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Tuesday, 21 February 2017 00:49

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Afrasianet - The head of Russia’s upper house Committee for International Relations wants to discuss Syria at the upcoming session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union – a global inter-parliamentary forum – in order to gain the coordinated support of the world community.

“I propose to come up with a joint initiative of yet another discussion concerning Syria that would emphasize the support to the Geneva and Astana processes. These are the processes that gained momentum after our October discussion, they require separate attention from us and consolidated support from the international parliamentary community,” Konstantin Kosachev said during a televised conference between Moscow, Damascus and Astana organized by Rossiya Segodnya.

The TV link was dedicated to the inter-parliamentary dialogue on a peaceful settlement in Syria in the light of the recent talks on the issue in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Kosachev also noted that despite the international community having paid significant attention to the events in Syria, it was extremely difficult to obtain truthful information about events there.

“We see propaganda instead of information and speculation on humanitarian disaster instead of real help,” the senator said.

Other committee participants supported the Russian official’s proposal, noting that the Inter-Parliamentary Union was an influential group, which threw its authority behind forces that sought peaceful end to the Syrian conflict.

Senator Kosachev also told those who took part in the teleconference that the situation in Syria will be discussed at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

The first talks between representatives of the Syrian government and rebels took place in Astana on January 23-24 this year. The latest round of the talks ended on February 16. The discussions were organized with the mediation of Russia – the main supporter of the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad – and Turkey, which backs the Syrian anti-government forces.

Separate peace talks on Syria organized by the UN are also being held in Geneva, and the next round of these talks is scheduled for February 23.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the oldest such group in existence. It unites the members of 170 national parliaments, and 11 regional parliamentary assemblies are associate members. The group holds permanent observer status at the United Nations.

Russia intensified its contacts with the IPU after its conflict with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). In October last year Russian lawmakers sealed an agreement to hold the next IPU meeting in Russia’s St. Petersburg in 2017.







Afrasianet - Donald Trump left the people of Sweden, and its government, wondering what exactly happened ‘last night in Sweden’ after the US president referred to an attack in the Scandinavian country during a rally in Florida this weekend.

"We've got to keep our country safe," the US president reiterated.

"You look at what's happening last night in Sweden ... who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they never thought possible,” the president said to justify his proposed immigration travel ban.

Swedes quickly began dispelling rumours that an attack had taken place in their country, confirming that, in fact, nothing had happened.

The hashtag #LastNightInSweden soon started trending as one of the most popular online topics in Sweden, forming a wave of amusing speculation about just what exactly had inspired Trump’s comments.

The Swedish government, however, did not see the funny side to Trump’s remarks and called on the US president to clarify his comments.  

“Our embassy in Washington has been in contact with the US foreign affairs office to get clarification. We’re of course wondering [what he referred to],” government spokeswoman, Catarina Axelsson told Swedish news agency TT.

“Let’s see if we get an answer from the embassy,” she added.

The issue also promoted former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt to wonder just what the US president was talking about.

While Chelsea Clinton also got in on the mockery of the man who pipped her mother Hillary to the White House.

In a tweet Sunday, Trump said he was referring to "a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden," although no further details were provided.

It's thought the piece Trump was alluding to was a segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight titled "What the US could learn from Sweden's refugee crisis."

Since taking office in January, there have been a number of instances where Trump's senior officials have referenced attacks that did not happen.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to a non-existent attack in Atlanta, while advisor Kellyanne Conway was ridiculed for her alternative facts gaffe regarding a fictional massacre in Bowling Green, Wisconsin.








Afrasianet - Protesters clashed with riot police during a rally in central Kiev Sunday, while marking the third anniversary of the Maidan protests. Some protesters have been detained, as seen from the live coverage from Ukraine’s capital.

Riot police escorted several detainees into police buses, live coverage by Hromadske TV (Public TV) showed. Medics have been dispatched to the site of the protests.

Hromadske TV aired a live broadcast from near the building of the President’s Administration on Kiev’s main Khreshchatyk street.

A group of protesters is heading towards Kiev’s central Independence Square (Maidan square), Interfax Ukraine reports. The demonstrators have broken through the police cordon at the European Square (Evropeiskaya square), according to reports which add that police are trying to contain the crowd.

Yury Zozulya, head of Kiev's National Police, denied reports of scuffles between protesters and police, Hromadske TV quoted him as saying. “These are not scuffles. People are looking for provocations and a [dramatic] picture,” Zozulya said.

According to local media estimates, nearly 1,000 people gathered today at Kiev’s central Independence Square (Maidan Square) to commemorate those who died in the protests three years ago.

Later, several hundred demonstrators, calling for a trade blockade against eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region, headed to the Presidential Administration Building. They reportedly tried to set up a make-shift tent camp. The attempt was cut short by police which led to the clashes.

Protesters tried to break through the police cordon near Ukraine’s National Bank and the administration building which also sparked scuffles. Protesters at the Independence Square also made an attempt to break through police lines, according to reports.

Some of the protesters are provoking security officials, shouting insults, hitting them on their helmets and throwing firecrackers at police, a local Hromadske reporter has said.

Around 10 people have been injured, a spokesman for Ukraine’s International Committee of the Red Cross told Hromadske TV.

“There is information, that nearly 10 people have been injured,” the spokesman said, adding that one of them had a brain injury.

One policeman has been seriously injured while five protesters have been detained, head of Kiev’s National Police Andrey Krishchenko said, according to Hromadske TV (Public TV).

“One of the policeman suffered a closed brain injury,” Krishchenko said, adding “the injury is serious.”

People commemorating the events of 2014 at the Independence Square (Maidan square) brought candles, flowers, and photos of the people who died during the protests. Roads were shut in downtown Kiev and security was stepped up for the day. Police set up metal detector units and carried out identity checks on those who wanted to enter the city center.

Four days of the Maidan protests, February 18–21, 2014, were the deadliest. About 100 people are believed to have died in clashes between police and radical groups which used firearms and Molotov cocktails.








Afrasianet - UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has praised the joint efforts of Russia and Turkey to broker peace in Syria, and has urged the international community to support it.

“The ceasefire is holding more than previous ones,” de Mistura said at the Munich Security Conference, “and in my modest opinion has, if we all look at it carefully and support it, more chances to actually succeed than others.”

This is because, according to de Mistura, both Russia and Turkey have the assets in Syria needed to “exercise leverage, which is a crucial point.”

There is a mechanism being established to monitor and support the ceasefire, de Mistura said. “That's why we have been supporting Astana, and the meetings in Astana, of course based on the assumption that they are surgical, laser-beamed on a very important issue: establishing, stabilizing and reinforcing the cessation of hostilities.”

De Mistura believes that Russian and Turkish brokering helped avoid the worst possible scenario for the battle of Aleppo.

 “There were not-so-secret meetings in Ankara, and those meetings produced discussions between armed groups and Russian military which avoided – people sometimes forget it – the final, the worst part, of the battle of Aleppo.

"Which would have led to the total distruction of the city plus 110,000-115,000 between refugees and dead people."

The Astana talks, however, have failed to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria so far, de Mistura said.

“When the war stops, in theory we should have humanitarian access. This has not yet taken place. But I know, and we push for that to be one of the consequences, collateral benefits rather than collateral damage, of the cessation of hostilities discussed in Astana.”

But including armed rebels in the talks was a great achievement.

“We have seen armed groups be present, and not actually being called terrorists, but actually being treated as interlocutors and sitting and discussing with the other side under the guarantors of the ceasefire, which is as you know Turkey, Russian Federation and I would say also Iran.”

While there has been considerable progress, the situation is “not perfect,” de Mistura said. One of the reasons is the still-present Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, which is “a spoiling element.”

Another is the various sides' efforts to improve their chances in combat, which they still consider an option.

 “The temptation by the government to want to accelerate, as it is happening while we are talking, facts on the ground, in order to be in a better position on what is still a possible military option, and the decision by the opposition to negotiate when they believe they are not in an ideal military position, is still a potential spoiling element.”

De Mistura said that he was unsure of the exact role the US might play in any future peace settlement, but posited that Washington will likely stick to their set of priorities.

“I understand that they do have in mind some clear priorities, and they are three,” he explained. “One is fighting Daesh [Islamic State]; second, how to limit the influence of some regional players, you know; and three, how to not actually damage one of their major allies in the region.”

During a panel discussion after de Mistura's address, Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the US-led military coalition against IS, agreed with de Mistura’s assessment that Russian and Turkish participation is key to ending the crisis in Syria.

“I was here last year in Munich, and one of the reasons that [2016’s peace] process did not succeed as we had hoped is frankly because we were a guarantor, and Russia was a guarantor,” he said. “It turns out when the US is a guarantor, we don’t have people on the ground and we became a bit of a Ping-Pong ball to try and control the situation.”

“Turkey and Russia are suitable guarantors, and we are looking for a role [in which] the US can come in and help reinforce that process through Astana.”








Afrasianet - The UK should not be “rolling out the red carpet” for the US President due to his “cruel and shameful” policies targeting Muslims and migrants, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said ahead of Parliament’s debate on Donald Trump’s planned trip this summer.

 “I love America, I love Americans and I believe the special relationship is a good one and one that’s here to stay. But when you’re mates with somebody, when you’ve got a special relationship, of course you are side-by-side with them in times of adversity but when they are wrong you call them out,” said Khan, who is the first ethnic minority and Muslim mayor of London, on ITV’s political discussion program Peston on Sunday.

“I think this ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, ending the refugee program is cruel and it’s shameful. In those circumstances we shouldn’t be rolling out the red carpet,” he continued.

Khan’s statement comes a day before British lawmakers debate an online petition urging a downgrade of Trump’s UK visit. The appeal states that Trump should be allowed to “enter the UK,” but “should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

Anti-Trump protesters are expected to gather outside Parliament during the debate on Monday.

Trump was invited to the UK by Prime Minister Theresa May who faced harsh criticism for the move, dubbed too premature.

Trump, whose first actions in office are widely viewed as controversial, needed only seven days to draw an official invite. By comparison, former President Barack Obama received his invitation to London only 758 days after his inauguration, and his predecessor, George Bush, waited 978 days before being invited.

State visits usually imply significant expenditure and include a stay at Buckingham Palace.

The petition was filed as early as November, right after Trump’s election victory, however, it began garnering hundreds of thousands of signatures as soon as Trump signed the US travel ban restricting citizens from seven Muslim countries from entering the US.

The executive order, intended to boost US security, according to the White House, hasn’t been enforced as it's currently embroiled in legal challenges across the US with the president vowing to redraft the executive order as early as next week.

By February 20, which marks 30 days in office for Trump, over 1,850,000 people have spoken against an official state visit to the UK.








Afrasianet - The future of NATO and its relations with Russia amid turbulent US foreign policy, as well as the Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts in an era of Cold War style media hysteria have dominated the three-day Munich Security Conference.

NATO’s future & relations with Russia

Russia is ready to work together with NATO, but its expansion has led to an “unprecedented level of tension” in Europe, the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told the conference. Moscow is open for political dialogue and diplomacy but believes it does not make any sense without military cooperation. NATO, however, has not shown a readiness for such cooperation.

The US seemingly tried to reassure its allies, alarmed by Donald Trump’s campaign statements on the alliance being “obsolete.” America “strongly supports NATO” and is fully committed to this transatlantic alliance, the US Vice President Pence said at the conference. “As you keep faith with us, under President Trump we will always keep faith with you,” he added, reiterating, the demand, however, that allies to pay their “fair share” of 2 percent of GDP to maintain NATO.

 “When even one ally fails to do their part, it undermines all of our ability to come to each other’s aid,” Pence stated, clearly implying that failure to increase spending was not an option for NATO nations.

As long as the EU and NATO “complement and not compete with each other,” the future of the “transatlantic bond” is quite bright, NATO’s SG Jens Stoltenberg said, since the EU and US desire to be “strong” does not mean they should be “alone.”

Germany and France however, did not seem to be entirely reassured by Pence’s speech. “I don’t know where Germany can find billions of euros to boost defense spending if politicians also want to lower taxes,” Germany’s FM Sigmar Gabriel said, while his French counterpart, posted quite a salty tweet that Pence didn’t say “a word on the EU.”

Syrian conflict & reconciliation process

High-ranking diplomats involved in efforts to end the Syrian conflict have acknowledged the crucial role of Russia. The Astana talks is an important milestone in the reconciliation process, as the Syrian government and rebels met for the very first time at a negotiating table instead of the battlefield. And while not being an alternative to the upcoming Geneva negotiations, it should be viewed as a valuable supplement, the UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura believes.

The UN representative also said the “not-so-secret” Russian-Turkish meetings helped avert the worst case scenario in the battle of Aleppo and saved tens of thousands of civilian lives.

The new ceasefire, brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey is “holding better” than the previous one [link to an article about US ceasefire fail] since these countries have actual influence on the ground in Syria.

Previous efforts, undertaken by Russia and the US, failed since Washington didn’t have such influence, US special presidential envoy for the US-led coalition against IS, Brett McGurk, conceded, stating that “we became a bit of a Ping-Pong ball to try and control the situation.”

Through info-wars into ‘post-fake’ world

The modern world lives in a “post-truth period” which can only be overcome through an old-school “justice and modesty” approach, Russia’s FM Sergey Lavrov believes. Only “honest work without lies and fake news” is the way to “resist hysterical information wars imposed on the international community."

Not everyone, unfortunately, shares the approach of the Russian FM, since the narrative of a “Russian threat,” “Russian hacks” and other baseless allegations have repeatedly emerged during the Munich conference. US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for example, has warned France and Germany to wake up referring to their upcoming elections, since the “Russians were coming after you.” The Senator then promised Lavrov “some consequences” and vowed to “kick Russia in the ass in Congress.”

Renewed Ukraine ceasefire

Russian, French, Ukrainian and German diplomats have reached a new agreement on a ceasefire in Ukraine starting February 20. “We have actively supported this decision and obviously expressed a conviction that this time, failure should not be allowed,” the Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said afterward.

The diplomats reiterated the importance of the Normandy format and said there was no need to include new parties, referring to the US. The Minsk deal is perceived to be the only way to untangle the conflict, and “Russians and Ukrainians” have “no other option but to respect” it, the French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

Lavrov noted that the lack of progress in the reconciliation process should not be blamed solely on Russia, as the other parties are equally responsible too.

President Vladimir Putin's decree acknowledging passports and other documents of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics was announced during the conference “out of humanitarian concerns,” leading to a hysterical reaction from Ukrainian officials.

President Petro Poroshenko called it “yet another” proof of “Russia's violation of international law” and claimed the rogue republics to be an “occupied territory.” The decree, however, is motivated not by political, but humanitarian considerations and it would remain in place “until the Minsk agreements are fulfilled.”








Afrasianet - Thousands of people have rallied in Donetsk to remind the world about the second anniversary of the Minsk II Protocols, urging Kiev to deliver on its long-overdue obligations and put an end to the bloodshed in the east of Ukraine.

The rally took place at the central square of Donetsk on Saturday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Minsk agreements and to protest Ukrainian aggression. Despite the wintery weather, thousands of people, including representatives of the self-proclaimed republic’s authorities, took part in the anti-war march and demonstration, according to local media.

The protest started with a moment of silence for all the civilians who had been killed during the conflict.

 “During the Minsk talks the world has heard us, and they know the truth. They talk more and more that it’s Ukraine who’s guilty in deaths of innocent people there,” deputy chairwoman of the Donetsk People’s Republic Council, Olga Makeeva, told the rally.

The protesters carried flags of the unrecognized Donetsk Republic and placards, which read “Ukraine, stop ignoring the ‘Minsk’ terms,” “Poroshenko, you’ve signed ‘Minsk,’ now implement it,” “Ukraine, implement the agreement” and others.

The Minsk Protocol is a roadmap to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Ukrainian authorities and rebellious regions. Minsk II was endorsed on February 11, 2015, by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany and further backed by a unanimous UNSC resolution on February 17. The document is aimed at achieving a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine and providing constitutional reforms to grant Donetsk and Lugansk special status and autonomy.

However, Kiev has thus far failed to grasp the political changes, instead opting to blame Moscow for the unresolved conflict. Russia utterly fails to understand the tendency in the West to lay responsibility for the settlement of the Ukraine crisis exclusively on Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Munich.

On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that "temporarily" recognizes documents issued by authorities in the troubled Donbass region as legal in Russia "based on the norms of international humanitarian law."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry responded that Kiev "vigorously condemns" and does not recognize the Russian decree. Having accused Russia of "violating Ukraine's territorial integrity," the ministry claimed the proclamation on the documents was a "de facto recognition of illegal authorities in Donbass."

Nevertheless, the decree provides relief to the population of the crisis-stricken regions from bureaucratic acrimony, and will be in place until the Minsk agreements aimed at settling the conflict is implemented in Ukraine, the Russian FM stated.









Afrasianet - A Gallup poll has revealed that citizens of four NATO nations would sooner count on Russia to defend them rather than the United States, Bloomberg reported on Friday, reflecting the changing perceptions of the US's role in global security.

Between October and December 2016, WIN/Gallup International asked around a thousand people in 66 countries who would be their go-to ally if attacked. While the military might of the US was still the first choice for most of the respondents polled, people from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Slovenia - all members of the transatlantic NATO alliance - opted for Russia when asked whom they felt they could count on if they felt under threat.

Other countries which preferred Russian over American protection included China, Iran, and Serbia. Russia itself chose China as their main ally, while Americans voted for the UK. Iraq, Bosnia, and Ukraine, countries with deep ethnic, religious and political divides, were split roughly evenly between Russia and the US.

“It isn’t surprising that Russians and Chinese chose each other, but it is new,’’ WIN/Gallup vice president Kancho Stoychev told Bloomberg. “It shows us something very important - that US policy over the last 20 years has driven Russia into the arms of China, which is quite strange because Russia is fundamentally a part of Europe.’’

Stoychev suggested that the sentiments towards in Russia in Greece and Bulgaria could be driven by a fear of Turkey. While all three are NATO members, Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus in 1974 may have undermined trust in the alliance.

In other European countries, more people looked across the continent for their defensive partners. For example, 29 percent of Swedes looked to the UK for protection, almost as many as to the US (31 percent). This could partly be due to comments made by US President Donald Trump, who has referred to NATO as "obsolete" and has called for a stronger relationship with Russia, worrying some European countries, particularly, Poland and the Baltics.

However, under President Trump, the US and NATO has continued to amass troops and equipment in Eastern Europe, close to Russia’s borders. In an interview shortly after a bilateral meeting in January, British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters that Trump had “confirmed he’s 100 percent behind NATO”.

The results of the Gallup survey coincides with the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, attended by senior security policymakers from around the world.

NATO was founded in 1949 in the early years of the Cold War, bringing together the US, Canada and mainly Westen European powers to act as a counterweight to the Soviet-led Eastern bloc. The alliance has continued to grow and has expanded eastwards over the last few decades, despite the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.








Afrasianet - Mankind is at the “crossroads,” with the so-called “liberal world order” having failed to adjust to post-Cold War reality, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told the Munich Security Conference, adding that only cooperation could take the current post-truth era to the age of post-fake.

On world order

“They say that all wars begin in the minds of people, and by this logic, that’s where they are supposed to come to an end. However, this hasn’t been the case with the Cold War yet, [at least] judging by some speeches of politicians in Europe and in the US, including statements that were made yesterday and today at the beginning of our conference.”

“Responsible leaders have to make a choice now, and I hope the choice will be in favor of a fair and democratic world order – you can call it post-West if you want to – where every country, based on its sovereignty and within international law, will seek a proper balance between its national interests and the national interests of its partners.”

“We strongly disagree with those who blamed Russia and new centers of global power for trying to undermine so-called liberal world order. The crisis of this model was pre-planned (when the economic and political globalization concept was created as an instrument that would increase the global elite club and provide for its domination over others.)”

On cyberattacks

“I haven’t seen a single fact proving that we allegedly attempted to break into some websites of the Democratic Party, or were supposedly doing something in France and Germany. Considering the absolutely unexplainable obsession [of our Western colleagues] with cybersecurity and cyberespionage, we do our best trying to clarify our position.”

On Russia’s relations with EU, NATO & US

“The idea that ‘when Russia sticks to the Minsk Agreements, then the EU will lift its sanctions’ is quite illogical and far-fetched. We are also for implementing the Minsk Agreements, and we won’t lift our sanctions against the EU until the Minsk Agreements are implemented.”

“There is an agreement that such a meeting [between President Putin and President Trump] should take place. It should be thoroughly prepared for and will take place when it’s convenient for both presidents.



“If everyone adopts such approach [of justice and modesty], we could overcome the post-truth period fast and resist hysterical information wars imposed on the international community, going on with honest work without lies and fake news. We could call it then a post-fake period.”










  • Top Russian senator vows to raise Syria issue at global parliamentary gathering

  • LastNightInSweden: Trump panned over fake attack gaffe, Swedes want answers

  • Scuffles between police and protesters in downtown Kiev during Maidan anniversary rally

  • Russia & Turkey-brokered Syria ceasefire has more chances than any other – UN Syria envoy

  • ‘No red carpet’: London mayor insists on denying ‘cruel’ Trump state visit

  • NATO, Syria & Ukraine in ‘post fake’ world: Munich Security Conference highlights & memorable quotes

  • Iraqi forces begin West Mosul offensive against ISIS

  • Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk commemorates 2nd ‘anniversary’ of Minsk agreements

  • Four NATO powers prefer Russia to the US, Gallup poll shows

  • ‘Post-truth’ & ‘post-fake’ crossroads: Russian FM’s top quotes at Munich Security Conference

Afrasianet - Some 39 people, including 16 foreigners, were killed and dozens of others injured when at least one gunman reportedly dressed as Santa opened fire in an Istanbul night club, Turkey’s interior minister said. The manhunt for one terror suspect is underway.
Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, told Turkish media on Sunday morning that 21 victims have been identified so far, of whom 16 were foreign nationals and five Turkish citizens.

Soylu said that the shooter is still at large. Conflicting reports have been claiming that two gunmen were involved.

“The search operation for the terrorist is ongoing,” the minister said.

Immediately after the attack, Istanbul’s governor Vasip Şahin said 35 people were killed and 40 wounded, calling the incident a terrorist attack.

The attack took place at the well-known Reina nightclub in the Ortakoy neighborhood, in Istanbul’s Besiktas district.

"A terrorist with a long-range weapon... brutally and savagely carried out this incident by firing bullets at innocent people who were there solely to celebrate the New Year and have fun," Sahin told media at the scene of the attack.

The Guardian cited “government officials” as saying that the attacker was killed and police were leaving the scene. The report could not, however, be immediately confirmed. Few updates have emerged amid a reported media blackout.

Speaking about the circumstances of the attack, Şahin said that the assailant first killed the police officer, who was standing at the door of the club, and then went on a rampage inside, killing innocent civilians.

Eyewitnesses at the club said that the attacker was speaking Arabic, Turkish media are reporting.

The gunman was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, wielding an assault rifle, Turkish media said.

The attacker opened fire on clubgoers, injuring at least 20-30, according to NTV. One of the gunmen has reportedly hidden inside the club, while the whereabouts of the second one were not immediately clear.

The number of casualties may rise, as it is estimated that between 700 and 800 people could have been in the club at the time of the attack, Mynet Haber reports.

Emergency crews have been evacuating injured people from the building as police search the area.

After the attacker stormed into the building, some club-goers jumped into the sea in panic, Turkish media cited eyewitnesses as saying. A search and rescue operation for those who jumped in the water is being carried out by maritime police.

The owner of the Reina’s nightclub, Mehmet Koçarslan, has claimed that the club had been warned  about a possible attack, and that the information came from US intelligence services. Security measures had been taken, he added.

“US intelligence warned about such an attack about one week or 10 days ago – and measures have been taken, including [on] the sea front. And look what has happened,” Koçarslan told Turkish daily Hurriyet.

US President Barack Obama has offered to help Turkey with the investigation, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement, saying that Obama “directed his team to offer appropriate assistance to the Turkish authorities.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been informed of the terrorist attack and is being updated on the latest developments in the situation, CNN Turk reports.

Messages of condolence have been pouring in for Turkey in the aftermath of the attack.

“Our thoughts are with victims and their loved ones. We continue to work to prevent these tragedies,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini published in Twitter message.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the attack “a tragic start to 2017.”

He posted on Twitter: "My thoughts are with those affected by the attack on people celebrating New Year and with the Turkish people.”
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook extended his condolences to the Turkish people in another Twitter post, this one penned in Turkish.

“Dear Turkey, we share your pain and sorrow. Istanbul, our heart is with you,” the message read.







Afrasianet - A plane carrying Brazil's Chapecoense football team has crashed in Colombia, injuring at least 10 people, according to media reports. It was reportedly carrying 72 passengers en route to the Copa Sudamericana finals.

The plane crashed due to lack of fuel at around 10:15pm local time in Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Union, according to Mi Oriente.

At least 10 people have been injured and are being evacuated from the scene, the commander of La Union fire department said, according to the website.

The plane was flying to José María Córdova International Airport in Rionegro, the second largest airport in Colombia.

The team was traveling to compete in the Copa Sudamericana finals. Chapecoense was scheduled to compete against Colombia's Atlético Nacional at 6:45pm local time on Wednesday.








Afrasianet - The US military has carried out a series of “limited self-defence strikes” in Yemen, the Pentagon has announced. The attack, authorized by President Obama, was carried out in retaliation to recent attacks on the US naval destroyer, USS Mason.

According to the Pentagon’s initial assessments, three “radar sites” in the Houthi rebel-controlled area of Yemen were destroyed in the attack.

The attack on coastal targets was carried out by Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the destroyer USS Nitze, NPR reported. According to US officials all targets were “in remote areas, where there was little risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage.”

“These limited self-defense strikes were conducted to protect our personnel, our ships, and our freedom of navigation in this important maritime passageway,” the statement reads.

President Barack Obama authorized the strikes on the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

The US military vowed to respond to “any further threat to our ships and commercial traffic.”

Earlier on Wednesday, USS Mason fell under fire for the second time in four days. At least one rocket was fired at the destroyer, causing “no damage to the ship or its crew,” Cook said.







Afrasianet - Former Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres has died at a hospital near Tel Aviv at the age of 93, after his condition deteriorated following a stroke, local media report.

The former leader died with his family at his bedside.

Peres was admitted to Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan two weeks ago, where he was intubated and sedated. Doctors expressed cautious optimism in the days immediately following his hospitalization.

However, on Tuesday, the former top politician suffered a serious setback incurring irreversible brain damage, The Times of Israel reported.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement of mourning following news of Peres' death.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara express deep personal sorrow over the passing of the nation's beloved former president, Shimon Peres," the statement said.

US President Barack Obama also offered his condolences, saying: "There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people."

Former US President Bill Clinton called Peres a "brilliant and eloquent friend."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Peres a "man of peace."

In January, Peres was transported to a hospital following a heart attack. He underwent emergency surgery but had to be admitted to hospital again just over a week later due to an irregular heartbeat.

Peres was active in Israeli politics for nearly 70 years and retired in 2014 after serving a seven year term as the country’s ninth president.

Prior to that, he held nearly every position in the Israeli government. He served as Prime Minister three times, including once as interim. He also held the post of Israeli Defense and Foreign Affairs Minister and joined the cabinet as the Minister for Transportation and Finance.

As foreign minister, Peres was the one to finalize the interim Israeli Palestinian Oslo Peace deal.

While it did not turn into a lasting treaty, in 1994 he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, along with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Peres has been a staunch advocate of the two-state solution with Palestine, trying to boost the process following Rabin's assassination in 1995. However, his position in the matter weakened following a string of suicide attacks by Palestinians and mounting pressure from Israeli nationalists.

He remained a vocal supporter of the peace process with the Palestinians, but stressed that the recognition of an independent Palestinian state outside a UN-proposed plan would be wrong.








Afrasianet - Police have confirmed they are sweeping an East Baltimore area for three shooters thought to be in possession of a shotgun and handguns. At least eight people have been shot, including a parent and a three-year-old child.

Three suspects fled the scene, including one bearing a shotgun and two who had handguns, Chief of Media Relations at Baltimore Police, T.J. Smith, tweeted. Eight people were wounded, he confirmed, but the injuries were “all non-life threatening.”

Smith added that a father and his three-year-old daughter had been among those wounded.

The shooting took place at around 8:45pm local time at the intersection of E. Preston Street and Greenmount Avenue, not far from Baltimore Penn Station.

Police told CBC’s local affiliate WJZ TV that at least three people were sent to local hospitals. The hunt for the suspect remains underway.







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