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Wednesday, 20 September 2017 12:58

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Afrasianet - Moscow can’t allow the US or other countries to provoke North Korea into a military conflict as that could mean the use of weapons of mass destruction near Russian borders, the head of the upper house Committee for International Relations says.

 “The United States is in a more convenient position because its territory is on a significant distance [from North Korea] and they can afford, excuse me for using this expression, the luxury of experiments. And we, as a country that has a common border with North Korea, are not into jokes.

“We cannot allow the United States or any other nation to hold this sort of experiments with North Korea,” Senator Konstantin Kosachev said in comments with Izvestia daily.

He also noted that North Korean leadership will do anything to protect itself from external threats and because of that, work on the nuclear program would not stop while the United States and its allies allow the scenario of foreign intervention and forceful displacement on Pyongyang regime.

“The development of this scenario could lead to very dire consequences as the North Korean authorities would realize all possibilities they have in their possession,” Kosachev warned.

The comment came soon after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a televised interview that Washington allowed for a military operation against North Korea if the “peaceful pressure campaign” on Pyongyang yields no results.

Last week North Korea launched another ballistic missile over Japan and earlier this month it conducted a nuclear test, in defiance of new economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in early September that he did not expect Pyongyang to stop its missile and nuclear programs under pressure of sanctions and military threats, because the examples of Iraq and Libya have convinced it that nuclear deterrence is the only credible way to ensure its security.

“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” Putin said. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”










Afrasianet - Russian President Putin is touring a Leningrad region military range where Belarusian troops are being hosted for the Zapad 2017 drills – criticized by some neighboring countries despite Moscow and Minsk’s transparency and invitations given to observers.

The exercises began last week at several locations in Russia and Belarus and will be conducted until Wednesday. Russia sent around 3,000 troops to neighboring Belarus, where they are training at six locations along with 7,000 soldiers and officers of the host nation. Russia welcomed Belarusian troops at three sites, including the Luzhsky range in Leningrad region.

Less than 13,000 troops are taking part in the exercise in total, according to figures from the defense ministries of Russia and Belarus. Around 70 aircraft, 680 armored vehicles, including 250 tanks, 200 artillery guns, and 10 warships have been deployed by the two nations.

The two nations are working on coordination and interoperability of its troops in joint operations. Both stressed that the drill is meant to be purely defensive. They also invited some 90 foreign observers from 60 countries to monitor the exercise.

The stage of the war games that Putin observed on Monday included a simulated cross-border incursion of insurgents who, according to the scenario, hijacked a large number of small planes and drones and tried to use them to attack targets in Russia. Russian and Belarusian troops used Pantsir-S1 and Tunguska air defense systems to take out the improvised enemy air attack. Tanks supported by artillery and aircraft launched an attack on the hundreds-strong groups of militants while a group of airdropped paratroopers prevented them from retreating.

War games such as Zapad 2017 are conducted by Russia and Belarus on a regular basis, and the ongoing exercise is among the bigger events. In the months prior to the launch of the drills, several countries, including Poland and the three Baltic states, were strongly critical, calling them a threat to their national security.

Officials in the countries claimed that Russia would send more troops to Belarus than it said it would and that the entire event may be a cover-up for a land grab.

Among the officials whipping up fears over Zapad 2017 was German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who said earlier this month that the exercises would involve over 100,000 troops. The Russian Defense Ministry called the claim “astounding.” Earlier, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite referred to the event as “aggressive games directed against the West,” while Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe, said they may be a “Trojan horse” to move troops and weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry blasted critics of the drills in the media, accusing them of fearmongering.

“The hype was fanned up artificially and is definitely meant to convince the Western public that the cost of deploying additional forward military presence in Poland and the Baltics and increased NATO military activity is justified,” it said in a statement in August. “Remarkably, it is these actions that lead to increased military tension in Europe, which Western ‘pen and microphone warriors’ lament so much.”

NATO launched massive parallel military exercises in Sweden involving 20,000 troops – the largest in the country in 23 years – which was touted as deterrence to potential Russian aggression.

The alliance has been building up a presence near Russia’s borders for years, with a significant acceleration beginning in 2014, following the political crisis in Ukraine. Alliance members like Poland and the Baltic states accuse Russia of having aggressive intentions in eastern Europe, and claim they need protection. NATO has also staged dozens of war games in the region over the past three years, some involving tens of thousands of troops.

Moscow considers the actions to be provocative and says it must respond accordingly, deploying additional troops in its western areas. It denies any plans of aggression against NATO states and says the organization is fearmongering to persuade European members to spend more on defense. The majority of NATO members spend less than two percent of their GDP on their militaries, despite commitments to meet the benchmark.

So far, there has been no sign of anything out of order happening at Zapad 2017.










Afrasianet - Thirty-five police officers were injured after Ukrainian far-right activists attempted to break into the court in Chernomorsk, where a case against 19 anti-Maidan activists over their involvement in the deadly Odessa incidents on May 2, 2014 collapsed on Monday.

Several dozen nationalists camped in advance outside the Soviet-era building 10km south of central Odessa, which was heavily guarded by riot police and military units, following local reports that the activists had stripped the nearby pavements for projectiles, and began to assemble tires for barricades.

As the verdict was read out inside, a wall of attackers lined up against the police, who had locked their arms, in a bid to enter the building, and prevent the cleared men from being escorted out.

On command, the activists, charged at the human wall, releasing pepper spray into the officers’ faces, who replied with tear gas sprays of their own.

Dozens of journalists and bystanders present recorded the incident, while some tried to talk to persuade the protesters, many clad in military gear or wearing t-shirts with the Ukrainian trident – a symbol co-opted by far-right groups – to stop the attacks.

The pattern of clashes was repeated several times, and at one point an activist unloaded the contents of a fire hydrant into a riot policeman’s face.

“As always, the law enforcement officials keeping the peace became the ‘hostages’ of the ‘people’s fury.’ After lengthy skirmishes with the use of gas and other specialized means, the situation was brought under control,” wrote Ruslan Forostyak, the head of the regional national guard department, who said that several of the instigators have been charged with hooliganism.

‘No evidence of guilt’

May 2, 2014 was the culmination of months of clashes between the nationalist and “pro-Russian” factions in the Black Sea port, which resulted in at least 48 deaths.

The civil disorder began with a march by far-right football fans, proceeded to firearm exchanges and Molotov cocktail-throwing, and ended with a fire in a government building, where mostly anti-Kiev activists had been boxed in, where the majority perished.

The accused, five of whom have been kept in detention, and two of whom are Russian citizens, each faced up to 15 years in jail.

But the judge dismissed the prosecutors’ case.

“There is no evidence to prove that the accused were guilty of the stated crimes. In fact, the prosecution did not even try to present any evidence,” he read out during the verdict, suggesting that the accused may have been doing nothing more than helping police maintain control.

The judge said that insufficient interviews had been conducted, some evidence had been collected illegally, and noted that although there was violence on both sides, only the pro-Russian activists were brought to face justice.

Upon their release, two participants were re-arrested, this time on charges of inciting separatism. Monday's trial pertained only to the street clashes on May 2, with separate proceedings still to come on responsibility for the fire.










Afrasianet - An Iranian Army commander warns that Tehran will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground if Israel makes any mistake, local media report. The commander also said Israel will not last longer than 25 years.

Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, who became commander-in-chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (AJA) in August this year, said on Monday that Israel may exist for a maximum of 25 more years, as cited by Tasnim news agency.

He added that any mistake by Israel would result in Haifa and Tel Aviv being razed to the ground, the news outlet reports.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has said on several occasions in the past that Israel won’t last another 25 years.

Khamenei also repeatedly urged Muslims to “resist and fight” to seize Jerusalem, a city that is claimed as a capital by both Israelis and Palestinians.

“As I’ve said before, if Muslims & Palestinians unite & all fight, the Zionist regime will not be in existence in 25 years,” Khamenei wrote on Twitter in December.

Israel and Iran have repeatedly exchanged verbal jabs. In June this year, there were anti-Israel rallies across Iran on Al-Quds Day, with protesters shouting slogans against the Jewish state and condemning the occupation of Palestine. People shouted “Death to Israel” and held banners with slogans such as “Israel should be wiped off the map.”

Israel has also had harsh words regarding Iran.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, during the Iranian election on May 19, somebody assassinates the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in April.

In March, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said that Iran remains a threat to Israel with or without the nuclear deal.

“As long as the current regime exists, with the nuclear agreement or without it, Iran will continue to serve as the main threat to Israel’s security,” Cohen said.

Tehran and Jerusalem have been geopolitical archrivals since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 as the new Iranian government refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state and cut diplomatic ties.

Israel has been on the forefront of those accusing Iran of weaponizing its nuclear program and blames it for supporting Shia armed groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Iran, for its part, blames Israel for oppressing Muslims, backing anti-Iranian groups and covert operations on Iranian territory.










Afrasianet - US Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that over 3,000 new US troops will be headed to Afghanistan as part of President Donald Trump’s new strategy to win the war that has dragged on for almost 16 years.

"It is exactly over 3,000 somewhat and frankly I haven't signed the last of the orders right now as we look at specific, small elements that are going," Mattis told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia) referred to “3,500 more troops” in an article published by Defense One.

“For too long, America’s strategy in Afghanistan was driven by politics, leading to arbitrary troop caps and unreasonable timetables for troop withdrawal,” Perdue wrote, noting that enemies interpreted that as a lack of resolve. “Finally, the gloves are off.”

Perdue, who visited Afghanistan in July, praised Trump as a “commander-in-chief who listens to his military leaders and understands we need a better, wiser approach in Afghanistan.”

Trump announced his new strategy in late August, vowing “fast and powerful” retribution against terrorist organizations seeking a safe haven in Afghanistan. Instead of timetables, he said that victory would be predicated on “conditions on the ground.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the new strategy as a “dead end,” while Pakistan and China were critical of Washington’s approach, noting there was “no military solution” to the situation in Afghanistan.









Afrasianet - The US-led coalition has admitted to carrying out an airstrike in Deir ez-Zor province, which reportedly killed at least 12 Syrian civilians. While the coalition did not acknowledge the casualties among locals, it promised to launch an investigation into the incident.

The airstrike near Syrian city of Mayadin, one of the last Islamic State-held strongholds, located some 40 kilometers southeast of the Deir Ez-Zor provincial capital, was reported on Syrian media on Saturday. The airstrike reportedly killed at least 12 civilians, most of them women and children, and caused significant damage to local properties and residents’ homes.

A video, purportedly showing the aftermath of the incident, has been posted online, showing destroyed and badly damaged buildings, as well as bodies of women and children. RT was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

When reached for comment by RT, the US-led coalition stated that the airstrike did take place, but it targeted a terrorist unit in the area.

“Coalition military forces conducted one strike near Mayadin, Syria that engaged an ISIS [Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS watercraft,” a coalition spokesperson told RT in an emailed statement.

While the coalition was not aware of any civilian casualties, it promised to launch an investigation into the allegations, as it “takes all reports of civilian casualties very seriously and assesses all incidents as thoroughly as possible.”

“We will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further assessment,” the coalition said.

The circumstances around the strike and its apparent inaccuracy are quite familiar, the director of Gnosos think tank Ammar Waqqaf said, as they indicate a glaring lack of intelligence on part of the US-led coalition.

“Since the start of the operations in Mosul we, I think, have lost count on how many times the United States wanted to hit an ISIS target and then suddenly there’s a huge massacre taking place,” Waqqaf told RT.

 “The better intelligence will prevent, or should prevent casualties. It tells you that they have less people on the ground, or, probably less and less people on the ground who are willing to cooperate with them.”

“Such inaccurate strikes, apart from inflicting heavy casualties on civilians, also hamper the US efforts to slice a part of Syria for the Kurdish forces it backs,” Waqqaf added.

“And this is really hurting and reflecting efforts of the United States to establish its own project, sort of own ‘regime’ in eastern part of Syria,” Waqqaf said.

“The issue is that the Americans are increasingly being perceived by the locals as a threat, rather than a liberator… Who inherits ISIS in the Eastern Syria now seems to be the game, and America seems to be losing.”











Afrasianet - Riot police in St. Louis said they have made “numerous” arrests to disperse the “unruly crowd” after a third consecutive day of mostly peaceful protests once again erupted into riots, clashes and vandalism overnight.

St. Louis police were forced to deploy reinforcements after initial reports of “significant property damage” and “agitators breaking multiple windows” surfaced in downtown St. Louis at around 8pm.

Windows were smashed at the Marriott Hotel on Washington Avenue and at other nearby businesses, including a sushi restaurant, a nail salon and an optician's, St. Louis Today reported.

"This is no longer a peaceful protest," police said on Twitter as they ordered the crowd to disperse immediately. The warnings have been repeated a number of times for more than an hour.

Protesters refused to obey orders, however. Police then started making several arrests after confiscating weapons, guns and protective gear from one rioter. According to reports, they used pepper spray.

Authorities also said that “unknown chemicals” were sprayed onto officers during the night. Several bottles with “unknown” substances, which according to some reports might have been liquid to neutralize the effects of tear gas, were confiscated from the activists.

Earlier in the day protesters peacefully marched into the city’s Midtown area holding up “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanting, “Stop killing us” and “No justice, no peace.”

There they gathered outside the St. Louis Police Department. They formed lines in front of the barricaded police headquarters where they staged a “die-in” action.

Protests erupted Friday after murder charges in the 2011 shooting case of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith were dismissed by the court. Judge Timothy Wilson ruled that former St. Louis Metropolitan police officer Jason Stockley acted in self-defense when officers were trying to arrest the suspect.

The decision triggered massive demonstrations in the city and suburbs. By late afternoon, marchers were heard chanting, “We shut s*** down” and “These killer cops have got to go.”

By Friday evening, protesters converged on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house before police formed a barrier and used pepper spray on those who refused to leave. The demonstrations on Friday left 11 police officers injured. At least 33 people were detained.

On Saturday, protests continued their violent streak for a second night running. Following a number of peaceful events, by the evening some rioters started breaking windows of various businesses and throwing objects at police.

Officers in riot gear engaged the protesters, making nine arrests on charges ranging from “rioting” to “assault” in a confrontation that took place in University City, a suburb of St. Louis near Washington University.










Afrasianet - Hundreds of mayors from the Spanish region of Catalonia marched through the streets of Barcelona in an act of defiance to the central government’s crackdown on the upcoming separatist referendum.

More than 700 mayors gathered in Barcelona Saturday to march through the streets of Catalonia’s cosmopolitan capital.

Brandishing maces, chanting “we will vote” and singing "Els Segadors”, the regional anthem, the mayors were cheered on by supporters waving yellow, red and blue Catalan flags.

"Don't underestimate the strength of Catalonia's people who have taken the decision to decide," declared Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Catalonia is expected to hold an independence referendum on October 1, despite the plebiscite being declared illegal by the Spanish federal government.

Earlier, Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended legislation passed in the Catalan parliament which paved the way for the vote.

Nevertheless, 740 of Catalonia's 948 mayors have pledged to keep municipal buildings open for voting on the day, leading the Spanish public prosecutor to threaten them with arrest.

Police have also raided a printing house and several other premises in search of ballot papers and boxes as well as other materials to be used for the referendum. On Friday, Catalonia’s highest court also issued a warning to seven local newspapers not to print any notices for the independence referendum.

“I think it’s very sad. It’s more than just indignation to see the democratic degeneration of the Spanish state and this feels bad. This is what we regret most of all,” Neus Lloveras, member of the Catalonian parliament, told RT.

However, not all the localities have thrown their support behind the referendum, including Barcelona. City authorities have been forced to sign an agreement that federal money will not be used for referendum purposes. Madrid has threatened to strip Catalonia of its budget if any funds are channeled to the referendum.

Catalonia is sharply divided, with a government poll in July finding that 41.1 percent of people were for and 49.4 percent against independence, although the vast majority agree to holding a referendum to decide the matter.

“The majority of the members of the Catalan parliament are in favor of independence. Eighty percent of the Catalan citizenship is in favor of the referendum of self-determination to ask Catalans whether or not they want independence,” Anna Arque from the EU Partnership for Independence told RT. “We keep offering the Spanish state to be involved and to participate in this democratic exercise, but it’s up to them.”










Afrasianet - Protests have gone on for a second day in St Louis after a white, former police officer was acquitted of the fatal shooting of a black suspect in 2011. Despite the tension between demonstrators and police, and damaged property no major clashes were reported.

Several hundred people remain on the streets of St. Louis and a nearby suburb to marking a second day of protests that were largely peaceful.

Dozens of windows across the city were smashed and trash cans overturned, forcing police in riot gear to move in and declare the gathering an unlawful assembly.

Officers warned the few remaining small groups in the streets that they may face arrest if they do not disperse.

Earlier on Saturday, hundreds of people briefly marched through the upscale West County Mall Center mall in Des Peres Saturday, chanting “shut it down!”. Authorities were taking steps to close the mall before protesters arrived, and many shops had already metal security screens over their store fronts. Unlike Friday, however, there were no reported incidents between protesters and police.

“We don’t want to see property destruction or see people getting hurt,” Elad Gross, a civil rights attorney, told Reuters. “But this is a protest that addresses injustices not only happening here in St Louis but around the country.”

On Friday, former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of shooting dead Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, in 2011. Smith was shot five times in his car after being chased by Stockley and his partner on suspicion of being involved in a drug deal. A gun was later found in the car.

Stockley claimed he thought Smith was going to shoot him, but it was only the officer’s DNA was found on the weapon and being heard on an internal police car video saying he was going to kill Smith, which led prosecutors to claim the gun was planted.

Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, allowing Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson to consider the verdict instead. In his ruling, Judge Wilson wrote that he was “not convinced” of Stockley’s guilt.

After the verdict was read out, around 600 people marched from the courthouse to center of St Louis, some waving Black Lives Matter placards. Some of the demonstrators started breaking windows and hurling bricks and bottles at police, and in the resulting chaos nine officers were injured and 23 protesters arrested.











Afrasianet - Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have agreed on the importance of defusing the Korean peninsula stand-off through diplomacy, urging all parties to engage in direct talks.

The two leaders compared opinions on the Korean Peninsula crisis during telephone talks on Friday.

They are unanimous that further escalation on the Korean Peninsula cannot be allowed and that its consequences could be irremediable. They “agreed on the importance of untangling this extremely complicated issue solely through political and diplomatic means, through resuming direct talks,” the Kremlin’s press service said.

The two leaders condemned North Korea’s “provocative actions,” which blatantly violate the disarmament resolutions of the UN Security Council.

UN Security Council Resolution 2375, adopted on September 11, was an “adequate response of the international community to Pyongyang’s reckless actions,” both Putin and Macron stressed.

The Resolution tightened sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, conducted earlier this month.

The new sanctions put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on sales of refined petroleum products to North Korea, crude oil export levels are capped at the average for the past 12 months, and the country’s textile exports are banned.

North Korea, however, has responded to the sanctions with aggressive rhetoric and a new ballistic missile test. The projectile flew over Japan and crashed into the Pacific Ocean some 2,000 km east of the island of Hokkaido.

Following the new test, South Korea threatened to destroy the North “beyond recovery,” if it continues its “provocations,” according to President Moon Jae-in, who warned, however, of the new threats Pyongyang might pose.

“President Moon ordered officials to closely analyze and prepare for new possible North Korean threats like EMP [electro-magnetic pulse] and biochemical attacks,” presidential spokesperson Park Su-hyun told reporters.

The new test has elicited a stern reaction from the international community. UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the test, promising to discuss it with the UN General Assembly next week.

“The Secretary-General calls on the DPRK leadership to cease further testing, comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions, and allow space to explore the resumption of sincere dialogue on denuclearisation,” Guterres’ spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was “outraged” by the new test, but said pressure must be put on China so that in turn it pressures Pyongyang.

“The prime minister is outraged by North Korea's continued reckless provocation and she strongly condemns the regime's illegal tests,” Reuters cited May’s spokesman as saying.

Our key focus now is continuing to press China to keep up the pressure on North Korea to change course.”










  • Russia cannot allow military conflict with N. Korea near its borders – snr. senator

  • Putin arrives at the Zapad 2017 war games which triggered wave of hysteria in the West

  • Ukrainian nationalists battle police outside court after anti-Maidan activists declared ‘not guilty’

  • Iranian Army chief vows to raze 2 Israeli cities to the ground if it makes ‘tiniest’ mistake

  • Over 3,000 new US troops headed to Afghanistan - Pentagon

  • US coalition admits Deir ez-Zor strike, promises to investigate 12 reported civilian casualties

  • Riots & vandalism grip St. Louis for 3rd day after ex-cop’s acquittal in fatal shooting

  • ‘Don’t underestimate Catalan strength’: Mayors march in defiance of Madrid

  • Protesters smash windows in St. Louis after ex-cop acquitted of black man’s killing

  • Putin, Macron: N. Korea threatening peace & safety, direct talks needed

Afrasianet - A rocket was launched from the northern Gaza Strip early Sunday morning, according to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The rocket “exploded mid-air,” according to the IDF announcement posted on Twitter.

No one was injured in the alleged attack, the Israeli military said, without immediately providing any further details.

The alleged projectile was reportedly headed to the Ahskelon coastal region in southern Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

No rocket alert signal was activated as the explosion happened “relatively early” in its flight, Israeli media reported citing officials.

The incident comes amid escalating tensions in the region, with Israel beefing up its military presence in the West Bank.

At least three Israelis were killed and one other injured in a stabbing attack by a 20-year-old Palestinian in the West Bank settlement of Halamish Friday night.

Israel upped its security alert level and dispatched thousands of additional troops to the area following the deadly knife assault, local media reported citing an IDF official.

Late Friday, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, announced that the PA was freezing all contacts with Israel over the Jerusalem holy site dispute and the violence over the past days.

Clashes have been raging for several days following Tel Aviv’s decision to install metal detectors at the Temple Mount (referred to by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif ) in the Old City in Jerusalem. The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, with Abbas having called for the removal of unilaterally installed barriers for people to be able to “pray with dignity.”










Afrasianet - The convoy of the Minister of Education of the National Unity Government, Osman Abdel Jalil, was subjected to heavy gunfire at "Gate 17" at the southern entrance to the city of Sabha on Monday while he was on his way to the city of Marzak.

The Ministry of Education said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page that "the group forced the minister's convoy to stop using arms and assaulted the minister and his companions with his hands, but the security team managed to remove the minister and the undersecretary from the danger zone, while the gunmen detained the rest of the team and forced them With the force of arms to stay in the place of detention for approximately one hour ".

The ministry, which did not specify the identity of the gunmen and did not publish pictures of the site of the attack, said that "the group was detained after the intervention of tribes Altabu who responded firmly to the militants and were able to secure the convoy of the minister and accompany him the rest of the trip."

The city of Sabha and the adjacent areas of southern Libya are characterized by a security breach resulting in repeated incidents of theft, assault and murder. They are controlled by armed groups, most of which are active in smuggling, especially smuggling of illegal immigrants and fuel.











Afrasianet - Riyadh - Saudi Arabia and its allies from the Gulf Arab states said on Monday that the deadline for the Qatari government to respond to its 13 demands, which ended Sunday night, was extended 48 hours at the request of Kuwait's emir, who is mediating the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt said in a joint statement issued by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that "in response to a request by Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to extend the special deadline for the government of Qatar for 48 hours since the end of the 10-day deadline, The four states' response will be sent after examining the Qatari government's response and evaluating its response to the full list of demands. "

The four countries said in a statement that they agreed to extend the deadline "because of the Qatari government's assertion that it will send its official response to the list of claims addressed to it on Monday."

The extension came after Qatar implicitly rejected the demands of its neighbors to restore ties with it just hours before the 10-day deadline set for it to respond to its 13 demands.

Earlier this morning, the Emir of Kuwait will receive Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, who will deliver a written message from Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The letter contains the response earlier prepared by Qatar on the list of collective claims submitted by Kuwait late last month.










Afrasianet - Eight people were wounded Monday morning in a shooting outside the Mercy Mosque in the southern French city of Avignon.

Two masked men, carrying a pistol and a gun, approached the mosque in a car before opening fire on worshipers as they left the building at about 10:30 am local time (2130 GMT).

According to the local media, four people were injured outside the mosque, in addition to four people from a family, including a seven-year-old girl, with shrapnel inside their house, about 50 meters from the site of the attack.

Two of the wounded were taken to the hospital, and the Public Prosecutor's Office suggested that the incident was the result of a dispute between the youths and not a terrorist act.

France is in a state of security alert after an attack on police in April and other bloody attacks in the months before.










Afrasianet - A suicide bomber has blown himself up in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing and injuring a number of people, according to media reports.

The bomber was in one of three cars, each with bombs, that had been pursued by Syrian authorities. The two other bombs were destroyed by police at a separate location in western Damascus, state TV said.

“Authorities were pursuing three cars with bombs inside and managed to blow up two of them before entering  the city,” the statement from state TV said, as cited by AFP.

Police surrounded the third car in Tahrir Square, where “the terrorist blew himself up resulting in people dead and injured,”  TV added without elaborating on the figures.

Unverified images circulating on Twitter show pillars of smoke rising over the Syrian capital.










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