Friday, 5 December 2014

Yemen’s Al-Qaida Branch threatens US hostage in new video

2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows Luke Somers, an American photojournalist born in Britain and held hostage by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen. (Source:AP)
Associated Press | Sanaa (yemen) | Posted: December 4, 2014 4:42 pm | Updated: December 5, 2014 3:43 pm
Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen threatened an American hostage who was the target of a rescue attempt by U.S. special forces last month, warning Washington in a video released on December 4 not to try again, and giving it three days to meet unspecified demands.
“My life is in danger,” Luke Somers says in the footage, which appeared to mimic hostage videos released by al-Qaida’s rival, the Islamic State group.
It was the first word from the 33-year-old photojournalist since he was snatched from the streets of Sanaa more than a year ago. He had been working for nearly three years in the impoverished Arab nation, “living as a normal Yemeni,” friends and colleagues told The Associated Press.
In a video post of their own, Somers’ mother and brother said Somers was “only trying to do good things for the Yemeni population” and pleaded with his captors to spare him. “Luke is only a photojournalist and is not responsible for any actions the U.S. government has taken,” Somers’ brother, Jordan, said in the footage posted on YouTube.
Noting that her son “appears healthy” in his captors’ video, Paula Somers said: “We thank you for that. Please show mercy and give us an opportunity to see our Luke again.”
In a statement earlier Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby acknowledged for the first time that a raid last month had sought to rescue Somers but that he turned out not to be at the site.
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said President Barack Obama had authorized a rescue operation to free Somers and other hostages but “regrettably, Luke was not present.”
In the three-minute video, Somers appears somber and gives a brief statement in English, asking for help.
“It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been kidnapped in Sanaa,” Somers says in the footage posted on the al-Qaida offshoot’s Twitter account. “Basically, I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I’m certain that my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much.”
Also speaking in the video, a local al-Qaida commander, Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, denounced American “crimes” against the Muslim world, including U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
He condemned the rescue attempt, calling it a “foolish action” and warned against any more such “stupidities.” He acknowledged that an “elite continued…

Nelson Mandela death: South Africa marks one year anniversary

Anti-apartheid movement veterans joined Mr Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, at a remembrance service in Pretoria.
Sirens and vuvuzelas sounded across the country before a commemorative three minutes' silence was held.
There was a worldwide outpouring of grief when South Africa's first black president died a year ago aged 95.
Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel, second left, places a wreath to the 9 metre (30 feet) tall bronze statue of the late former South Africa President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa,  on 5 December 2014Mandela's widow (centre) laid a wreath at the foot of the tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria
Mr Mandela, also known by his clan name of Madiba, spent 27 years in prison for fighting white-minority rule in South Africa.
Legacy continues
One of his granddaughters, Ndileka Mandela, told the BBC on Friday that South Africans were still upholding Mandela's legacy and honouring his memory by living by his values of peace and reconciliation.
"That's just the spirit of who granddad was, that even after a year that he's gone peace still prevails, people still upholding his legacy and what he stood for, because he stood for peace and reconciliation."
Many South Africans said they are reflecting on whether the nation is following in his footsteps, says the BBC's Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg.
Veteran liberation struggle hero Ahmed Kathrada addressed the remembrance service at the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria, on Friday morning.
Traditional worshippers burn herbs in prayer at dawn at Freedom Park in Pretoria, South Africa, on 5 December 2014People gathered in Freedom Park at dawn to pray in the first anniversary of Mandela's death
A mural of former South African President Nelson Mandela is painted on the wall of a building during his first dead anniversary in Cape Town, on 5 December 2013Memorial events are set to take place throughout the weekend
He described Mandela as a democrat with a touch of autocratic rule.
"The body gave in but Madiba's spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end," his widow, Graca Machel, said before laying a wreath at the base of the 9m (30 ft) tall bronze statue of her husband.
She said it remained the responsibility of every person in the world to ensure his legacy lived on.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu also paid tribute to the Nobel laureate, saying: "We thank God for him, and the example he gave us. He taught us about the worth of a human being, all human beings."
An interfaith service was held at Freedom Park in Pretoria earlier on Friday.
Commemorations are taking place across the country, including at Mandela's birthplace of Qunu where a marquee has been erected outside the Nelson Mandela Museum.
The anti-apartheid icon was buried in his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape 10 days after he died.

Thousands evacuate as Philippines braces for typhoon Hagupit

MANILA: Tens of thousands of people fled coastal villages and landslide-prone areas in the central Philippines on Friday, as typhoon Hagupit bore down on eastern coasts of the island nation where thousands were killed in a devastating storm last year. 

Ports were shut across the archipelago, leaving more than 2,000 travellers stranded in the capital Manila, the central Bicol region and Mindanao island in the south, after the coast guard suspended sea travel ahead of the typhoon. 

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific cancelled some of their flights to central and southern Philippines. 

Areas yet to recover from last year's category 5 "super typhoon" Haiyan, also known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, could be in the firing line again, the local weather bureau said. 

"It's better to evacuate early...We don't want to experience what we went through during Yolanda," said Gigi Calne, a housewife seeking shelter with about 3,000 others at a school in Basey, in Samar province, in central Philippines. 

"It was difficult to save our family and ourselves because we moved too late." 

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall, left more than 7,000 dead or missing and more than 4 million homeless or with damaged houses when it tore through the central Philippines in November 2013.

 
(Pic courtesy AP)
Hagupit was churning slowly across the Pacific on Friday, with the eye of the storm around 435 km (270 miles) southeast of the Philippines, the weather bureau said, packing winds of up to 215 kph (130 mph) near the centre with gusts of up to 250 kph. 

It was expected to slam into Eastern Samar or Northern Samar provinces in the central Philippines on Saturday afternoon, bringing torrential rain and 4- to 5-metre high storm surges, the weather bureau said. 

About 10 million residents of the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions of the central Philippines are at risk of flooding, storm surges and strong winds. AccuWeather Global Weather Center said more than 30 million people would feel the impact of the typhoon across the Philippines. 

Eastern Samar and the island of Leyte were worst-hit by 250 kph winds and storm surges brought by Haiyan. About 25,000 people still live in tents, shelters and bunkhouses more than a year later.

In Tacloban City, Leyte, which accounted for about half of the death toll from Haiyan, about 19,000 people from coastal villages thronged into 26 evacuation centres, said Ilderando Bernadas of the city's disaster office. 

"We are expecting to double that once we implement forced evacuations," Bernadas said, adding about 95 percent of residents from coastal areas have been evacuated. 

While the local weather bureau and the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted Hagupit making a direct hit on the central Philippines, Tropical Storm Risk, which tracks cyclones, and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center of the US navy showed the storm veering north, closer to the capital Manila. 

Mario Montejo, the Philippines Science and Technology Secretary, said the differences in the forecasting models were due to methodologies used, but said the actual track of the typhoon hews close to the local weather bureau's model. 

Tropical Storm Risk downgraded the typhoon to a category 4 on Friday — a level below "super typhoon" but still a very powerful storm — and forecast it would have weakened to category 3 by the time it made landfall.

Jyoti is from a village, forgive her: PM Modi in Lok Sabha

Raising minister minister Niranjan Jyoti's rural background, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday appealed to opposition members in Lok Sabha to be 'magnanimous' and accept her apology, but failed to break the deadlock in Parliament.
A united Opposition stalled proceedings in both houses for the fourth day in a row demanding that minister Jyoti be fired over her remarks, forcing several adjournments.
Conceding to Opposition demands, Modi made a statement in Lok Sabha requesting members to accept Jyoti's apology and let Parliament function in the best interests of the nation.
"The minister has apologised, she is new and we are also aware of her social background. She comes from a village," Modi said.
"It is the duty of the distinguished members of the House that when a colleague seeks apology, we should be magnanimous," he said.
"... it is our duty that we understand our limits in public life and stay within our limits while making public discourse. Now we should allow the matter to rest and we should continue with our work in national interest," Modi said.
Stating that Rajya Sabha has not been functioning for some time now, Modi said, "I am grateful to all members of Lok Sabha that they allowed the House to function despite the sensitivity of the issue."
Even before the Parliament took up the issue, Modi said he had expressed his disapproval and sternly asked BJP MPs against using such words.
"Nobody can approve such things," he said.
Modi had made a similar statement in Rajya Sabha on Thursday strongly criticising Jyoti for her controversial remarks made at a campaign rally in Delhi.
Black bands
The Prime Minister's statement, however, failed to mollify the opposition members, including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who tied black cloth on their mouths, as they staged a walkout.
After Modi's statement, leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said the opposition wanted to know why such a thing happened.
"We are not against any individual" nor their background but the issue is that many BJP leaders have been making controversial statements, he said.
Such statements are creating a situation in the country where social unity is threatened, he said and wanted to know what action government is taking in this regard.
While opposition members continued to agitate after the Prime Minister's statement, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the protests have to stop.
E Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was heard saying the government was not listening to the opposition.
Soon, members from Congress, Left parties, IUML, BSP and AAP staged a walk out.
Even outside Parliament House Rahul Gandhi, along with other members of the opposition, protested against the government, saying that "democratic process" was not being allowed inside Parliament.
The protesters demanded Jyoti's resignation over her unparliamentary language at a rally and tied black scarves around their mouths during the protest.
"The attitude of the government is not to allow democratic process inside the house," said Gandhi.
"...it is a mindset of the top leadership of the country that democratic conversation should not be allowed inside the house...We are going to fight at every inch," he added.
"We are being stopped and suppressed...," he said.
The members were also seen carrying banners reading "Protect secularism and democracy: We want united India" and "Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Resign".
BJP's Tarun Vijay tried to play the Dalit card, but it was quickly shot down by BSP's Mayawati who said Jyoti is from a backward caste and not Dalit.
Unrelenting opposition in Rajya Sabha
In Rajya Sabha too Congress and other opposition parties disrupted proceedings demanding action against Jyoti forcing its adjournment.
Immediately after railway minister Suresh Pradhu took oath, the entire opposition was on its feet raising the issue.
Barely had the listed papers been laid, slogan shouting members rushed into the Well.
"Mantri to barkhast karo (sack the minister)," they shouted.
Deputy chairman PJ Kurien took up Zero Hour mentions even as there was no relenting in slogan shouting.
Congress' Anand Sharma said the opposition benches patiently heard Modi's statement on the issue on Thursday but want to know about the government's action taken against the minister.
"It is for you and the government to sit together and come to a conclusion. What can I do?" Kurien said.
"If the members don't want the House to run, what can Chair do?"
Treasury benches protested saying the minister has already expressed apologies and Prime Minister made statement disapproving of the comments and so the House should resume its normal functioning.
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Congress was stalling business of national importance despite Jyoti expressing regret.
With opposition members unrelenting, Kurien adjourned the House till 12pm.
Jyoti, minister of state for food processing industries, had apologised in Parliament on Tuesday, reportedly on the orders of the Prime Minister, but opposition parties like the Left want her sacked and say she must face criminal charges for trying to incite communal hatred.
"The people of Delhi have to decide if they want a government of Ramzaadon (descendants of Ram) or haramzaadon (those who are illegitimately born)," Jyoti had reportedly had said at a public meeting in Delhi on Monday.

(With agency inputs)

J-K: Militants kill 8 security men in Uri; fresh attacks in Srinagar, Shopian

Police sources said the troops, after receiving inputs on militant presence in Srinagar to disturb the upcoming poll rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi , rushed to Srinagar's Untabhavan area, 8 km away from Lal Chowk.
An exchange of fire followed,  and a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba was shot dead, but the second one is still holed up in the neighbourhood, sources said.
Preliminary reports suggest the militants were travelling in a car before they entered a house in the Untabhavan area.

Militants kill 8 security men in Uri
Militants, six of whom were gunned down, carried out the attack on the army camp at Mohra in Uri Tehsil at around 3am and engaged the security forces in a fierce gunbattle, police officials said.
Five army jawans and three policemen were killed in the attack on the ordinance camp,  army and police officials told Hindustan Times.
"Terrorists opened small arms fire and lobbed grenades on the army camp at Mohura at 3am. Army response teams immediately mobilised and surrounded the area. Firefight continued till 9.30 in the morning and all terrorists were neutralised," an army official at the encounter site said.
"Casualties sustained by security forces during the operation are being ascertained. Injured have been evacuated to Baramulla and are stable. A search is still in progress," he added.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said all militants involved in the attack would be eliminated..
Sources said the attack on the ordinance camp was carried out by a group of three to four militants who are believed to have infiltrated in the Indian region a few days ago. Police and security persons have sealed the area and are not allowing any civilian movement.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the attack was a "desperate attempt" to disrupt peace and normalcy.
"Once again shows the desperate levels militants will go to disrupt peace and normalcy," Abdullah posted on Twitter.
He said Jammu and Kashmir police and army were responding to the attack in Uri.
"Militants have struck an army camp in North Kashmir between Baramulla and Uri. Security force casualties are feared. It's an ongoing encounter," he added.
The attack comes just four days ahead of assembly elections in Uri and six other constituencies of the Baramulla district on December 9.
On December 2, the army had foiled an infiltration bid in Handwara area of Kupwara district killing six militants. One army personnel was also killed.
The infiltration bid was foiled as people in Kupwara district were voting to elect their representatives.
 Watch: Militants open fire at army camp in Uri, J&K

J-K: Militants kill 8 security men in Uri; fresh attacks in Srinagar, Shopian

Police sources said the troops, after receiving inputs on militant presence in Srinagar to disturb the upcoming poll rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi , rushed to Srinagar's Untabhavan area, 8 km away from Lal Chowk.
An exchange of fire followed,  and a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba was shot dead, but the second one is still holed up in the neighbourhood, sources said.
Preliminary reports suggest the militants were travelling in a car before they entered a house in the Untabhavan area.

Militants kill 8 security men in Uri
Militants, six of whom were gunned down, carried out the attack on the army camp at Mohra in Uri Tehsil at around 3am and engaged the security forces in a fierce gunbattle, police officials said.
Five army jawans and three policemen were killed in the attack on the ordinance camp,  army and police officials told Hindustan Times.
"Terrorists opened small arms fire and lobbed grenades on the army camp at Mohura at 3am. Army response teams immediately mobilised and surrounded the area. Firefight continued till 9.30 in the morning and all terrorists were neutralised," an army official at the encounter site said.
"Casualties sustained by security forces during the operation are being ascertained. Injured have been evacuated to Baramulla and are stable. A search is still in progress," he added.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said all militants involved in the attack would be eliminated..
Sources said the attack on the ordinance camp was carried out by a group of three to four militants who are believed to have infiltrated in the Indian region a few days ago. Police and security persons have sealed the area and are not allowing any civilian movement.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the attack was a "desperate attempt" to disrupt peace and normalcy.
"Once again shows the desperate levels militants will go to disrupt peace and normalcy," Abdullah posted on Twitter.
He said Jammu and Kashmir police and army were responding to the attack in Uri.
"Militants have struck an army camp in North Kashmir between Baramulla and Uri. Security force casualties are feared. It's an ongoing encounter," he added.
The attack comes just four days ahead of assembly elections in Uri and six other constituencies of the Baramulla district on December 9.
On December 2, the army had foiled an infiltration bid in Handwara area of Kupwara district killing six militants. One army personnel was also killed.
The infiltration bid was foiled as people in Kupwara district were voting to elect their representatives.
 Watch: Militants open fire at army camp in Uri, J&K

J-K: Militants kill 8 security men in Uri; fresh attacks in Srinagar, Shopian

Police sources said the troops, after receiving inputs on militant presence in Srinagar to disturb the upcoming poll rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi , rushed to Srinagar's Untabhavan area, 8 km away from Lal Chowk.
An exchange of fire followed,  and a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba was shot dead, but the second one is still holed up in the neighbourhood, sources said.
Preliminary reports suggest the militants were travelling in a car before they entered a house in the Untabhavan area.

Militants kill 8 security men in Uri
Militants, six of whom were gunned down, carried out the attack on the army camp at Mohra in Uri Tehsil at around 3am and engaged the security forces in a fierce gunbattle, police officials said.
Five army jawans and three policemen were killed in the attack on the ordinance camp,  army and police officials told Hindustan Times.
"Terrorists opened small arms fire and lobbed grenades on the army camp at Mohura at 3am. Army response teams immediately mobilised and surrounded the area. Firefight continued till 9.30 in the morning and all terrorists were neutralised," an army official at the encounter site said.
"Casualties sustained by security forces during the operation are being ascertained. Injured have been evacuated to Baramulla and are stable. A search is still in progress," he added.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said all militants involved in the attack would be eliminated..
Sources said the attack on the ordinance camp was carried out by a group of three to four militants who are believed to have infiltrated in the Indian region a few days ago. Police and security persons have sealed the area and are not allowing any civilian movement.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the attack was a "desperate attempt" to disrupt peace and normalcy.
"Once again shows the desperate levels militants will go to disrupt peace and normalcy," Abdullah posted on Twitter.
He said Jammu and Kashmir police and army were responding to the attack in Uri.
"Militants have struck an army camp in North Kashmir between Baramulla and Uri. Security force casualties are feared. It's an ongoing encounter," he added.
The attack comes just four days ahead of assembly elections in Uri and six other constituencies of the Baramulla district on December 9.
On December 2, the army had foiled an infiltration bid in Handwara area of Kupwara district killing six militants. One army personnel was also killed.
The infiltration bid was foiled as people in Kupwara district were voting to elect their representatives.
 Watch: Militants open fire at army camp in Uri, J&K