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Saturday, 25 March 2017 15:27

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Afrasianet - World Cup 2018 Local Organizing Committee CEO Alexey Sorokin has expressed willingness to stand as a candidate for the FIFA Council in place of barred council member Vitaly Mutko.

Mutko was disqualified from running for re-election from the council of world football’s governing body, on which he has held a position since 2009, for not meeting FIFA criteria for its members to be politically neutral owing to his position as Russian deputy prime minister for sport, tourism and youth politics.

Sorokin, who was appointed CEO of the Russia 2018 Bid Committee from 2009-10, has since stated he would run for the position if put forward by the Russian Football Union (RFU).

“Theoretically, such an option [to stand as a candidate instead of Mutko] is possible. For us the most important thing is for Russia not to lose its place in the council after the aforementioned events. But the RFU will decide this,” the 45-year-old said in a telephone interview with R-Sport.

“By procedure the RFU will put forward a candidate to UEFA, then UEFA presents the candidate to FIFA to check if they are eligible. That’s how the procedure looks. If the RFU puts forward my candidacy, it will be a huge honour for me. The elections are soon, so we need to talk with UEFA about it.

“The main thing, I repeat, is for Russia to preserve its place in the council,” he added.

Sorokin, who also served as the secretary general of the Russian Football Union, could be seen celebrating when Russia was announced as 2018 World Cup hosts on December 2, 2010, at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Should he not run as a candidate, Russia would have no representation on the council owing to Mutko’s exclusion.

The other four UEFA candidates for the FIFA Council – Hungary’s Sandor Csanyi, Cyprus’ Costakis Koutsokoumnis, Montenegro’s Dejan Savicevic and Iceland’s Geir Thorsteinsson – would therefore be elected to the council unopposed.








Afrasianet - Three people, including a minor, have been injured in the city of Lille after a gunman opened fire near the central Porte d’Arras metro station. Police are not considering the incident to be terror-related, local media reports.

Witnesses heard at least five shots fired in central Lille late on Friday, local outlet La Voix du Nord reported.

The injured reportedly included a 14-year-old teenager, who was shot in the leg. Another person has suffered a neck injury and has been hospitalized.

The motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear. The shooter has reportedly escaped the scene. Multiple police and emergency service vehicles have been dispatched and police have cordoned off the area.

Police said they do not consider the case to be terror-related, France Bleu Nord reported. Officers found about 10 bullet shells on the scene, the outlet said.

Media reports, citing sources, have claimed that the incident was understood to be related to drug traffickers “settling scores.” No official statement has yet been released, however.

The coverage of the shooting has caused some controversy on social media. While major international news agencies chose to ignore the incident altogether, several UK tabloids picked the story under headlines such as “Terror fears in Lille as 'many wounded' in shooting near metro station in center of French city” (Daily Mirror) and “Terror alert in Lille…” (Daily Mail).

In a wave of backlash on Twitter, some criticized the lack of coverage by mainstream media, while others denounced the “terror” label a number of outlets and social media pages chose to use before the nature of the shooting could be verified.

Hashtag #PrayForLille was also immediately created, causing twitterati to quarrel in comments.

The attention to the shooting incident was apparently magnified by the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday, in which 52-year-old UK citizen Khalid Masood mowed down several people on Westminster Bridge with a 4x4 vehicle, before crashing it into a fence outside the Houses of Parliament and then stabbing a policeman to death. Four people were killed in the attack, which ended with Masood getting shot dead by the police.








Afrasianet - The UN has urged all parties to the anti-terrorist operation in Mosul to refrain from “indiscriminate use of firepower” after reports by eyewitnesses said over a hundred civilians were either killed or buried under rubble in an alleged coalition bombing raid.

 “The United Nations is profoundly concerned by the reports yesterday of a high number of civilian casualties in al-Jadida in Iraq, a densely populated neighborhood in Mosul. Initial reports indicate hundreds of casualties,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary General, told a press conference on Friday.

Since the release of the video of an aftermath of the airstrike on Friday morning, showing scores of dead bodies being pulled up from a completely destroyed house, Pentagon announced it is “looking into” the report of it being a result of a coalition sortie.

“We are aware of reports on airstrikes in Mosul resulting in civilian casualties,” Eric Phahon, Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement, cited by Fox News, acknowledging that coalition jets had carried out recent airstrikes in Mosul.

Earlier, the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) for Operation Inherent Resolve said in an email to RT that the process of examining the allegations will “take time” as conflicting reports put the airstrike between March 17 and March 23.

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition has “opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation,” as cited by AP.

Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, is “stunned by the horrendous loss of life,” Haq said, conveying Grande’s message of condolences. Grande also called on warring parties engaged in hostilities in Iraq to stick to international humanitarian law.

“Parties to the conflict – all parties – are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians,” she stressed, denouncing the jihadists’ tactics of using civilians as cover.

Grande has in particular cautioned against sweeping bombing raids which ultimately result in a heavy civilian death toll.

“This means that combatants cannot use people as human shields and cannot imperil lives through indiscriminate use of firepower,” she was cited as saying.

While no side in the conflict has officially claimed responsibility for the alleged bombing, unnamed US officials told Los Angeles Times the preliminary data indicates that such a heavy impact from a reported strike might have been a result of a jet hitting a truck, filled with fuel or explosive materials.  

Up to 200 civilians have been killed in the airstrike in the embattled western Mosul, where Iraqi troops backed by the US-led coalitions are pushing hard to flush out Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) militants.

The large-scale offensive that saw the eastern part of the city being recaptured by Iraqi forces has been dragging on after reaching Mosul’s Old City, which includes the heart of the so-called Islamic caliphate, proclaimed by IS in the al-Nuri mosque back in 2014. The narrow alleys of the historic center hinder movement of Iraqi troops and prevent its advance further into the western part of the beleaguered city.

On Friday, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, US Army Brigadier General John Richardson, announced that in light of the latest impediment, the Iraqi forces will be altering their tactics and aiming to encircling the Old City from two sides forcing, the militants to surrender.

“They [Iraqi forces] are looking at opening another front to force ISIS to fight in two directions and isolate the Old City, so when it is time to go into the old city, potentially they surrender,” Richardson said, as cited by Reuters.

Iraqi military commanders hope that the new approach will bring rewards in the immediate future.

“In the next few days we will surprise Daesh terrorists by targeting and eliminating them using new plans,” Iraqi army spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said.








Afrasianet - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko says reacting to negative headlines in the British press aimed at Russian sport is futile, insisting that Russia will instead focus on preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Mutko, who also serves as the head of the Russian Football Union (RFU) and Chairman of the 2018 World Cup Russia Local Organizing Committee, said Russia should concentrate on preparing for the tournament rather than the “systematic attacks” about Russian football supporters coming from British media outlets.

 “Some people aim to discredit Russian sport, and this shows no signs of letting up soon,” Mutko said, according to TASS.

“It is carried out in a constant manner, steadily and without thought. There is no point in reacting to every jibe. Instead, we will prepare for the World Cup responsibly and to a high standard,” he said.

On Tuesday, UK tabloid the Mirror used the traditional Russian ‘Maslenitsa’ festival in a “shock investigation” into Russian football hooliganism, which featured a video depicting “Russian ‘football fans’ in bizarre refereed ‘fights.’”

However, the fighting in the video and photos accompanying the article actually show festival goers engaging in a centuries-old Russian tradition called “wall-to-wall” (‘stenka na stenku’), in which men spar dressed in traditional folk clothing.

The piece was the latest in a series of stories on the dangers Russian ultras allegedly pose to British football fans.

In response to other negative Western coverage related to Russian fans, Spartak Moscow supporters derided the BBC during the first half of their derby versus Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday by unfurling a banner featuring a mock picture in which there were two masked fans – one holding a scarf bearing stripes in Spartak colors, and another, displayed on a TV screen with the BBC logo, brandishing a machete.

The words “Blah Blah Channel” were written at the bottom of the banner. The display was created in response to a BBC documentary that aired last month entitled Russia’s Hooligan Army, which depicts the country’s football supporters as thugs intent on violence.

Another banner emerged moments later carrying the message “#WelcomeToRussia2018 – Supporters of a big country” written in Russian, as an open invitation to fans to visit the World Cup.

After his team’s visit to Russia for the Europa League round of 16 first-leg away to FC Rostov, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said that everything had gone “wonderfully well.”

English fans that made the trip to Russia attend the match were presented with commemorative blankets by the Rostov supporters.

“My view is that everything went wonderfully well in Russia – apart [from] the pitch, but the club was so nice to us, the people around the hotel and the airport were so nice to us,” Mourinho told a Russian journalist in the press conference after the game.

 “I think the same with our supporters in the stadium and never felt anything but feel safe and feel super comfortable. I couldn't smell any kind of problem,” he said.







Afrasianet - Scores of tanks, self-propelled artillery guns and other military hardware have started to arrive in Estonia from the UK and Germany, in what the UK defense minister has called the largest deployment in Eastern Europe since the Cold War.

The first of hundreds of UK military vehicles have arrived in Estonia on Wednesday, delivered by a ferry from ports in Britain and Germany, the UK Ministry of Defence reported.

The heavy military equipment – Challenger 2 tanks, Terrier, Titan and Trojan armored battlefield engineer vehicles as well as Warrior infantry fighting vehicles – will be moved from an Estonian port to a military base in Tapa, the ministry statement said.

The delivery is aimed to support a British battle group in the eastern European country, it added, emphasizing that it’s "one of the largest ever NATO deployments" to the region.

"This is the start of one of the biggest deployment in Eastern Europe since the Cold War," UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said, adding that by the end of April there will be "800 British troops, with armor, with tanks" in Estonia, close to Russia's borders.

NATO has justified the arrival of the vehicles, which follow a deployment of over a hundred British military personnel to Estonia, by boosting security in the region against hypothetical “Russian aggression.”

American, French and German troops have already arrived to Estonia within NATO’s international battalions, Interfax reported, citing the local Postimees newspaper. By the end of next month, some 1,650 international troops are expected to be present at the Tapa and Amari military bases, with the latter to host NATO's air forces from Germany.

The buildup is part of a large NATO mission to deploy four multinational battalions in the Baltics, agreed by the military alliance last year. Moscow has repeatedly criticized the move, saying NATO’s eastward expansion on the Russian border with the expected 4,000 troops plus tanks, armored vehicles, air support and high-tech intelligence centers in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will only undermine the security balance on the continent.









Afrasianet - UK police have confirmed that five people have now died as a result of Wednesday’s attack and 40 people have been injured.

“We think we know who the attacker is,” Acting Deputy Commissioner & national lead for Counter Terrorism Policing Mark Rowley said but stated that they were not willing to divulge the assailant’s name at this time, though they did admit that it “Islamic terrorism is our assumption.”

Police have also named the officer who died as 48-year-old husband and father PC Keith Palmer, a 15-year veteran of the force.

What we know

•    Five people are dead, including a police officer and the alleged attacker

•    Several others have "catastrophic" injuries after a car reportedly mounted the pavement on Westminster Bridge and "tried to mow people down"

•    A woman was treated after "falling" from bridge into the River Thames

•    A police officer is dead after being stabbed inside Parliament grounds

•    The alleged assailant is dead after being shot by armed police

•    At least 40 people have been injured

•    Police are treating the incident as terrorism

•    Police believe there was only one attacker

•    PM Theresa May is chairing a COBRA emergency meeting

Five people have died, including one woman, the alleged attacker and a police officer.

Many others obtained "catastrophic" injuries, St Thomas' Hospital junior doctor Colleen Anderson told reporters.

“There were people across the bridge. There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from or who have life-changing injuries," Anderson said.

Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the police are "satisfied at this stage it looks like there was only one attacker."

London Ambulance Service says it has treated at least 10 patients on Westminster Bridge.

An eyewitness has told Sky News he saw a body "face down" in the Thames. Witnesses said people either jumped or were knocked over the side of the bridge as the car mounted the pavement and struck a number of pedestrians.

A spokesman for the Port of London Authority, which looks after safety on the river, said a female member of the public had been recovered from the water near Westminster bridge after she "fell" or "jumped" in.

"A female member of the public was recovered alive from the water, but with serious injuries. She has been brought ashore and is undergoing urgent medical treatment. The working assumption is that she fell or jumped from the bridge."

Shocking videos and photographs show people lying on the bridge, bleeding heavily, with members of the public rushing to their aid.

An eyewitness, Richard Tice, described what he saw to RT.

“I came out of Westminster Tube at about 2:45pm when police were locking down the tube, ushering people out away from Parliament. I was ushered onto Westminster Bridge, and then I looked across the bridge, onto the west pavement,” he recalled.

 “For the whole length of the bridge, from south to north, there were people lying on the ground and I was then told that a car had driven from the south end all the way up the pavement to the north end of the bridge. I counted at least eight people clearly injured on the ground.”

Another witness described seeing a middle-aged man carrying a knife running towards the Palace of Westminster.

Kamal Alam, a Syrian military analyst whose office isn’t far from where the attack took place, also spoke with RT.

“I thought it’s just some kind of school drill, but within a few seconds heard what sounded like gunshots and a lot of screaming, and all of a sudden there [were] dozens of armed policemen telling everyone to run away from Parliament Square and Westminster Tube Station,” he said.

Jayne Wilkinson told Sky News: "We were taking photos of Big Ben and we saw all the people running towards us, and then there was an Asian guy in about his 40s carrying a knife about seven or eight inches long.

"And then there were three shots fired, and then we crossed the road and looked over. The man was on the floor with blood.

"He had a lightweight jacket on, dark trousers and a shirt.

"He was running through those gates, towards parliament, and the police were chasing him."

According to Doug Weeks, terrorism expert at London Metropolitan University, the attack, while softened by the high security presence in the area, could have been far bloodier.

“Well certainly within the Parliament compound itself, that is by far one of the most secure areas within London. There are numerous police officers and other security personnel that work in that area as well as around that area, thus it’s not surprising that the police have a very rapid response to this incident,” Weeks told RT.

Following the attack, Number 10 said Prime Minister Theresa May was safe. The spokesman declined to say where May was when the attack took place.

It is understood, however, she was rushed to a car 40 yards from the gates outside parliament where the shots were fired minutes after the attack. She was ushered by at least eight armed undercover police, some with their firearms drawn.

The leader of the House of Commons David Lidington said the alleged assailant was shot by armed police "inside the parliament perimeter."

Parliament and the surrounding area were placed on lockdown. Staff inside parliament were told to stay inside their offices.

The London Eye was stopped and temporarily held all its "guests" within the attraction.

An air ambulance landed in Parliament Square shortly after the incident.

London Ambulance Service deputy director of operations Pauline Cranmer said it has "declared a major incident and our priority is to assess patients and ensure that they are treated and taken to hospital as soon as possible."

The US State Department said it was closely following the "concerning situation" in the UK.

"The Department of Homeland Security stands in solidarity alongside our friends in the United Kingdom in condemning the terrible attack at Parliament today. With our partners in federal law enforcement, we are in close contact with our British counterparts to monitor the tragic events and to support the ongoing investigation," it said in a statement.

The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a statement on the attack, which has not yet been claimed by any group.

It has been one year today since the terror attack in Brussels.








Afrasianet - Fierce clashes between the Syrian army and rebels led by the Al-Qaeda offshoot formerly known as Al-Nusra Front broke out in neighborhoods east of Damascus on Tuesday. Ruptly video footage captured relentless artillery fire, explosions and smoke rising from the area.

Syrian government forces have intensified the shelling of terrorist positions north of the Jobar neighborhood, which has been split between government forces and rebels for over two years.

On Tuesday morning, terrorists detonated a car bomb, launching an incursion from the edges of Damascus and succeeded in infiltrating al-Maamel area in its eastern outskirts, aiming to push offensive further into the al-Qaboun neighborhood, RT Arabic reported.

Several missiles have been launched by rebels into the central part of the city, Reuters reported, citing witnesses.

“Very frightening situation for civilians living in Syria’s most populous city at the moment. Several neighborhoods have suffered from shelling, exploding bullets hitting cars and houses in the areas, numerous civilians have been injured as a result of these clashes,” RT’s Lizzie Phelan reported.

The Syrian armed forces managed to stop the advancement and isolated the jihadists in the al-Mamel area in the southern al-Qaboun district, located to the north of the embattled Jobar area, repelling all attempts to break through the siege.

“They entered a narrow pocket – the same area of the [previous] breach – and now this group is being dealt with,” a source in the Syrian military said, as cited by Reuters.

The terrorists holding up in al-Qaboun launched attacks on Al-Abissin residential area, shelling it and firing sniper bullets towards the area, Syria’s state SANA news agency reported, noting that the Syrian army responded with artillery fire.

Two football players were among the victims of the hostilities, suffering injuries when the compound housing a local football team was targeted in a rebel shelling, RT’s Phelan said.

At least 15 people have been injured as result of rocket shelling of Masaken Barzeh and al-Shaghour neighborhoods, SANA reported.

The Syrian forces have been relying on attacks from the air, pounding heavily on terrorist supply routes and their positions in Jobar. The government has largely withdrawn its attack troops from the front lines relocating them to the perimeter of the city and beefing them up around Abassiyin area in the Jobar neighborhood.

The Abassiyin area, which is located some 2 kilometers away from the Old City of the Syrian capital, has recently witnessed heavy fighting as its strategic location opens the road to Damascus.

The rebel offensive has been spearheaded by Tahrir al-Sham, a new name assumed by the terrorist group Al-Nusra Front after it merged with several smaller groups in January. The militant group, which has been excluded from the all-Syrian ceasefire and recently recognized by the US as a terrorist entity, has been joined in its push by hardline Ahrar Al-Sham as well as some factions of the Free Syrian Army.

The rebel offensive has been launched from the jihadist stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. As the Syrian forces try to tighten their grip on the stronghold, the rebels attempted to loosen it by going on an offensive in Jobar.

While the rebels did not gain ground Tuesday, they fell short of their goal to create a supply road by linking two areas in the eastern part of Damascus.

Nevertheless, they managed to retain control over the areas that had captured during the last couple of days, Phelan said.










Afrasianet - Large-scale military exercises involving several Russian airborne units as well as the Air Force and a part of the Black Sea Fleet have begun in Crimea, the commander of the Russian Airborne Troops told Russian media.

An air assault division from southern Russia and two airborne brigades from Russia’s central and far-eastern regions are taking part in the drills alongside with a part of the Black Sea Fleet and the 4th Army of Air Forces and Air Defense of the Southern military command, Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov, the head of the Russian Airborne Forces, told journalists.

Serdyukov said that 2,500 soldiers and 600 pieces of military equipment are taking part in the exercises, which would become the first military drill of that scale in Crimea after its re-unification with Russia.

“For the first time in history of the Russian Army, as part of the airborne troops exercise, three formations were simultaneously alarmed and partly deployed to Crimea with weapons and hardware,” Serdyukov said.

The drills are conducted in response to “the growing terrorist threat,” he added. According to Serdyukov, such exercises are necessary as the airborne troops could potentially be used as rapid deployment forces in various regions of the world as part of crisis resolution operations.

The drills are expected to involve amphibious and airborne assaults as well as fire courses and training in offensive and defensive operations. Serdyukov said that the troops would train in defeating various militant groups as well as regular forces of a hypothetical aggressor.

The drills have begun as a US-led battle group of over 1,100 soldiers has been scheduled to be deployed to Poland in early April. The battalion’s commander, US Army Lt. Col. Steven Gventer, tied the deployment to deterring possible Russian “aggression in the Baltics and in Poland,” while another high-ranking officer said it was “not the entirety of NATO’s response” to Moscow over reunification with Crimea and the alleged role in the eastern Ukrainian crisis.

Earlier in February, US troops were deployed to Bulgaria to boost NATO presence in Eastern Europe. Tanks and hardware accompanied by another 500 American troops also arrived to Romania.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov expressed Moscow’s concerns over the increased risks posed by the NATO buildup in the Eastern Europe to Russian security. “This deployment is of course a threat for us,” Meshkov said in February in an interview with RIA Novosti while giving assurances that Russia will be able to protect its citizens.

In July 2016, NATO members agreed to the “biggest reinforcement since the Cold War,” posting four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. In January, 2,800 pieces of US military hardware, including US Abrams tanks, Paladin artillery, Bradley fighting vehicles and 4,000 troops arrived in Europe as part of the buildup.

NATO members Germany, Canada and Britain are also contributing to the significant NATO forces’ buildup in Eastern Europe and are sending battalions of up to 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Since the spring of 2014, NATO warships, including missile cruisers from the US and other allied nations, have been patrolling the Black Sea on a rotational basis. NATO explained its increased activity near the Russian borders by the need to reassure its allies following Russia’s reunion with Crimea in March 2014.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, has been warning that the alliance is pushing the world into a new arms race by its buildup in the region.

Grushko on Monday said NATO’s increased military activity, including frequent drills on Russia’s border, “creates new reality,” which could lead to a “spiral of an arms race, which is very difficult to escape.”









Afrasianet - Denmark has summoned Turkey’s charge d’affaires on the heels of a report that Danish citizens of Turkish origin might have been blacklisted and accused of treason on the basis of tips submitted by Turkish government sympathizers via a special hotline.

The Danish Foreign Ministry “made it clear that it saw with great concern reports alleging that citizens of Denmark report on the other citizens to the Turkish authorities in this manner because of a person’s political affiliation,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday, following a meeting between the Turkish charge d’affaires and the Danish ministry’s foreign policy director, Lone Dencker Wisborg.

It further pointed out that any request coming from Turkish authorities to Danish citizens to unveil the identities of fellow Danes would be deemed “unacceptable,” noting that an act of informing foreign governments, including that of Turkey, will be considered a criminal offense.

The reprimand follows the report in the Danish Berlingske newspaper on Sunday that at least 10 people contacted by the outlet, including former and current Danish MPs, have received online threats from apparent supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowing to denounce them to the Turkish authorities as critics of his government.

Among those who have been served with such warnings are former Danish MP Özlem Cekic and Lars Aslan Rasmussen, an MP from the Social Democratic Party. Cekic told Berlingske she had received a comment on Facebook from an unknown person, who messaged her that he would “report [Cekic] to the authorities in Turkey and hope that you are put on their clean-up list, so you get blacklisted.”  

Rasmussen, who was informed by some anonymous people through phone and Facebook, that his name had been reported to the Turkish authorities, now fears repercussions if he decides to visit his Turkish relatives.

“I take this very seriously. I would of course be very upset if I couldn’t go there anymore because my father is from there,” Rasmussen told the newspaper, as cited by AFP.

Politicians have appeared to be not the only victims targeted in online intimidation campaign by alleged Erdogan supporters. A high school teacher, Mustafa Gezen, who last year publicly blasted Erdogan’s policy on TV, has also been contacted by what he described “a man with a heavy Danish accent,” who told him that the recording of the show in question was forwarded to the Turkish embassy in Denmark.

The Berlingske report claims that a special hotline, which informants use to submit their reports, is going directly to the Turkish presidential office. As an experiment, the newspaper dialed the number, pretending it was going to report a supporter of the self-exiled preacher Fethulla Gulen, whom Turkey considers to be a terrorist and a mastermind behind the foiled coup of July 15, 2016. The person whom the paper spoke to seemingly made no distinction between Turkish nationals and foreign citizens of Turkish origin, saying that “when the person comes to Turkey, it does not matter what nationality the person has.”

The report has sparked outrage in the Foreign Ministry, with Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen calling the alleged conduct of the Turkish government “completely unacceptable,” adding that it has nothing to do with gathering information on Danish individuals as “in principle informing is the concern of the police.”

However, the Turkish charge d’affaires, who has been representing Turkey after the Turkish ambassador to Denmark who retired last week dismissed the report, insisting that the Turkish government does not have any special system in place to track or detect its critics, also denying the existence of a “blacklist” of Danish citizens who are barred from entering or exiting Turkey.

The special hotline, he argued, was only to be used to confer information that is terrorism-related.

Despite the Turkish government’s assertions, Samuelsen promised to “follow the case closely” after the meeting.

Tensions have been running high between the two countries since Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen asked his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yıldırım, to delay a scheduled visit due to then unfolding diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands, during which Erdogan accused Dutch authorities of “Nazi practices” for not allowing a rally of his supporters in the Netherlands. The Dutch responded by expelling Turkish minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya to Germany after barring her from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam to stage a pro-Erdogan rally.

"Such a visit could not take place in light of the current attacks by Turkey against the Netherlands. Therefore, I proposed to my Turkish colleague to postpone our meeting,” Rasmussen said at the time.









  • Russian World Cup LOC chief Sorokin hopes to run as FIFA Council candidate in place of banned Mutko

  • Lille shooting: 3 injured as gunman opens fire near metro station in northern France

  • UN profoundly concerned by ‘hundreds of casualties’ in suspected coalition airstrikes in Mosul

  • ‘We should prepare for World Cup, not react to British media swipes’ – Russian Deputy PM Mutko

  • Over 100 NATO military vehicles arrive in Estonia as part of ‘biggest deployment since Cold War’

  • Entire Ukrainian city being evacuated as munitions depot catches fire, explodes

  • Police confirm 5 dead, 40 injured in Westminster attack, ‘Islamic terrorism’ assumed as motive

  • Heavy fighting in east Damascus as Syrian army fends off Nusra-led offensive (VIDEO)

  • Airborne troops, Mi-28s & fleet: Massive military drills kick off in Crimea

  • Snitching scandal: Denmark reprimands Turkish envoy over ‘hotline to report on Erdogan critics’

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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