriage was short-lived‚ as he was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. Mandela was eventually released in 1990.
During Mandela’s time in prison‚ Madikizela-Mandela was not spared from the brutality of apartheid forces. She was placed under house arrest and at one time banished, along with her infant daughter Zindzi, to Brandfort, a town in the Free State. In 1969‚ Madikizela-Mandela became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act of 1967. She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in a condemned cell at Pretoria Central Prison before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.
The picture of her hand-in-hand with Mandela as he walked free from prison after 27 years, became one of the most recognisable symbols of the anti-apartheid struggle.
The Mandela family says it will release details of the memorial and funeral services once these have been finalised.
This story will be updated as more details emerge.

May says Britain and Europe need a new security treaty

PM May today warned EU not to put ideology ahead of post-Brexit security deal At the Munich Security Council she argued it could put lives at risk from crime

May wants to preserve existing arrangements to fight terrorism successfully

Spy chiefs from the UK, France and Germany endorsed the call yesterday

Theresa May was forced to rebuff calls to reverse Brexit after she warned a failure to strike a new UK-EU security treaty could cost lives

Theresa May was forced to rebuff calls to reverse Brexit today after she warned a failure to strike a new UK-EU security treaty could cost lives.

The Prime Minister was challenged twice after her speech to the Munich Security Conference to explain why she was pushing through the referendum if it could have dangerous consequences.

Questions about why she was pressing ahead with Brexit won louder applause from delegates than Mrs May’s speech.

But in response to the pleas for a U-turn, Mrs May insisted that Britain’s democratic decision must be respected.

She said: ‘We are leaving the EU and there is no question of a second referendum or going back and I think that’s important.

‘People in the UK feel very strongly that if we take a decision, then governments should turn not round and say no you got that wrong.’

In her speech, the Premier said ‘Europe’s security is our security’ and set out her ‘unconditional’ determination to agree a comprehensive new treaty before the end of 2019.

Mrs May warned the EU not to insist on a powerful role for European judges and other institutions that could restrict security co-operation – demands likely to completely unacceptable to Brexiteers.

WHEN WILL BRITAIN BE OUT OF THE EU?

Britain triggered Article 50 on March 29, 2017, starting a two year process for leaving the EU:

March 2018: Transition deal due to be agreed, running for about two years

October 2018: Political agreement on the future partnership due to be agreed

Early 2019: Major votes in Westminster and Brussels to ratify the deal

March 29, 2019: Article 50 expires, Britain leaves the EU. Transition is expected to keep everything the same for about two years

December 31, 2020: Transition expected to come to an end and the new relationship – if it has been agreed – should kick in

The PM said neither ‘rigid institutional restrictions’ nor a ‘deep-seated ideology’ should come before protecting the public insisting that Britain and Europe’s common enemies ‘would like nothing more than to see us fractured’.

EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker followed Mrs May on to the stage at the conference in Munich, spending most of his speech discussing security issues in the Balkans.

But answering questions after his speech, Mr Juncker endorsed keeping trade and security separate.

Mrs May hailed the success of EU-wide co-operation against terrorists, people smugglers and organised crime.

She urged EU leaders to ‘safeguard the practical co-operation we have developed and nurtured over decades’, while warning of ‘damaging real world consequences’ if leaders reject new forms of co-operation outside the writ of European law.

Mrs May wants to preserve arrangements that allow co-operation in areas such as data-sharing between police and security services and extradition of criminal and terror suspects.

These currently come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and there are fears that Brussels could undermine a deal by making unreasonable demands about the role of the court.

Theresa May (pictured in Munich today) has insisted that keeping people safe means countries working together in her major speech on the road to Brexit

Addressing an audience of world leaders and securocrats (pictured), Mrs May told the EU not to insist on a powerful role for European judges and other institutions that could restrict security co-operation

Questions about why she was pressing ahead with Brexit won louder applause from delegates than Mrs May’s speech. The PM is pictured today as she arrived for her remarks in Munich

Following the speech, Labour MP and Open Britain supporter Alison McGovern said: ‘Theresa May just made an extremely persuasive argument against Brexit.

‘She was right to warn against putting ideology above the interests of citizens, and to talk up the importance of Europe-wide security measures.

‘But she remains determined to pursue the hardest and most destructive form of Brexit imaginable, which makes weakening our security cooperation with the EU all but inevitable.’

Top spooks from the UK, France and Germany yesterday appeared in public together for the first time ever to warn Brussels not to undermine the current alliance.

The Prime Minister’s comments – in a speech entitled ‘Road to Brexit: A Security Partnership’ – come in the second of a series of Government speeches on the state of the negotiations.

‘Europe’s security is our security and that is why I have said that the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining it,’ Mrs May said.

‘The challenge for all of us today is finding the way to work together, through a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, to retain the co-operation that we have built and go further in meeting the evolving threats we face together.

‘This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our co-operation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.

‘We must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic in ensuring our collective security.’

Mrs May will set out the vast contribution Britain’s policy, security and intelligence agencies currently make to protecting lives across the continent. The UK is one of the biggest contributors of data, intelligence and expertise to Europol.

‘People across Europe are safer because of this co-operation and the unique arrangements we have developed between the UK and EU institutions in recent years,’ the Prime Minister said.

Theresa May (pictured making her speech in Munich today) has called for a comprehensive security treaty to be in place before the end of 2019

Mrs May’s speech comes a day after crunch talks and a tense press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday (pictured) on the first leg of her trip to Germany

‘So it is in all our interests to find ways to protect the capabilities which underpin this co-operation when the UK becomes a European country outside the EU but in a new partnership with it. To make this happen will require real political will on both sides.

TOP SPOOKS FROM THE UK, FRANCE AND GERMANY UNITE TO WARN BRUSSELS OVER POST-BREXIT SECURITY

Meeting at the Munich Security Conference the trio of spooks also pushed for an agreement on cross-border information sharing in order to monitor suspect terrorists.

Spy chiefs from Britain, France and Germany today warned their intelligence co-operation post-Brexit was ‘indispensable’ in an unprecedented intervention.

Alex Younger, the head of MI6, and his European counterparts, met in public for the first time to stress the necessity of their close ties when Britain leaves the UK.

Germany’s BND President Bruno Kahl and France’s DGSE chief Bernard Ernie joined forces to pressure Brussels over the need for continued security links.

On the eve of Theresa May’s speech in Munich on security, the trio also pushed for an agreement on cross-border information sharing in order to monitor suspect terrorists.

In a warning shot to Brussels ahead of crucial negotiations, they said the failure to be able to mount a collective modern response to modern threats would ‘lead to even greater risk’.

A modern response would include technological innovation, hybrid capabilities and the ability to be more creative and more agile to counter growing threats.

Following a top secret trilateral meeting in Germany, they stressed the need for close ties on international terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks.

‘I recognise there is no existing security agreement between the EU and a third country that captures the full depth and breadth of our existing relationship.

‘But there is precedent for comprehensive, strategic relationships between the EU and third countries in other fields, such as trade. And there is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached in the area of internal security.

‘However, if the priority in the negotiations becomes avoiding any kind of new co-operation with a country outside the EU, then this political doctrine and ideology will have damaging real world consequences for the security of all our people in the UK and the EU. As leaders, we cannot let that happen.’

Mrs May added: ‘Those who threaten our security would like nothing more than to see us fractured.

‘They would like nothing more than to see us put debates about mechanisms and means ahead of doing what is most practical and effective in keeping our people safe. So let our message ring out loud and clear: we will not let that happen.

‘We will keep our people safe, now and in the years to come. Nothing must get in the way of our helping each other in every hour of every day to keep our people safe. If we put this at the heart of our mission, we can and will find the means.’

Today’s speech comes after an unprecedented intervention by spy chiefs from Britain, France and Germany who said post-Brexit intelligence co-operation was ‘indispensable’.

Alex Younger, the head of MI6, and his European counterparts met in public for the first time yesterday to stress the necessity of their close ties when Britain leaves the EU.

Germany’s BND President Bruno Kahl and France’s DGSE chief Bernard Ernie joined forces to pressure Brussels over the need for continued security links.

They also pushed for an agreement on cross-border information sharing to monitor suspect terrorists, saying failure to mount a collective modern response – including technological innovation – to modern threats would ‘lead to even greater risk’.

Alex Younger (right), the head of MI6, and his European counterparts Germany’s BND President Bruno Kahl (centre) and France’s DGSE chief Bernard Ernie (left), met in public for the first time today (pictured) to stress the necessity of their close ties

After a meeting in Germany, a statement released by the three spy chiefs said: ‘To have effect, our efforts must be combined in partnership.

‘Co-operation between European intelligence agencies combined with the values of liberal democracy is indispensable, especially against a background of diverse foreign and security policy challenges.

‘Even after the UK’s exit from the EU, close co-operation and cross-border information sharing must be taken forward on themes such as international terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks.’

Four Israeli soldiers injured, two seriously, in border blast

Four Israeli soldiers injured, two seriously, in border blast

Tanks retaliate against look-out post in Gaza, with no casualties, say Palestinian authorities

Israeli soldiers near the border fence with the southern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters Four IDF soldiers have been wounded, two seriously, in an explosion on Saturday along Israel’s border with Gaza, the Israeli military said. All four were evacuated for medical treatment.

In response, the military said, one of its tanks struck an observation post in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said the target belonged to the Islamic Jihad group and that there were no casualties on the Palestinian side.

Israel usually strikes Hamas, the Islamic group that rules Gaza, in retaliation for all attacks emanating from the territory, regardless of who carried them out.

In the post-2014 war reality established along the frontier, Israel generally carries out limited retaliations to any militant provocations in Gaza. The border area has mostly been quiet since the war, but has seen an increase in violence since President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However, Israeli casualties could spark a fiercer response. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the incident “severe” and vowed to “respond accordingly”. The incident also comes amid rising warnings of a brewing humanitarian disaster in Gaza that Israel fears could spill over into violence.

Gaza, a tiny strip of land sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, has seen conditions steadily deteriorate. Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and forcibly seized the territory a year later from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade in an attempt to weaken Hamas, and Israel and Hamas have fought three wars. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hoping to regain control, has stepped up pressure on Hamas by cutting salaries of civil servants and limiting electricity supply.

Israel, however, has begun to soften its line recently, appealing for international aid, and may be less inclined to strike hard militarily, even if targeted by rocket fire and border attacks.

Pope Francis says he’s on ‘waiting list’ for sainthood as Chilean sex abuse survivor testifies in NY

Pope Francis admitted Saturday that he can sometimes struggle with modern technology while joking that both he and his predecessor are on the “waiting list” for sainthood.

“I don’t know how to use online networks and that kind of thing, not even mobile phones, I don’t have one,” the 81-year-old pontiff told his audience in Rome. “I don’t know how to use the internet. When I have to send an email I write it by hand and a secretary sends it for me,” he added.

Pope Francis also announced that Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, and is widely credited as a reformer within the Catholic faith, will be canonized as a saint later in 2018. More than 80 popes are recognized as saints by the Catholic Church while many more have been beatified, or declared to be among the blessed and entitled to specific religious honor and veneration.

He also joked that both he and his predecessor could one day also be canonized. “And Benedict and I are on the waiting list,” Pope Francis said, jokingly. “Pray for us!” However, such a joke may once again shine a spotlight on the past and present pontiffs’ failures amid yet another series of child sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI resigned in February 2013 following a slew of financial scandals.

Meanwhile, in New York, the key witness in the sex abuse case leveled against a Chilean bishop gave “eye opening” testimony to a papally-mandated investigator. Juan Carlos Cruz spoke with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the most experienced Vatican investigators of sexual abuse, for approximately four hours Saturday.

“I feel that I was heard… it was very intense and very detailed and very, sometimes, eye-opening for them,” Cruz said, as cited by Reuters. “He was hearing my testimony, and I was telling him about the abuse, about the cover up [and] the way survivors, not just me, are treated… the personal toll it takes on someone. He was crying… it wasn’t an act… I felt that he was concerned and that he was listening,” Cruz said. “Hopefully it will lead to good things.”

Pope Francis previously accused the alleged victims of sexual abuse in Chile of slander, describing their allegations against Bishop Juan Barros as “calumny” with “not a shred of evidence against him.” He later apologized for his comments saying, “covering up abuse is an abuse in itself.” The man that the Argentinian pontiff put in charge of financial reform, Cardinal George Pell, was recalled to Australia to face sex offense charges in 2017.

Only those able to acknowledge their mistakes and ask pardon receive understanding and forgiveness from others.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) February 17, 2018

The Pope’s widely publicized and often-lauded efforts at reform within the Church have alienated more conservative Catholics in the Vatican while his remarks regarding the multiple child sex scandals besetting the Catholic Church have disenfranchised his secular, liberal supporters.

Pope Francis has also received an unprecedented challenge to his papacy after four cardinals issued a dubia or letter of theological doubt, after the perceived softening of the Catholic Church’s stance on the topics of homosexuality, divorce and remarriage in 2014 and 2015.

The pontiff has also weighed in on political affairs such as the refugee crisis in Europe, climate change, and US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, there was much dismay when he failed to condemn the actions of the Burmese military and the Myanmar government’s handling of the Rohingya crisis and alleged genocide during a recent tour.

We cannot remain silent before the suffering of millions of people whose dignity has been wounded.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) February 8, 2018

Two dead after train smashes into car on level crossing

Two people have died after a car was struck by a train on a level crossing in West Sussex.

The pair are believed to be a 15-year-old boy and his grandfather on their way to a football match.

The vehicle was described by witnesses as being ‘engulfed by a fireball’ before it was shunted along the track at great speed. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The tragedy happened just before 9am today in Horsham, West Sussex.

Two people have died after a train struck a car at a level crossing in Horsham, West Sussex

Tragic: A witness described the blue car, pictured above, as ‘split in two’

British Transport Police said officers were called to the scene near Barns Green village at 8.47am on Saturday

The two victims of a horrific collision on a level crossing are believed to have been a boy and his grandfather

A witness at the scene he believed the car had gone round the safety barriers as there appeared to be no damage to the gates.

Philip Packer told the Daily Mirror: ‘The car split in two – One half they had to put a cover over and the other half, seen in my photo, was a few yards down the track.

‘When we were evacuated from the train both the barriers were still there (and it) looks like they had gone around them.’

Officers from British Transport Police (BTP) attended the scene with Sussex Police and paramedics.

Around 150 people were evacuated from the train.

Southern said rail services would be affected for the rest of the day, with buses replacing trains between Horsham and Pulborough.

Officers from British Transport Police (BTP) attended the scene with Sussex Police and paramedics

BTP said the two people were pronounced dead at the scene and officers are ‘currently examining the scene to establish the circumstances which led to the car being struck’.

Detective Inspector Brett Walker from BTP said: ‘This is an extremely tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time. ‘Our officers have been working at the scene, and will continue to do so for the rest of the day, to ensure we gain as much information about how the collision happened.

‘People should expect some disruption to services in the area while we investigate. I would like to thank the community in Barns Green for their support and patience.

‘Local people will see more of our officers in the area throughout the day and I would urge anyone who saw what happened, or feels they may have any information which would be relevant to our investigation, to contact us.’

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch have been notified of this incident.

Many of the train passengers were taken to the nearby Sumners Ponds campsite, where they were given hot drinks until rail replacement buses arrived.

Israel Gaza: Air strikes follow bomb blast on Gaza border

The Israeli military has carried out a number of strikes against Palestinian positions overnight in the Gaza Strip.

They came in response to a bomb attack on Saturday which wounded four Israeli soldiers.

Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire in Gaza. The Israeli air force also claimed to have destroyed a number of sites linked to Hamas.

It is one of the most serious escalations in violence since Israel and Hamas fought a war in 2014.

The Israeli army said it hit 18 Hamas military targets from Saturday night through to Sunday, including “weapons manufacturing infrastructure” and a tunnel being dug by militants.

It also targeted two observation posts.

Palestinian officials said three Hamas training camps and one belonging to a smaller group had been struck.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that it had used anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli jets flying over the coastal territory.

On Saturday two Palestinian teenagers were also killed by Israeli tank fire east of Rafah.

The pair were in a group approaching the border in “a suspicious manner”, Israel’s army said.

It came after four Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers were injured, two seriously, in an explosion on Saturday afternoon east of the town of Khan Younis.

The army said the explosive device had been planted during a demonstration there on Friday and was attached to a flag which the troops attempted to remove.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is attending a security conference in Munich, Germany, said: “The incident on the Gaza border is very serious. We will respond appropriately.”

Israeli media also said a rocket from Gaza fell near a house in the south of the country on Saturday evening. There were no casualties.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket and mortar fire from the territory. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Correspondents say the border area has been generally quiet in the last few years but there has been an increase in violence since US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. Palestinians want the east of the city, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, to be a capital of a future state.

US vows investigation into Syria attack involving Russians

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vowed to find out who ordered an attack involving Russian citizens on US-allied forces in Syria

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday vowed to investigate an attack involving Russian citizens on American-allied forces in Syria but stopped short of accusing Moscow of orchestrating the assault.

Russia has acknowledged that five of its citizens were killed in a US-led coalition bombing in the eastern Deir Ezzor province after they were part of a group of pro-regime combatants which led an attack on positions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“I understand that the Russian government now is saying that some of their not-military forces, contractors, were involved in that still unexplained attack,” Mattis said while flying back to Washington after a weeklong tour of Europe, adding that Russian officers the US coordinated with were “apparently” unaware.

“But they took directions from someone. Was it local directions? Was it from external sources? Don’t ask me, I don’t know. But I doubt that 250 to 300 people, all just excited on their individual self, suddenly crossed the river in enemy territory, started shelling a location and maneuvering tanks against it.

“So, whatever happened, we’ll try to figure it out. We’ll work with obviously anyone who can answer that question.”

At the time of the attack on February 7, the Russian defense ministry insisted it had no servicemen in the eastern province of Syria.

However, many Russian citizens are fighting in Syria as mercenaries working for a private military company called Wagner according to numerous reports.

Mercenaries not directly affiliated with the Russian military may be convenient for Moscow’s interests in Syria while assuring deniability of government involvement

‘Shame on you!’ student tells Trump at Florida anti-gun rally

Three days after a troubled teen armed with an assault rifle killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez delivered a fiery address to a crowd of students, parents and residents in nearby Ft. Lauderdale.

“To every politician taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!” she thundered, assailing Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby — and prompting the crowd to chant in turn: “Shame on you!”

“We are going to be the last mass shooting,” she vowed. “We are going to change the law,” she said — slamming the fact 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz was able to legally buy a semi-automatic firearm despite a history of troubling and violent behavior.

“The question on whether or not people should be allowed to own an automatic weapon is not a political one. It is question of life or death and it needs to stop being a question of politics,” Gonzalez told AFP following her speech.

One of the signs at the gun control rally at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on February 17, 2018

In Washington, the political response has made clear that the powerful NRA pro-gun lobby remains formidable, while Trump himself suggested the root cause of mass shootings was a crisis of mental health — making no mention of gun control.

“If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and… how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association,” Gonzalez said in her impassioned address.

“It doesn’t matter because I already know. Thirty million,” she told the rally attended by fellow students, parents and local officials, citing the sum spent by the NRA to support Trump’s election bid and defeat Hillary Clinton.

She then ran through a list of the pro-gun lobby’s talking points — for example, that “a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun,” that no law could ever stop a madman intent on killing — answering each argument with “We call BS.”

The young woman’s powerful address immediately went viral, with her name a top trending topic on Twitter.

Trump tweeted a day after the massacre that neighbors and fellow students had failed to flag Cruz to the authorities.

“We did,” Gonzalez fired back at Trump, her voice shaking with emotion as she insisted the community had done its best to raise the alarm. “Time and time again. Since he was in middle school. It was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter.”

– Missed warnings –

US authorities have come under mounting scrutiny for failing to act on a series of warning signs.

The FBI admitted Friday it received a chilling warning in January from a tipster who said Cruz could be planning a mass shooting, but that agents failed to follow up.

A protester at the gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marco refers to US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has received millions in political help from pro-gun groups

Cruz was also known to local police after his mother repeatedly reported him for violent outbursts, while records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel show authorities investigated Cruz in 2016 after he cut his arms on messaging app Snapchat and threatened to buy a gun.

The newspaper, citing Department of Children and Family Services documents, said the investigation came four days after Cruz turned 18 — legally an adult, and thus able to buy a firearm.

Investigators said there were “some implications” for the teen’s safety, but concluded that his “final level of risk is low as (he) resides with his mother, attends school and receives counseling” as an outpatient from a mental health center, the Sun Sentinel said.

Cruz later passed a background check, allowing him in February 2017 to buy the AR-15 rifle — a civilian version of the US military’s M16 — he used in the massacre.

– School safety –

Trump on Friday visited survivors and first responders in the attack, which took place not far from his Mar-a-Lago estate where he was spending the holiday weekend.

Photos posted online showed him smiling at the hospital bedside of a teenage girl, and giving a thumbs-up as he posed with medical workers and law enforcement.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania visited a hospital in Pompano Beach, Florida, where school shooting victims were being treated

He tweeted Saturday that he and first lady Melania had met “incredible people,” and will “never forget them, or the evening!”

Trump is staunchly opposed to additional restrictions on guns or gun ownership, but Vice President Mike Pence said at an event in Dallas the president would make school safety “a top priority” when he meets with governors of US states in the coming days.

“Let’s pray for wisdom. For all in positions of authority that we might find a way to come together as a nation to confront and end this evil in our time once and for all” Pence said

Passenger plane crashes in Iran mountains

Sixty-six people have been killed in a passenger plane crash in Iran, airline company officials say.

The Aseman Airlines plane, en route from Tehran to the south-western city of Yasuj, came down in the Zagros mountains of central Iran.

The Red Crescent has deployed a search and rescue team to the site near the city of Semirom in Isfahan province.

The plane left Tehran at 05:00 local time (01:30 GMT) and disappeared from radar later.

A local official said bad weather had hampered a helicopter search.

“All emergency forces are on alert,” a spokesman said.

The plane is believed to be a 20-year-old ATR 72-500.

Reports say those on board were 60 passengers, two security guards, two flight attendants and the pilot and co-pilot.

Recent air accidents 2018

11 February: Russian Antonov An-148 crashes minutes after leaving Moscow’s Domodedovo airport with 71 people on board. The plane was en route to the city of Orsk in the Ural mountains when it crashed near the village of Argunovo, about 80km (50 miles) south-east of Moscow.

2017

No passenger jet crashes – safest year on record for commercial airlines

2016

25 December: Russian military Tu-154 jet airliner crashes in the Black Sea, with the loss of all 92 passengers and crew.

Major air disasters timeline

Libya mired in chaos 7 years since Kadhafi fall

A UN-backed unity government has failed to assert its authority across the oil-rich country, which is still grappling with deadly attacks, a struggling economy and a migration crisis.

Authorities in the capital Tripoli have planned celebrations on Saturday to mark the seventh anniversary of the start of protests on February 17, 2011 that led to the toppling and killing of Kadhafi.

But the festivities come as persistent insecurity and economic woes feed despair, particularly among Libyan youth.

Hamdi al-Beshir, 17, said he has been waiting for democracy for seven years.

“I can’t wait 42 years like my father did with Moamer,” he said.

“I have no intention of waiting for them to steal away my youth and life,” said the teenager who works in a shop selling clothes.

“I’ll throw myself into the sea like the migrants, without looking back.”

Since 2011, Libya has been a key gateway for migrants trying to reach Europe, with tens of thousands paying people smugglers to cross the Mediterranean illegally, often on unseaworthy boats.

Thousands have drowned attempting to make the journey, while thousands more have been detained in the North African country, drawing criticism from rights groups over alleged mistreatment and abuse.

– Elections? –

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed revolt, with rival militias and tribes — but also jihadists — vying for influence across the country.

A 2015 UN-backed deal to set up the unity government in Tripoli was meant to end the turmoil.

But Libya has remained riven by divisions between that government and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.

Forces allied with the unity government expelled the Islamic State group from the coastal city of Sirte in 2016, but the jihadists still pose a threat from their desert hideouts.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame said this month he hoped for parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya by the end of 2018, but warned conditions were not yet ready for polling.

Haftar — whose forces have fought jihadists in the east of the country — has supported holding elections although it is not clear if he would stand as a candidate.

Opponents of the strongman, who is backed by Egypt and the UAE, accuse him of wanting to establish a military dictatorship, while supporters have called for him to take control by “popular mandate”.

Haftar’s forces last year expelled jihadists from Libya’s second city Benghazi, considered the birthplace of the revolution that ousted Kadhafi, but deadly bombings have since rocked the eastern city.

Some analysts warn that elections could further complicate the situation.

– ‘Matter of decades’ –

Previous efforts to stem the strife have come up against the opposition of a myriad of factions which switch allegiances according to their interests.

Earlier in February, an armed group blocked hundreds of families from returning to their western hometown of Tawergha despite a deal struck by the unity government and United Nations.

They had been chased from the town after being accused of supporting Kadhafi’s regime in 2011.

As pointed out by Federica Saini Fasanotti of the Washington-based Brookings Institute think-tank, democracies are not born overnight.

“Processes of democratisation are — as history teaches us — always long, cruel and very difficult,” she said.

“Creating a nation can be a matter of decades, centuries in some cases.”

For now, Libyans live to the rhythm of electricity cuts and long queues outside banks, as the country struggles with a cash crunch and an unprecedented drop in the value of its currency.

This comes despite an increase in crude sales, which analysts see as key to kickstarting Libya’s moribund economy and returning security to the country.

Libya’s oil revenues more than tripled in 2017 despite the violence and political instability — though they are still a fraction of crude sales under Kadhafi.

Since 2014, fighting and protests have regularly shut down oil facilities, a key focus of power struggles in a country with the largest oil reserves in africa

Duo arrested with drugs worth over R8.9 million

Upon searching the vehicle, 20 bags containing packets of 1000 Mandrax tablets, worth over R8.9, million were seized.

Two men have been arrested in Cape Town for being in possession of drugs worth almost R9 million, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) in the Western Cape said on Saturday.

The Hawks’ South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (Saneb), together with crime intelligence and the flying squad, acted on information received and intercepted a bakkie reportedly transporting drugs on Friday night, Captain Philani Nkwalase said.

The bakkie was spotted and stopped on Owen Road in Elsies River. Upon searching the vehicle, 20 bags containing packets of 1000 Mandrax tablets, worth over R8.9, million were seized.

Two suspects, aged 32 and 42, were arrested on charges of dealing and possession of drugs and would appear in the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on Monday, Nkwalase said.

Notorious Turffontein buildings raided, drugs confiscated

Hunt for Ajay Gupta Heats Up As More Rewards Offered

The hunt for Ajay Gupta, who has officially been declared a fugitive from justice, is heating up, with more rewards for his arrest being offered.

Forensic consultant Paul O’Sullivan’s organisation, Forensics for Justice, on Thursday afternoon said it was offering a R100 000 reward “for any person that gives information that leads to the arrest of Ajay Gupta within the next 48 hours”.

O’Sullivan put out an additional R100 000 reward leading to the arrest of Ajay’s brothers Atul and Rajesh, also known as Tony, as well as Duduzane Zuma, with an additional R100 000 bonus if all four were arrested.

O’Sullivan’s reward expires on Saturday at 18:00.

Where are ‘fugitive’ Ajay Gupta and his brothers? In a tweet on Saturday morning, Magda Wierzycka, CEO of the Sygnia Group, said she was prepared to match O’Sullivan’s reward “rand for rand”, taking the total reward up to a million.

“I am willing to match the reward Rand for Rand. So now we have R1 million in the pool. South Africans, contribute your spy skills. We need these crooks in jail where they belong. As soon as possible,” she tweeted.

More on This

I am willing to match the reward Rand for Rand. So now we have R1 million in the pool. South Africans, contribute your spy skills. We need these crooks in jail where they belong. As soon as possible. https://t.co/5igHP5xHl8– Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) February 17, 2018

Wierzycka went on to post additional rewards, offering R200 000 “for the first bodyguard, currently with Ajay Gupta who calls CrimeStop on 08600 10111 to advise of his location”.

This follows after Hawks spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, in an interview with Power FM, confirmed that investigators were still in negotiations with a security company “protecting” Ajay.

Wierzycka also offered a R200 000 reward for the first accused in the Vrede Dairy Farm case, who had already appeared in court, to turn state witness.

I am posting more rewards:1. R200k to 1st bodyguard, currently with Ajay Gupta, who calls CrimeStop on 08600 10111 to advise of his location.2. R200k to 1st accused in the Vrede Dairy Farm case (of the ones that appeared in court) to turn state witness. To help with legal fees.– Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) February 17, 2018

Asked on twitter if she did not think her money could be put to better use, Wierzycka said, “The sooner we catch and convict them, the sooner we can recover R50bn plus. That will go much further in rebuilding SA…”

The sooner we catch and convict them the sooner we can recover R50bn plus. That will go much further in rebuilding SA than some rewards posted to get is there. https://t.co/fzMVr72VRc– Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) February 17, 2018

Meanwhile, Netwerk24 have reported that reports circulating on social media, which allege that Ajay was seen crossing the border into Lesotho, are just rumours.

O’Sullivan told Netwerk24 that since posting the reward he has been inundated with calls saying Ajay was here, there and everywhere.

He said Forensics for Justice had a team of six people working around the clock, dedicated to following up on leads on Ajay’s whereabouts.

He said there was no indication that Ajay may be in Lesotho.

“I believe he is still in South Africa,” he said.

EXPOSED:How Grace got her ‘fake’ PhD

University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura allegedly took the institution’s lecturers to Grace Mugabe’s Mazowe orphanage so she could take oral examinations for her disputed Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, a Harare court heard yesterday.

Harare magistrate Tilda Mazhande was told Nyagura single-handedly accepted the wife of former president Robert Mugabe’s application to study for the PhD without the knowledge of the UZ’s sociology department.

Prosecutor Oscar Madhume said in 2011 Nyagura approved Ntombizodwa G Marufu (Grace’s maiden name) application without the knowledge and recommendations of the departmental board and faculty of higher degrees committee in violation of UZ quality assurance guidelines and benchmark. He said during the same period, Nyagura appointed Professor Claude Mararike and Professor Chaneta to supervise Grace without the knowledge and approval of the department. Nyagura is accused of usurping the powers of the UZ senate by single-handedly appointing examiners for Mugabe’s research in violation of the UZ Act chapter 25:16 and Ordinance 1998/99. Nyagura allegedly led supervisors and examiners to Mugabe’s Mazowe orphanage, where the defence oral examination was purportedly done without the knowledge and approval of the academic committee while in actual fact the examination is supposed to be done at the UZ premises. The prosecution alleged that during the same year, Nyagura recommended to Mugabe that Grace should be awarded the PhD. This was allegedly done without the knowledge of the UZ council and academic committee. The sociology department distanced itself from both the candidate and awarding of the degree as it was done without their knowledge. Prosecutors said Grace did not meet the minimum requirements to study for the degree. Nyagura, who is represented by advocate Lewis Uriri, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was remanded to March 5 on $200 bail. As part of his bail conditions, Nyagura was ordered not to interfere with State witnesses who include lecturers.

BREAKING: Robert Mugabe resigns

Robert Mugabe has resigned as the Zimbabwean president, the Zimbabwean speaker in Parliament announced on Tuesday.

Mugabe steps down after nearly 38 years in power.

This comes hours after parliament began an impeachment process against Mugabe on Tuesday that was set to bring his domination of a country he has ruled since independence nearly four decades ago to an ignominious end.

In the last week, Mugabe has clung on in the face of a collapse of his authority and a Monday deadline to quit.

Mugabe shocked many on Sunday when he was expected to resign, but instead gave what many considered a bizarre speech that focused on the country’s unity while ignoring protests that had taken place the previous day.

The army seized power a week ago and there have been mass protests against him and calls to resign from many sides including on Tuesday from the ruling party’s favourite to succeed him Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to reports, the Speaker confirmed that Mugabe handed in his resignation letter.

This is a developing story.

China gives billions to Iran

Tehran – A Chinese state-owned investment firm has provided a $10 billion credit line for Iranian banks, Iran’s central bank president said on Saturday.

The contract was signed in Beijing between China’s CITIC investment group and a delegation of Iranian banks led by central bank president Valiollah Seif.

The Iran Daily said the funds would finance water, energy and transport projects.

Iran is vital to China’s trade ambitions as it develops its trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” strategy aimed at dramatically boosting its ties to Europe and Afric

In addition to the credit line, the China Development Bank signed preliminary deals with Iran worth $15 billion for other infrastructure and production projects, Seif announced.

The contracts reflect “a strong will for continuation of co-operation between the two countries,” Seif said.

The credit line will use euros and yuan to help bypass US sanctions that have continued despite the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2015.

China was a signatory to the deal that lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme.

President Xi Jinping visited Iran a week after it came into effect, vowing to boost bilateral trade to $600 billion within a decade.

Iran’s biggest oil customer

Although trade was just $31 billion in 2016, it has jumped more than 30% in the first six months of 2017.

China is already Iran’s biggest oil customer and accounts for a third of its overall trade.

Since the lifting of sanctions, Beijing has opened two credit lines worth $4.2 billion to build high-speed railway lines linking Tehran with Mashhad and Isfahan, Iran Daily reported.

The latest move follows an eight-billion-euro credit deal signed with South Korea’s Exim bank last month.

European banks remain wary of penalties from Washington for working with Iran, but talks are said to be at an advanced stage for $22 billion in credit deals with banks from Austria, Denmark and Germany.

China’s new $10 billion credit line will go to Iran’s Refah Kargaran, San’at va Ma’dan, Parsian, Pasargad and Tose’e Saderat banks.

Malaysia police arrest 7 teens linked to deadly fire

Kuala Lumpur – The police chief in Malaysia’s capital says authorities have arrested seven teenagers suspected of intentionally starting a deadly blaze an Islamic boarding school that killed 23 people.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh says the seven arrested boys lit Thursday’s fire because they had been mocked by students at the school.

Singh said in a press conference late on Saturday that the boys aged 11 to 18 had also tested positive for drugs.

The blaze at a three-story “tahfiz” school, where Muslim boys study and memorize the Qur’an, blocked the lone exit to the dormitory, trapping students behind barred windows.

Istanbul police detain 74 suspected IS militants

Istanbul — Turkey’s official news agency says police have detained 74 suspects who are alleged members of the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Anadolu news agency said Saturday the anti-terror police conducted simultaneous operations at 15 different addresses in Istanbul.

Anadolu said 73 of the detained were foreigners and were handed over to relevant authorities to be deported. There was no information on their nationalities. The other suspect was being questioned.

IS has been blamed for several deadly attacks in Turkey, killing more than 300 people since 2015

Along with combatting IS cells inside its borders, Turkey launched a military operation into northern Syria in August 2016 to clear the border zone of IS extremists after a suicide bomb ripped through a street wedding in the southeastern province of Gaziantep.

UK police arrest 2nd man in London subway attack case

London — London police say a second man has been arrested in connection with the London subway attack.

Police said on Sunday that a 21-year-old man was arrested late Saturday night in Hounslow in west London. He was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Two men are now in custody for their possible role in the attack that injured 29 people.

Britain’s terror threat level remains at “critical” — the highest level — meaning that authorities believe another attack is imminent.

Police on Saturday arrested an 18-year-old man in the port of Dover — the main ferry link to France — and then launched a massive armed search in the southwestern London suburb of Sunbury.

SADC to send ‘contingent force’ to troubled Lesotho

The deployment of a contingent force, which will include military and intelligence military forces, to the volatile Kingdom of Lesotho was approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government in Pretoria on Friday.

“Summit approved the deployment of a contingent force comprising military, security, intelligence and civilian experts to support the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and directed the chiefs of defence and security to assess the requirements, to determine the appropriate size of the contingent force, and to prepare the modalities for the deployment,” SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax read out the communique at the end of the Double Troika Summit in Pretoria.

She said the summit had “strongly condemned” the brutal assassination of Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Khoantle Motsomotso which happened earlier this month, prompting the SADC meeting to contain the degeneration situation in Maseru.

“The Right Honourable Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho was also invited. The Double Troika Summit was also attended by SADC Facilitator to Lesotho, Deputy President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa,” said Tax.

In a question and answer session, South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insisted that the SADC intervention approved on Friday was different from a military deployment.

“We need to understand what the deployment is going to be … for now it’s going to be support for the oversight committee. It is a contingency force. We are politicians, we want chiefs of defence to assess the situation and advise us. This is a directive to the chiefs of defence, the region will come together and discuss this matter again. We don’t need to cause unnecessary panic with everybody saying they have already committed to deploy [soldiers], some going to parliament to say this and that. The issue is that a directive has been issued and we will then be directed by the chiefs of staff,” she said.

Earlier, South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC appealed to the authorities and the populace of the Kingdom of Lesotho to collectively work tirelessly to bring peace and stability to the mountain kingdom which has been on the regional bloc’s agenda for a considerable period.

“As SADC, we cannot and shall not be in Lesotho forever. We desire to have Lesotho off the SADC agenda soonest,” Zuma addressed a Double Troika of Heads of State and Government.

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that as we gather here this afternoon that the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lt-General Motsomotso, who was with us here in this very building three weeks ago during the SADC Summit, tragically lost his life in a senseless killing.”

Zuma said the assassination of Motsomotso typifies a dangerous pattern of targeted killings in the geographically small African nation.

Motsomotso was killed earlier this month, while two senior officers who were allegedly responsible for the murder, were also killed in a shoot-out at a barracks in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.

Eyewitnesses said the officers burst into the army chief’s office and shot him, before being killed by guards.

At least 18 Burundi refugees shot dead by Congo forces: UN

Refugees who fled Burundi’s violence and political tension wait to board a UN ship, at Kagunga on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, to be taken to the port city of Kigoma. File picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Bujumbura, Burundi – Congolese forces have shot and killed at least 18 Burundian refugees near Burundi’s border, officials said Saturday.

The deaths occurred Friday in the Kamanyola area of Congo’s South Kivu province, the commander of the Pakistani battalion of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, Waquara Yunusi, told The Associated Press.

He said 34 people were killed, 15 of them women.

Congo’s military could not immediately be reached for comment.

The coordinator of the U.N. Communications Group in Congo, Florence Marchal, confirmed a provisional death toll of 18, with 50 others wounded.

“I do not know the exact circumstances of why it degenerated, but it degenerated … There were shots from (Congolese forces) and the police on asylum seekers,” she said.

The death toll is likely to worsen, Marchal said.

The Congolese government, the U.N refugee agency and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo “have deployed teams on site to shed light on everything that happened,” she said.

Burundi’s foreign minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, on Twitter asked Congo and U.N. officials for an explanation of the shootings.

Residents in the area said the killings occurred after some Burundian refugees went to the Bureau of Intelligence in Kamanyola to inquire about four detained refugees. Congolese soldiers responded with gunfire when some of the refugees hurled stones, said refugee Aline Nduwarugira.

Another witness, Alfred Rukungo, said Congolese soldiers continued shooting into the crowd even after some refugees were wounded.

More than 100 people were injured in the incident, according to Bertin Bisimwa, chief of Kamanyola.

Congo is home to thousands of Burundian refugees. Many fled political violence at home in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza successfully pursued a disputed third term amid deadly protests.

MDC ASSURES PUBLIC THAT MORGAN TSVANGIRAI IS OUT OF DANGER

Following reports that its president was battling for his life, Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says Morgan Tsvangirai is out of danger and is resting.

Newspapers in Zimbabwe yesterday reported that the 65 year old presidential Thehopeful had been urgently flown to South Africa on Friday night after his health condition deteriorated.

Tsvangirai had been addressing a party meeting in Kodama when he allegedly started experiencing severe vomiting, prompting his doctor to have him transported to South Africa.

The MDC says its leader has brushed aside his health scare to encourage Zimbabweans to register to vote in the coming elections.

This after widespread media reports that he was on life support fighting for his life.

The MDC’s Austin Moyo says Tsvangirai has already spoken to party members assuring them of his wellness.

“He has called on Zimbabweans to honour the call to register to vote on issues that face them.”

While the party says its leader is in a hospital for a routine medical procedure it couldn’t say when he would be discharged.

WHATSAPP TESTING ‘DELETE FOR EVERYONE’ FEATURE

According to a report, WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service used by more than 1 billion people worldwide, is testing a revoke button.
Have you ever sent a WhatsApp message and seconds later regretted pressing that send button … or even worse, sent a message intended for a friend to your boss?

Well, now you won’t have to worry about drafting an apology or resignation letter.

The “Delete for Everyone” feature will remove “sent-by-mistake” messages from your chat history and that of the recipient(s).

According to the leaker of all that is new with the App, the feature will be available for both Android and IOS users.

In a tweet on Tuesday, WABetaInfo said the server works and will allow users to successfully recall a message they have sent.

Robert Mugabe slams Zodwa Wabantu’s ‘no-panty policy’

Speaking at an interface rally in Bindura on Saturday, President Robert Mugabe told a crowd of thousands that he knew he was “disappointing many men” for banning Zodwa Wabantu from performing in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean president lambasted the Durban entertainer, who is famous for her sultry moves and revealing clothes, for attending parties without wearing underwear.

He said: “I’m sorry we disappointed many men… You just come without covering your decency. What do you want? Men to see you? We don’t want such…”

Zodwa was set to perform in Zimbabwe, but was banned by the acting minister of Tourism and Hospitality last month when he ruled that the Durbanite will not be allowed to perform at the Harare International Carnival

This happened after actress Anne Nhira complained to the tourism board that Wabantu should not be invited because she was not a Zimbabwean, she dressed scantily and she was a lesbian.

Zodwa told TshisaLive she blamed her gig cancellation on “political games”.

“The show was cancelled at the last moment. They said I must tell everyone that I am sick and they would send me money to cover the trouble. It’s a political thing. It was politics behind closed doors because apparently people were protesting that they want me to perform and sponsors were pulling out of the event because reports about me were drawing too much (negative) attention to the event,” she said.

Zodwa Wabantu banned from Zimbabwe

Panties or not, it seems popular dancer Zodwa Wabantu will not be performing in Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, the Zimbabwean acting minister of Tourism and Hospitality Patrick Zhuwao ruled that the Durbanite, famous for her sultry moves and revealing clothes, will not be allowed to perform at the Harare International Carnival.

This happened after actress Anne Nhira complained to the tourism board that Wabantu should not be invited because she was not a Zimbabwean, she dressed scantily and she was a lesbian.

In a letter to Nhira, Zhuwao stated: “The government position is that the artist concerned, Zodwa Wabantu, may not participate at the Harare International Carnival. In this regard, relevant authorities have been notified.”

Speaking to The Star yesterday, Nhira said: “This is an international event to promote the image of Zimbabwe. She is not Zimbabwean, and if we want dancers to perform at the event, there are local dancers who can do it.

“We don’t want a person who will tarnish our image as a country. She does her entertainment half-naked and she has publicly acknowledged that she is a lesbian.”

Dancers from Cuba and Brazil have been invited to perform at the week-long carnival, which starts on September 6. Other local acts that have been invited include Babes Wodumo, Busiswa and Uhuru.

Zodwa Wabantu at the Durban July earlier this year. Picture: Supplied

There were reports that Wabantu, whose real name is Zodwa Libram, is lesbian but she has dismissed them.

Same-sex relations are illegal in Zimbabwe, where gays and lesbians feel persecuted and their rights are undermined.

The Zimbabwean government does not approve of them.

Yesterday, Wabantu said she was unaware that she was not welcome in Zimbabwe anymore. “They contacted me today to organise the plane ticket bookings. I know nothing about this.”

She said she would confirm with the tourism authority today and give them a piece of her mind.

“I have performed in the country before, so what is the problem now?”

World leaders send Zim congratulatory messages

WORLD leaders yesterday congratulated Zimbabwe for attaining 37 years of independence with Russian President Mr Vladimir Putin saying the relations between Harare and Moscow should be strengthened in line with Russia’s thrust to strengthen security and stability in Africa.

The solidarity messages came ahead of today’s 37th independence annivesary celebrations being held under the theme, ‘’Zimbabwe@37: Embracing ease of doing business for socio-economic development.”

Zimbabwe became independent on April 18 1980 after a protracted 14-year liberation struggle against the minority Smith regime.

Mr Putin said the relations between Russia and Zimbabwe have traditionally been of a friendly nature and should expand to other spheres.

“Please accept my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the National Day of the Republic of Zimbabwe — Independence Day.

“Russian-Zimbabwean relations have traditionally been of a friendly nature.

“I am confident that the further expansion of constructive cooperation in the political, trade and economic, humanitarian and other spheres meet the key interests of the peoples of our countries, goes in line with strengthening security and stability on the African continent.”

Mr Putin wished President Mugabe good health and success as well as the well-being and prosperity to the people of Zimbabwe.

“I wish you good health and success, as well well being and prosperity to all citizens of Zimbabwe,’’ Mr Putin said.

British Ambassador Mrs Catriona Laing said the Queen of England Queen Elizabeth II wished Zimbabwe well on its day of independence.

“The message from Her Majesty the Queen is l send the people of Zimbabwe my congratulations on the celebration of their national day,” she said.

Dean of African diplomats and Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Mwawapanga Mwawampanga said; “The people of Zimbabwe should remain steady and united in the challenges they face. The challenges are not peculiar as most countries are facing the same challenges.”

Turning to negative western media, Ambassador Mwawampanga said: “President Mugabe should not lose any sleep. He is a strong leader whom we all look up to.”

Switzerland Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi Mrs Ruth Huber said; “I congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for their 37 anniversary. I give them my best wishes for the future. I hope that the economy and living conditions of all its citizens improve.”

Canada’s Ambassador Mr Kumar Gupta said: “Canada and its people are wishing Zimbabwe the best on its independence day today.”

Mugabe’s son ‘removed from Dubai under controversial circumstances’… now lives in SA

Both of President Robert Mugabe’s sons are living in South Africa, according to a privately owned Zimbabwean newspaper.
The Zimbabwe Independent said on Friday Robert Mugabe jr who had been living in his parents’ rented mansion in Dubai, and the youngest son, Bellarmine, 20, had moved to Joburg.
The Mugabe family and the Zimbabwean government have not confirmed this information, nor where their sons are studying, if they are studying.
Both young men failed to pass their school-leaving examinations in Harare as Robert jr, a top-class basketball player, did not succeed in his final A-level examinations at expensive private school St John’s College in Harare. He was believed to be studying in Dubai and it is not clear why he left the United Arab Emirates.

When he was 16, Bellarmine was expelled from St George’s, the prestigious Catholic boys’ school he attended in Harare. He allegedly finished his schooling at home.
Mugabe’s eldest child, Bona is now married with a baby. She qualified as an accountant at a college in Hong Kong but has never worked and lives in her father’s former home in Harare.

First lady Grace Mugabe’s oldest son, Russell Goreraza, 33, divorced with one child, lives in Harare and was involved in an allegedly troubled gold-mining venture and was found guilty two years ago of culpable homicide when he was speeding in Harare in his luxury car and killed a pedestrian.

He and Bona Mugabe’s husband, Simba Chikore, a one-time pilot who now heads bankrupt Air Zimbabwe, recently took over several houses in Harare on behalf of Grace, who claims in court she is trying to recover about R20 million from a Dubai diamond dealer.

The properties belong to Jamal Ahmed and according to what he told the Harare High Court, Goreraza and Chikore took possession of his homes and other buildings he claims he owns in Harare.
Ahmed’s employees claimed they were evicted from one of his properties by the pair.
 The police have since told the high court that they seized the homes as they are investigating Ahmed.
Ahmed says he sold Grace Mugabe a diamond last year and had it cut and set. 
He says she paid for the stone from her Harare bank account but refused to accept delivery of it and demanded the money be paid back to her account in Dubai. Chikore, according to the Zimbabwe Independent, is now taking over some of his father-in-law’s security, in addition to control of Air Zimbabwe.

This week police and soldiers continued to evict scores of people from mud-and-grass homes built on land near Harare, which Grace Mugabe claimed from a Zimbabwe company. The evictions continued even after the high court ordered them to stop last month.

Grace recently spent about R60m on a large piece of land in a top Harare suburb.
The Mugabes have taken over about 15 formerly white-owned or company-owned farms in Zimbabwe and are the largest private landowners in the country. The president bought his first farm in 2000.

Wheels are now coming off for Zuma, say analysts

The president has been described as a python who has tried to swallow an elephant.

President Jacob Zuma is like “a python that has swallowed more than it can digest”, according to political analyst Elvis Masoga.

He was responding to the increased calls for Zuma to step down that were made, among other places, at the memorial service of fallen ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, where recently axed finance minister Pravin Gordhan said he “unashamedly” encouraged mass mobilisation.

“It has been said I am encouraging mass mobilisation,” Gordhan said.

“Yes, I am unashamedly encouraging mass mobilisation. We are encouraging mass mobilisation to ensure that people shall govern.”

Masoga told The Citizen yesterday said Zuma was suffocating to death from swallowing this huge elephant.

“He has been swallowing impalas and rats for some time now, but his time is up now. Zuma’s survival skills and theatrics are now coming to an end … the wheels have come off,” Masoga said.

He described Gordhan’s call for mass mobilisation as coming from a true patriot.

“Every person who loves his or her country will do that to save us from this mafia. Everyone in the country must rise up against these thieves. There are different ways to remove Zuma and one could well be the ANC calling a special national executive committee meeting to map the way forward after a cadre shamelessly disregarded the ruling party.”

Another analyst, Professor Andre Duvenhage, said it was crystal clear that there was a total rebellion against Zuma in the country, including from within the ANC.

“We are likely to witness a very big battle over the next few weeks and there is a strong possibility that the ANC might want to remove the president. That could happen if the ANC calls an emergency meeting or in parliament, where several opposition parties have also been calling for a motion of no confidence in the president.

“Zuma, on the other hand, is also prepared for a fight and he will counter with the ANC Youth League and the Women’s League, who have already made it clear that they support the recent Cabinet reshuffle,” said Duvenhage.

He said Zuma would be “lucky” if he survived to the end of 2017, stressing the president found himself under immense pressure from all corners of the country.

“We must also remember that there are still pending court cases against him and chief among them is the ‘spy tapes’. Also, the EFF has been to the Constitutional Court asking for action to be taken regarding the Nkandla matter.”

TB Joshua visit a ‘blessing’ for Zim’s religious tourism

Johannesburg – Nigeria’s massively wealthy religious leader TB Joshua arrived on a private jet in Harare on Friday for his first “crusade” in Zimbabwe.Joshua, whose real name is Temitope Baogun Joshua, was invited by Zimbabwe’s richest ‘‘pastor’’ Walter Magaya for a week-long visit before the Easter holiday.
In the midst of Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis, Magaya and other new era religious leaders, have made fortunes in Zimbabwe.
TB Joshua is on an Easter ‘ crusade, in Zimbabwe.

Joshua will address Magaya’s followers and will also visit the poor during his Zimbabwe ‘‘crusade’’, according to a press briefing in Harare on Thursday.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said Joshua’s visit was welcome.
“Religious tourism is very important for the country. It will create jobs locally and bring in foreign currency as many people come for the crusade,” he said.
Several government leaders are understood to be planning to visit Joshua during his visit at a time when there is huge political uncertainty within the ruling Zanu PF over who will succeed Robert Mugabe when he dies.
The TB Joshua brand was not always popular with the Zimbabwe government as he made several prophecies about Mugabe’s health prior to the previous elections.
Three years ago more than 80 South Africans died when the building housing Joshua’s church ‘‘hostel’’ in Lagos collapsed.
Magaya is the wealthiest of Zimbabwe’s religious leaders and is building a flat-roofed mansion in a leafy, semi rural suburb east of Harare.
The building is using the only crane operating in Harare at present and several South African builders and engineers are involved the construction of the extraordinary hilltop home.

Police shoot dead Palestinian who stabbed 3 Israelis

Jerusalem – A Palestinian from the occupied West Bank stabbed and wounded three Israelis in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday before being shot dead by border guards, police said.

The man attacked two Jewish passers-by before fleeing. He later wounded a border guard before he was shot dead.

Two of the Israelis were slightly injured and the third was in a more serious condition, according to police.

Clashes broke out afterwards between stone-throwing Palestinians and police officers who used stun grenades, a report said.

It was the second such attack in days near Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian woman said to be the mother of a man killed last year tried to stab Israeli police with scissors before being shot dead.

A wave of violence that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 259 Palestinians, 40 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese national, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others died during protests, clashes or in Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.

Violence has subsided in recent months, despite sporadic attacks.

2 girls held on suspicion of plotting French attack

Nice – A judicial source said on Saturday that two teenage girls were arrested in southern France on suspicion of plotting a terror attack.

The pair, aged 14 and 15, were taken in for questioning by the anti-terrorism prosecution service after a search of both girls’ homes turned up evidence suggesting they could have been planning an attack, the source said.

“At this stage we do not know how far advanced the preparations were,” the  source said, adding that no weapons had been found.

Several girls have been among a swathe of teenagers arrested in recent anti-terror swoops in France on suspicion either of plotting attacks or having contact with Islamic State members or sympathisers.

The country remains in a state of emergency after suffering a spate of deadly jihadist attacks over the past two years.

Three teenage girls were arrested in late February on suspicion they had chatted on Telegram, an encrypted instant messaging platform used by French jihadi Rachid Kassim to call for attacks on France.

An anti-terrorism judge in Paris charged the trio last month.

New jihadist alliance claims border attack in Mali

Dakar – A new jihadist alliance claimed responsibility on Saturday for an attack that killed three members of Mali’s security forces on March 29, according to a statement released by jihadist monitoring group SITE.

Three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links recently joined forces to create the “Group to Support Islam and Muslims” (GSIM), led by Iyad Ag Ghaly of Islamist organisation Ansar Dine.

The group, also known as Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, mounted an attack that killed three gendarmes, they said, though Malian security sources told AFP the day of the attack that it was two soldiers and a civilian who were killed.

“This past Wednesday, a brigade of mujahideen was able to attack a Malian gendarmerie post in Boulikessi, which is part of the Douentza area, near the Burkinabe border,” the statement released by SITE said.

“The attack resulted in killing three gendarmes and seizing some weapons and ammunition as spoils,” it added.

It is believed to be the jihadist alliance’s second operation after their merger, following the killing of 11 soldiers in the same area on March 5.

Ansar Dine was involved in an onslaught that saw northern Mali fall out of government control for nearly a year from spring 2012.

The extremists were later expelled from the region by a French-led international military intervention.

Nonetheless large swathes of northern Mali continue to come under attack from jihadist groups.

The area is also seen by governments battling the jihadist threat as a launchpad for attacks against other countries in the region.

Bomb in Egypt Nile Delta city wounds 13 police, 3 civilians

Cairo – Egypt’s Interior Ministry says 16 people, including 13 policemen, have been injured in a bomb blast near a police training facility in the Nile Delta north of Cairo.

The ministry says Saturday’s bomb was hidden in an abandoned motorbike and that all the injured were hospitalised.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in the city of Tanta, but the attack bore the hallmarks of several shadowy groups authorities say are linked to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, was ousted in 2013 by then defense minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected president a year later.

Egypt faces an increasingly emboldened insurgency by Islamic militants led by an affiliate of the Islamic State group in northern Sinai.

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal boss says ‘retirement is dying’ as he vows to continue

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has reiterated his desire to manage next season as he believes “retirement is dying” for people of his age.

Wenger, 67, has been criticised by some fans after Arsenal slipped to sixth in the Premier League following four defeats in their past five games.

A 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League added to the pressure on the Frenchman.

But Wenger said: “I will not retire. Retiring is for young people.”

Wenger’s contract expires at the end of the season but he has been offered a new two-year deal. He says he will make a decision on his future “very soon”.

“For old people retirement is dying,” added Wenger, speaking before Sunday’s Premier League match at home to Manchester City.

“I still watch every football game. I find it interesting.”

Wenger is into his 21st year as Arsenal manager but he has not led the Gunners to a Premier League title in 13 years.

“Of course I’m as hungry,” he said. “I carry a bit more pressure on my shoulders than 20 years ago but the hunger is exactly the same.

“When you see what the club was and what it is today – when I arrived we were seven people [members of staff], we are 700 today.”

He added: “I hate defeat. I can understand the fans that are unhappy with every defeat but the only way to have victory is to stick together with the fans and give absolutely everything until the end of the season, that’s all we can do.”

S Korean cargo ship Stellar Daisy vanishes in South Atlantic

A huge South Korean cargo ship which had 24 people on board has gone missing in the South Atlantic.

Two Filipino sailors found on a life raft were rescued, AFP reported, citing a Uruguayan navy spokesman.

On Friday, a crew member sent a text saying the 312m-long (1024ft) Stellar Daisy freighter was taking on water.

The Uruguayan navy alerted merchant ships in the area, which began a search. A navy spokesman said they had reported a strong smell of fuel.

The two people rescued had been found by commercial ships aiding the search, Yonhap news agency said.

“A search operation is continuing for the 22 people,” a South Korean foreign ministry official told Reuters.

South Korea also requested assistance in the search from Brazil and Uruguay, the official said.

The ship, a Very Large Ore Carrier (VLOC) with a capacity of 260,000 tonnes, was being operated by a South Korean company but was flagged to the Marshall Islands, and had 16 Filipinos and 8 South Koreans on board.

It had departed from Brazil, reports said.

German police probe Syrian student over bomb plot

Berlin – German police are investigating a Syrian doctorate student in detention for having allegedly planned a bomb attack, reports say.

The 36-year-old man was previously already probed over suspected ties to the Islamic State group, said public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk.

Prosecutors have broadened their investigation after finding bomb-making instructions in his possession.

The suspect, who was studying for a doctorate at western Germany’s Darmstadt Technical University, was detained last year over a video broadcast online in which he allegedly voiced his support for ISIS.

Investigators had confiscated his mobile phone and other electronic devices and subsequently found the bomb-building instructions.

But his lawyer has argued that the man downloaded those instructions in 2014 and that this did not qualify as proof he was planning an attack.

Germany is on high alert for jihadist attacks following a string of assaults last year, the deadliest of which was an ISIS-claimed December 19 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

Donald Trump calls Russia probe a ‘witch hunt’

President Donald Trump has blasted a probe into his team’s ties to Russia as an opposition “witch hunt”, defending his former top aide Michael Flynn’s decision to ask for immunity in the case.

Trump’s ex-national security adviser, whose links to Russia are one focus of the investigation, has sought protection in exchange for his testimony to the FBI and congressional committees.

Flynn’s lawyer said in a statement on Thursday that his client has “a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit”.

But two key committees in the probe, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, both suggested the immunity proposal was premature.

Trump nevertheless encouraged Flynn’s move in a tweet.

“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

Flynn could be a key witness as the FBI, as well as the House and Senate intelligence committees, seek to determine whether Trump advisers colluded with Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

But Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House panel, said there was “still much work and many more witnesses and documents to obtain before any immunity request from any witness can be considered”.

“We should first acknowledge what a grave and momentous step it is for a former national security adviser to the president of the United States to ask for immunity from prosecution,” Schiff said.

‘Guilty of a crime’

A close adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, Flynn was forced to step down from his White House job in February after misleading the vice president about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the election.

He is also in focus over receiving $33 000 from Russian television RT to attend a 2015 gala in Moscow where he sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and $530 000 from Turkey for lobbying services.

But Flynn is not the only Trump associate to have had contacts with Russia during the campaign.

Investigators want to know whether there was any collusion between them and Moscow’s concerted effort last year to hurt Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

What Flynn could tell investigators is unknown. US prosecutors can offer a suspect immunity in exchange for information that can incriminate others in a case, particularly larger figures.

Critics assailed the president over his tweet, noting that during last year’s campaign, Trump said in a speech that “If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?”

Asked by journalists on Friday if Trump though Flynn was guilty of something, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said the president just wants Flynn to testify.

“He thinks Mike Flynn should go testify and do what he has to do to get the story out,” Spicer said.

Moscow denounces Nato ‘slander’

Moscow – Moscow on Friday denounced Nato “slander”, accusing the alliance of using “the myth of Russian aggression” as a way to unify its members.

To maintain unity, Nato uses “the myth of the Russian threat, the slander of Russian aggression, the endless repeating of the need to confront it together”, said Russia’s foreign ministry.

Moscow’s outburst came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, attending his first Nato meeting in Brussels, denounced “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”, signalling a potentially tougher stance toward Moscow from the Trump administration.

The Russian ministry said Tillerson’s comments had left it “perplexed”, while voicing regret that they should be made on the day after a Russia-Nato meeting which was held “in a constructive atmosphere”.

“Many times, Nato has placed ideological dogma ahead of real efforts to tackle world problems,” the foreign ministry said.

“The only solution is to radically change the nature of the alliance,” it added.

Donald Trump made rapprochement with Russia a theme of last year’s US presidential campaign. Now Russia is impatient to see that wish translated into action.

US State Department officials said Tillerson would work with Nato allies to press Russia to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk agreements to end the war in eastern Ukraine.

Tillerson’s remarks appeared likely to ease concerns that Trump is more interested in cultivating ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin than in shoring up the 28-nation alliance against a more assertive Moscow.

Landslide buries over 2 dozen people in central Indonesia

Ponorogo — More than two dozen people have been reported missing after a rain-triggered landslide struck a village in Indonesia’s main Java island.

The spokesperson for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the landslide hit up to 30 houses and farmers harvesting ginger on Saturday morning under a hillside in Banaran village in Ponorogo district in East Java province.

The latest report from the local mitigation agency said 27 people were buried while a local army chief put the missing at 38 based on reports from villagers.

Disaster agency rescuers, soldiers, police officers and volunteers were searching for the missing, Nugroho said.

Seasonal rains cause frequent floods in Indonesia. Many of the country’s 256 million people live in mountainous areas or fertile, flood-prone plains near rivers.

Mugabe’s rivals hail appointment of new chief justice

Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s opponents together with the country’s legal fraternity have reportedly applauded the recent appointment of the southern African nation’s chief justice Luke Malaba.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Malaba was set to replace chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausike who stepped down at the end of February.

The 66-year-old former deputy chief justice was appointed to the highly contested top judge post on March 27 after a bruising battle within the ruling Zanu-PF factions.

Both the ruling Zanu-PF party factions who were allegedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and President Mugabe’s wife Grace respectively had their preferred candidates.

The Mnangagwa led faction was reportedly backing Judge President George Chiweshe while the rival faction allegedly led by Grace preferred Judicial Service Commission secretary Justice Rita Makarau.

But during the shortlisting process held by the country’s Judicial Service Commission last year, Chiweshe failed to pitch at the interviews and as a result, he was disqualified.

Following the interview process, Malaba who was regarded by the opposition parties as the right candidate emerged as the leading candidate with a 92% mark while his closest rival Makarau scored 90% and the third candidate Paddington Garwe obtained only 52%.

The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai said that the incoming chief justice was “good man”.

“It is a legal and constitutional appointment. There was no need for the Zanu-PF apparatchiks to try to meddle with the constitution,” MDC general secretary Douglas Mwonzora was quoted as saying.

The state owned Herald newspaper said that the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ), legal experts and legislators had also welcomed Mugabe’s appointment of the former deputy chief justice.

LSZ was quoted as saying that “Zimbabweans and the legal profession would benefit immensely from his vast experience spanning over 35 years”.

Mozambique university bans dreadlocks, ‘improper dressing’

Maputo – A Mozambican university has caused a social media uproar after it reportedly banned students from wearing dreadlocks, sandals, shorts and tight dresses.

According to a tweet posted by a Human Rights Watch researcher, Zenaida Machado, the University of Zembeze published a statement on Tuesday in which it said that the ban was an effort to stamp out what it described as “inadequate dressing”. 

The ban will be effective from Monday, April 3. 

Following the announcement, a number of people took to social media to express their views, with some criticising it as “an ancient colonial move aimed at undermining Africans”.


Man, 25, rapes, infects 12 year-old niece with HIV

Victoria Falls – A Zimbabwean man, 25, has reportedly been sentenced to 16 years in jail for raping his 12-year-old niece and infecting her with HIV.  

According to NewsDay, the convicted rapist also indecently assaulted the girl’s younger sister aged 9. 

The man, who could not be named in order to protect the identity of the children, was slapped with an 18-year jail time on the rape charge.

Three years were suspended for a period of four years on condition of good behaviour.

He was, however, found guilty of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to 12 months.

The court prosecutor Bheki Tshabalala said that the convict committed the crimes sometime in January last year, according to a New Zimbabwe.com report.

Tshabalala said that the 12-year-old niece was cleaning her mother’s bedroom hut when the convict forced himself on her.

“On an unknown date in the month of January 2016, the accused approached his 12-year-old niece who was cleaning her mother’s bedroom hut and lifted her up before placing her on her mother’s bed where [he] forcible had sex with her once. Immediately after that, he went to the girl’s younger sister who was sweeping in another hut and mounted her but only lay on top of her,” Tshabalala was quoted as saying.

It emerged that the girl who was raped developed rash and sores on her private parts, prompting her grandmother to rush her to a nearby clinic where she was tested HIV positive.

Boko Haram kidnap 22 girls, women in northeast Nigeria

Kano – Boko Haram Islamists have abducted 22 girls and women in two separate raids in northeast Nigeria, residents and vigilantes told our news correspondence on Friday.

In the first attack on Thursday, the jihadists raided the village of Pulka near border with Cameroon where they kidnapped 18 girls.

“Boko Haram fighters from Mamman Nur camp arrived in pickup vans around 06:00 and seized 14 young girls aged 17 and below while residents fled into the bush,” a Pulka community leader told GNR by phone.

“They picked four other girls who were fleeing the raid they came across in the bush outside the village,” said the community leader who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

According to the official, the attackers were loyal to the faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf.

Barnawi was appointed last year by the Islamic State group to replace leader Abubakar Shekau, who had pledged allegiance to the Middle East jihadist group in 2015.

Another resident confirmed the raid and said the girls were likely to end up as brides for the fighters.

“They didn’t harm anyone during the raid and they made no attempt to shoot people running away from the village,” said the resident.

In the second incident outside the village of Dumba, close to Lake Chad, the jihadists killed a herdsman who had tried to escape after refusing to pay protection money, said Adamu Ahmed, a member of an anti-Boko Haram militia.

“When the Boko Haram gunmen came for the money they realised he had left with everything and they decided to go after him on their motorcycles,” Ahmed said.

“They caught up with him near Dumba where they slaughtered him and shot dead 50 of his cattle.

“They took four women from the man’s family and the rest of the herd,” he said.

The promotion of Barnawi had revealed divisions in the group, as Shekau had been criticised for mass killings and suicide attacks against civilians.

Barnawi and his right-hand man Mamman Nur, who is seen as the real leader, had promised residents in areas under their control would not be harmed as long as they did not cooperate with Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram.

But in recent weeks the Islamist fighters have intensified raids in areas near Lake Chad, stealing food from residents.

They have also killed several civilians they accused of cooperating with the military.

Cannabis can now be grown, smoked at home, court rules

The court ruled that current legislation did not pass Constitutional Court muster, and that parliament had two years to rectify the laws.

Dagga smokers can breathe a sigh of relief and inhale a puff of ganga – after the high court in the Western Cape declared it legal to grow and smoke dagga in their own homes.

The court ruled that current legislation did not pass Constitutional Court muster, and that parliament had two years to rectify the laws. This means from Saturday no-one smoking or growing weed in their homes can be arrested or face prosecution.

Jeremy Acton from the Dagga Party said since 2011 he had been fighting for his rights. He has been arrested five times over dagga-related charges.

“Obviously this judgment is only the first opening of a door, but we have two years to determine how the new law will really look. Needless to say, it [dagga] will have to be de-scheduled in the illicit drugs act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act.”

Acton isn’t overly concerned about any fallout from the ruling from a full bench, including Judge Dennis Davis.

“Anything can be abused, but fortunately cannabis abuse does not result in death by overdose. All moderate recreational use is medically beneficial as preventive medicine against onset of ailments relating to ageing,” he said.

“Getting off cannabis does not entail major withdrawals, and only needs a personal decision to stop. Cannabis use is part of a healthy sovereign lifestyle, so I am not really concerned with addiction issues or harms arising from recreational use. We are all using it already anyway,” Acton said.

Parliament, which now has a deadline to amend legislation, said it acknowledged the ruling to change sections of the Drug Trafficking Act and the Medicines Control Act. Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said parliament was in the process of obtaining the judgment to study it.

“If the two laws mentioned have been found to be unconstitutional, then the Constitutional Court would have to confirm the judgment before parliament can act,” he said, adding that the state was also in a position to appeal the ruling.

Once litigation was finalised, the Constitutional Court could instruct parliament to rectify defects in the laws.

This included dealing with defects in terms of the Medical Innovation Bill, currently before parliament and first introduced by the late MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini as a Private Member’s Bill.

Oriani-Ambrosini died of cancer more than three years ago and was a strong proponent of marijuana as an alternative medicine to treat the disease. Acton said he was sureOriani-Ambrosini would be pleased to see the changes.

The changes do not bode well for big pharmaceutical companies.

“With respect, the Medical Innovation Bill (MIB) was hijacked for the interests of Big Pharma, and the entire dagga legalisation movement opposes the MIB,” Mothapo said. This judgment destroys the Medical Control Council guidelines recently published for the MIB, and puts the medicine securely into the hands of the people, he said.

Zimbabwe: Zim Central Bank Urges Public to Use SA Rand ‘More’

The Zimbabwean central bank has reportedly urged the public to replace the US dollar with the rand as the country’s main currency.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Reserve bank of Zimbabwe deputy governor Kapukile Mlambo said that they were going to be content if the public used the South African rand more than the US dollar.

Mlambo’s remarks came as cash shortages in the southern African country continued to bite.

Zimbabwe introduced its own surrogacy currency dubbed the “bond notes” last year, but the move has failed to address the cash problem.

We will be happy in the central bank if people use the rand more than they would use the other currencies… We can benchmark pricing with the rand, which we can’t do with the [US] dollar because we trade almost nothing with the US,” Mlambo was quoted as saying.

Zimbabwean firms last year urged the government to adopt the South African rand as its “reference currency” instead of the US dollar.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries reportedly argued at the time that while the country’s unique “multi-currency system” should be maintained, all financial reporting must be done in rand.

The group said that the rand was becoming more attractive, as the southern African country continued to face an “acute liquidity crisis of cash dollars”.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 and now uses mainly the US dollar and the South African rand, although other currencies are also legal tender.

April Fool’s Day: 10 stories that look like pranks but aren’t

It’s hard to know what to believe on April Fool’s Day as there are are many stories that seem rather strange but are in fact genuine.

Here is a round-up of some of this year’s more suspicious stories that are apparently true.

1. Today is international pillow fight day.Yes, really. Cities taking part include Hong Kong, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Chicago, Bangalore and Hull. Rules include no hitting anyone without a pillow.

More details (Hull Daily Mail)

2. Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson “loves” Julian Assange. It might seem an unlikely relationship but “it’s no secret”, according to the actress. Writing a blog post, she said Mr Assange is trying to “free the world by educating it”. She goes on: “It is a romantic struggle, I love him for this”.

More details (Daily Star)

3. Putting Shakespeare lyrics to rap music can help pupils revise. Studytracks are songs with lyrics recorded to help pupils to remember what they have learnt in class. Students download an app which features tracks covering the Year 10 and 11 syllabus.

More details (Times)

4. A cat’s life was saved with a vodka shot. Vets had to give seven-year-old cat Princess a “vodka drip” to save her from being poisoned by brake fluid. Princess needed 24-hour intensive care and was treated with vodka which worked as an antidote to the poison.

More details (Daily Mirror)

5. Cricketer Gary Ballance may have to miss a championship match because he is colour blind. He could be forced to miss Yorkshire’s pink-ball County Championship fixture against Surrey as he could struggle to see the ball and differentiate it from the grass. “If I can’t see it, I can’t see it. There’s nothing I can do,” he said.

More details (Times)

6. A teenager has had a “leaving party” for his leg. Thomas Green has had 20 unsuccessful operations to treat a venous malformation – a network of veins behind his left knee that have bled into his joints. He is now having his leg removed. His parents threw his leg a “goodbye” party, complete with a cake in the shape of a leg.

More details (Daily Mirror)

7. An 82-year-old grandma rocks it as a professional DJ in Japan. After 50 years running a restaurant, Sumiko Iwamuro discovered her talent at a birthday party for her son. Her musical tastes include rock, techno jazz and French chansons. Ms Iwamuro, who goes by the name of DJ Sumirock, plays at a club in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo.

More details (Times)

8. China bans long beards. New measures which include prohibiting “abnormally” long beards have been introduced in the far western region of Xinjiang in what the Chinese government describes as a campaign against Islamist extremism.

More details (BBC China)

9. A woman who ate chicken nuggets and chips every day for 24 years has been cured of food phobia after an hour of hypnotherapy. Louise Newton, 28, would gag if she tried anything other than her diet of dry cereal, plain bread, crisps, chocolate and her everyday dinner of battered chicken and chips.

More details (Sun)

10. For a five star hotel stay with a difference, thrill seekers in the Netherlands can now spend the night in a crane. The Crane Hotel Faralda offers three suites – which are up to 50m above the ground – and a hot tub on the top deck.

More details (Daily Express)