Manchester attack: ‘Trainee pilot’ arrested as investigation spreads across Britain

May 29, 2017

Police search teams arrive in Shoreham, Sussex

Police search teams arrive in Shoreham, Sussex CREDIT: EDDIE MITCHELL 

By Hayley Dixon
he Telegraph

A“trainee pilot” has been arrested as the investigation into the terror network behind Salman Abedi spreads across Britain.

The 23-year-old, understood to be Libyan, was arrested at a property in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, more than 260 miles from the Manchester Arena where Abedi detonated a suicide bomb a week ago killing 22 people.

The flat above shops in Shoreham on Sea in Sussex that was raided by police on Sunday night
The flat above shops in Shoreham on Sea in Sussex that was raided by police on Sunday night CREDIT: EDDIE MITCHELL 

Neighbours said that they were shocked that the police activity had reached their doorstep.

Violet Mainda, the Kenyan-born owner of Violet’s Hairdresser’s beneath the flat, said: “He was a young Libyan guy who was always very jovial and nice.

Shoreham arrest

“He said he was training to be a pilot at Shoreham Airfield and he had just completed doing that. I am really, really shocked by this. I can’t believe he had been arrested.

“He had a few friends and a girlfriend and always seemed very nice. I don’t know if he worked, I think he just studied to be a pilot. He said he was studying to become a pilot at Shoreham.”

Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the Manchester Arena terror attack
Salman Abedi on the night he carried out the Manchester Arena terror attack CREDIT: GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE

Armed officers also swooped on sites across Manchester in a flurry of raids and arrests over the weekend as they worked to stamp out any lingering threat from co-conspirators to Monday’s massacre.

The Sussex arrest early on Monday morning brings the number of people in custody in relation to the the attack to 14.

Shoreham Airfield said that they did not have anyone available to comment.

Read the rest:


 (Includes controversial New York Times report)

Nigeria’s Buhari absent on second anniversary as president

May 29, 2017


© AFP/File | Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent president at the ballot box


Nigeria’s ailing president was glaringly absent on Monday as his deputy marked their two years in power, with no word on the head of state’s health three weeks after he went on indefinite medical leave.

Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy Yemi Osinbajo were sworn into office on May 29, 2015, two months after securing the first opposition victory against a sitting president in Nigerian history.

But their election pledges to defeat Boko Haram Islamists and tackle endemic corruption have been overshadowed, first by economic recession and increasingly by speculation about Buhari’s health.

The 74-year-old former military ruler spent nearly two months being treated for an undisclosed illness in London in January and February.

He left for a fresh round of treatment in the British capital on May 7 and has not been heard from or seen since.

Rumours swirled that he may send a pre-recorded message to the nation for Monday’s public holiday.

But Osinbajo said only in a speech: “I bring you good wishes from President Muhammadu Buhari, who as we all know is away from the country on medical vacation.”

He ended by asking for people’s “continued prayers for the restoration to full health and strength and the safe return of our president”.

– Elephant in the room –

Buhari’s health — and his ability to lead — has increasingly overshadowed politics in Nigeria, particularly in the last three weeks because of the lack of update.

Presidential aides told reporters at a briefing in Abuja last week that they would not even answer questions about it.

But Buhari did not attend a G7 summit in Sicily last week, although he was among several African leaders invited. Osinbajo went in his place.

During his time in London earlier this year, they insisted Buhari was “hale and hearty”, despite his increasingly frail appearance, and had to counter rumours he was terminally ill and even dead.

Buhari himself admitted on his return to Abuja in March that he “had never been so sick” and had undergone blood transfusions.

Since then, he was rarely seen in public, missed a succession of cabinet meetings, Friday prayers and his grandson’s wedding.

Aides again insisted he was working from his private residence on doctors’ orders.

As well as political uncertainty, despite the formal handover of powers to Osinbajo, Buhari’s illness has triggered an earlier-than-usual jostling for position for the 2019 election and talk about succession.

– ‘Democracy Day’ –

May 29 — known as “Democracy Day” for the date civilian rule was restored in Nigeria in 1999 — has typically been used by the government of the day to run through a checklist of its achievements.

Osinbajo was no different, pointing to successes in weakening Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast and the release, rescue or discovery of 106 of the 219 Chibok schoolgirls held by the group since 2014.

Buhari was last seen in a photocall with 82 of the girls just before he left for London.

Osinbajo also outlined progress tackling security threats from militants in the oil-producing south, and conflict between farmers and herdsmen in central states.

He also reaffirmed the government’s determination to root out corruption and vowed no let-up against suspects.

He acknowledged the economy had been “the biggest challenge of all”, because of sustained low global oil prices that cut government revenue, leading to a weakened currency and higher inflation.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest economy on paper, has been in recession since August last year.

Osinbajo pledged to “build on the successes of the last two” years until the end of their time in office.

“Our vision is for a country that grows what it eats and produces what it consumes. It is for a country that no longer has to import petroleum products, and develops a lucrative petrochemical industry,” he said.

“Very importantly it is for a country whose fortunes are no longer tied to the price of a barrel of crude, but instead to the boundless talent and energy of its people, young and old, male and female as they invest in diverse areas of the economy.”

Macron hosts Putin in latest diplomatic test

May 29, 2017


© AFP / by Hervé ASQUIN | French President Emmanuel Macron hosts Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the sumptuous setting of Versailles in their first meeting since Macron took office with both men holding different views notably on Ukraine and Syria


French President Emmanuel Macron hosts Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday in their first meeting since he came to office with differences on Ukraine and Syria in full view.

After playing handshake power games with US President Donald Trump at his first international summit last week, 39-year-old Macron hosts the Russian leader in the splendour of Versailles outside Paris.

It is Macron’s latest test of his diplomatic mettle after the G7 talks in Sicily last week and the NATO summit in Brussels where he turned the tables on Trump by refusing to release his hand for several seconds during the handshake for the cameras.

“It is essential to talk to Russia because there are many international issues that will not be resolved without a tough exchange with the Russians,” Macron said in Sicily.

Russia’s powerful ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, said he hoped the meeting could help turn the page on the fraught relationship between Putin and Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande.

“Many things in the future will depend on the first meeting,” Orlov told Europe 1 radio.

“It is very important that we begin to dissipate the mistrust that has built up in recent years.”

As a candidate, Macron had tough words for Russia, accusing it of following a “hybrid strategy combining military intimidation and an information war”.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2014, Russia has flexed its muscles with a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO Baltic states.

Macron told a French weekly that he was “not bothered” by leaders who “think in terms of power ratios”, citing Putin as an example along with Trump.

But Macron, who became France’s youngest president just three weeks ago, said he does not believe in “the diplomacy of public invective but in bilateral dialogue”.

– ‘Not a single concession’ –

Macron said he would make “not a single concession” to Russia on the long-running conflict in Ukraine as he and his G7 counterparts said they were prepared to strengthen sanctions against Moscow.

Government forces have been battling Moscow-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine for over three years.

Western powers charge Russia with failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk accords framework for ending the hostilities.

France helped spearhead the sanctions, which have seriously dented EU-Russia trade, with a retaliatory Russian embargo on European agricultural products hurting French farmers.

The six-year-long Syrian conflict will also be high on the agenda, with Macron saying he was in favour of “building an inclusive political solution in a much more collective way”.

He regretted that none of the G7 states is party to Syria peace talks under way in the Kazakh capital Astana initiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Separate UN-backed negotiations have become bogged down in Geneva.

Russia is a strong supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whereas, as Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov said before the visit, France “is among the countries with a very severe stance towards (Assad’s) regime”.

Coming so soon after an election in which the Kremlin was widely seen as backing Macron’s far-right rival Marine Le Pen — with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow — the encounter in Versailles will have an added personal edge.

Moscow has also been blamed for a raft of cyberattacks on Macron’s election campaign, with aides accusing the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” against him.

Putin was quick to congratulate Macron on his election, urging him to “overcome mutual distrust” and “join forces to ensure international stability and security”.

The visit comes seven months after Putin cancelled a trip to Paris for the opening of a Russian cathedral complex near the Eiffel Tower in a spat over Syria with Hollande, who had said Russia’s bombing of Aleppo could amount to war crimes.

In Versailles, Macron and Putin will inaugurate an exhibition marking 300 years of Franco-Russian ties since the visit of Russia’s modernising tsar Peter the Great to France in 1717.

After the talks and a joint news conference, Putin will visit the Paris Orthodox cathedral complex on his own.

by Hervé ASQUIN

Coptic Christians accuse Egyptian government of failing to protect them

May 29, 2017

Relatives of people killed in attack on bus convoy say state of emergency in country has been undermined

A priest walks in front of the Saint Samuel monastery in Maghagha.
A priest walks in front of the Saint Samuel monastery in Maghagha. Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

Egypt’s Coptic Christians have accused the government of failing to protect them in the wake of an attack claimed by Islamic State on a bus convoy that killed at least 29 people and injured about 20 more.

Relatives of some of those killed said the attack, which occurred after a group of gunmen stopped a convoy headed for the Saint Samuel monastery close to the southern Egyptian town of Minya, undermines the state of emergency in Egypt declared after a previous attack in April.

Videos of the attack began to surfaced on social media networks on Sunday, two days after 29 were killed in the attack on a desert road south of the capital. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack on Friday. It was the fourth attack against Christians in Egypt since December to be claimed by the IS. The string of attacks have killed more than 100 and injured scores.

One survivor, a small boy who seemed to be about six, said his mother pushed him under her seat and covered him with a bag. A young woman speaking from her hospital bed said the assailants ordered the women to surrender their jewelry and money before they opened fire, killing the men first and then some of the women. The woman said the gunmen were masked and wore military uniforms.

Kirollos Mahrous, 19, and his 25-year-old cousin Guirguis Mahrous were two of those killed in Friday’s attack, as they travelled to the monastery for work.

Guirguis, his friend Mina Adel said, was due to be married in the coming weeks. Adel later provided pictures showing a smiling and suited Guirguis next to his fiancee, and then one of injuries that killed him – with a large bullet hole under his left ear.

“He tried to join the police force after he finished high school,” said Adel, “but he was turned down, because he’s Christian.”

“The state of emergency isn’t making anything better, it’s as if it’s not there,” said Eid Fares Ishak, another cousin of Guirguis and Kirollos. “The government is supposed to take more precautions and be more firm in case of such attacks, like doing an immediate search following the attack and not waiting for hours like they did.”

Egypt’s government previously vowed to boost security and protect its Christian citizens after suicide bombings struck two churches on Palm Sunday, leaving at least 45 dead. But many of Egypt’s Christians, who at roughly 10% of the population represent the country’s largest religious minority, say that the nationwide state of emergency imposed on 10 April has done little to protect them.

Friday’s attack in Minya was the fourth of its kind since December, when a suicide bomber targeted St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, leaving at least 29 dead. In February, when claiming responsibility for the December attack, Isis named Christians in Egypt as “our first target and favourite prey”.

Pope Francis led a prayer on Sunday for the victims of the Minya attack, saying that they were killed in “another act of ferocious violence” after having refused to renounce their Christian faith. The pope recently met Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi during a trip to Egypt intended to promote interfaith dialogue.

“It’s all talk and no action,” said Adel, criticising the Egyptian government’s response to the growing number of attacks on Christians. “Even this state of emergency: they announced it to calm public opinion, but it’s not really helping. Even the priests, bishops and parliament members don’t have the same respect from people any more – now no one takes their ‘soothing’ words seriously. We’re fed up. Plus, the government isn’t doing anything extra, in fact it’s worse than it used to be in terms of how the police treat people.”

Coptic Christians in Egypt have long pointed to institutional prejudices against them because of their religion, notably in the courts, which they say fail to prosecute those who commit acts of violence against Christians. Eshhad, a project by the Cairo-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy which tracks persecution of Egypt’s Copts, found 36 examples of persecution in 2017 alone, including beheadings, targeted violence and the Minya bus attack.

In response to Friday’s attacks, Egypt’s government conducted six airstrikes on jihadi training camps in the Libyan town of Derna. Isis later claimed responsibility for the Minya bus attack, while the Mujahideen Shura Council, an al-Qaida affiliate that controls the area of Derna targeted by Egypt, released a statement saying it was not responsible for Friday’s attack, as it was not its policy to target civilians.




© Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP (file photo) | Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard on Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square on January 25, 2016.

Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on Monday.
Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on December 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
 (December 2016)

Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around St. Mark"s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The building bombed in December 2016 is next to St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, seat of the church’s pope. Reuters Photo

A Christian employee at Cairo's Coptic Cathedral checks for damage from the blast after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The interior of the church, where Christians had gathered, was also hit in the explosion. AP photo

Image result for Reina nightclub attack, photos

Islamist gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov killed 39 people  in the Reina nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017, in Istanbul. © Dogan News Agency/AFP/File

 (December 11, 2016)

David Dosha, the priest of the Church of Mart Shmoni, located in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella. (Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
26 July 2016
A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish84 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was giving morning Mass when the Islamist attackers stormed his church. AFP



The Isis jihadist group

WannaCry hackers ‘were likely from southern China’ — Native Chinese-speaking people with southern accents

May 29, 2017

Linguistic analysis of the malware’s ransom note suggests origins of its writers, US security firm says

By Stephen Chen
South China Moring Post

Sunday, May 28, 2017, 11:26pm

The WannaCry attack ultimately infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries.

The WannaCry attack ultimately infected more than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries. PHOTO: RITCHIE B. TONGO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The authors of the WannaCry malware, which infected computers in 150 countries two weeks ago, are probably from the southern mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore, according to a US intelligence company.

Forensic linguistic analysis on the malware suggested it was written by native Chinese-speaking people with southern accents, said Flashpoint.

In a report on its website, Flashpoint, which provides global business-risk intelligence, said it came to the conclusion with “high confidence”. Earlier reports based on code analysis suggested North Korean programmers at work.

The WannaCry malware locked up data on infected computers and displayed a message in 28 languages demanding a ransom for restoration of the data.

 A ransom note that is part of the WannaCry malware, rendered in simplified Chinese. Photo: Handout

The hackers drafted the note in Chinese first, Flashpoint said. Based on the Chinese text, they manually produced an English version, then converted that into other languages using Google’s translation software.

“A typo in the note, bang zu (幫組) instead of bang zhu (幫助), which means ‘help’, strongly indicates the note was written using a Chinese-language input system rather than being translated from a different version,” the report said.

“The text uses certain terms that further narrow down a geographic location. One term, libai ( 禮拜 ) for ‘week,’ is more common in southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore,” the researchers added.

Chinese phrases omitted in other language versions, such as “even the coming of God cannot retire these documents” and “Please relax, I absolutely will not scam you”, also suggested ­Chinese was the hackers’ native language, Flashpoint said.

But Zhang Kefeng, a professor of Chinese language at Jimei University in Xiamen, Fujian province had doubts about some of Flashpoint’s conclusions.

Libai is not just used in southern China. Many areas in the north use the word in communication as well, and every day,” he said.

“It is difficult to spot geographical differences in written Chinese nowadays, especially among educated people. People with different accents tend to write in a style very similar,” Zhang added.

Numerous Beijingers told the South China Morning Post that they used the word libai often.

Tang Wei, vice-president of cybersecurity company Rising, said Flashpoint’s analysis had useful information but that it was too early to reach a conclusion.

“A professional hacker often leaves behind numerous decoys to mislead the chase,” he said. “The unprecedented outbreak of WannaCry showed they could be highly sophisticated criminals.”

Iraq presses Mosul assault, calls on civilians to flee

May 29, 2017


© AFP / by Simon Valmary with Salam Faraj in Baghdad | A member of the Iraqi forces guards a position in Mosul’s western Al-Saha neighbourhood during their ongoing battle to retake the area from Islamic State group fighters on May 28, 2017


Iraqi forces pressed forward on Monday with a broad offensive targeting Islamic State group-held areas in west Mosul and called for civilians to leave areas where fighting is taking place.

More than seven months into the massive operation to recapture Mosul from IS, Iraqi forces have retaken the city’s east and large parts of its western side, but the jihadists are still putting up tough resistance.

“Our units are continuing to advance… and entered Al-Saha al-Oula and Al-Zinjili and Al-Shifaa neighbourhoods and the Republican Hospital,” said Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasool.

IS was using “explosives-rigged vehicles and snipers and suicide bombers” to target Iraqi forces, he told AFP.

The areas mentioned by Rasool — which are located north of Mosul’s Old City, where IS also still holds significant territory — are the main targets of the offensive, which was announced on Saturday.

The Joint Operations Command also said Monday that Iraqi aircraft had dropped leaflets over Mosul urging residents to leave IS-held areas — the second time this was done within the past week.

Overnight, planes dropped “thousands of leaflets on the Old Mosul, Al-Zinjili, Al-Shifaa and Al-Saha areas urging citizens to leave toward our security forces,” it said.

This is the opposite of the strategy Iraqi forces employed in east Mosul, where they urged civilians to stay in their homes.

– ‘Caught in the crossfire’ –

International aid organisation Save the Children has said it is “deeply concerned that any calls to leave west Mosul will mean that civilians, particularly children, are in significant danger of being caught in the crossfire.”

Asked about the change in tack, Rasool noted that the western side of the city has a greater population density as well as “old areas,” an apparent reference to the Old City.

The area — a warren of closely spaced buildings and narrow streets — has posed a significant challenge to Iraqi forces, which have surrounded it with a large number of civilians trapped inside.

“The Old City has been blockaded for a while, completely from the south and now our units are present on the north and west,” he said, while the area’s eastern side is bordered by the Tigris River.

The battle for Mosul has taken a heavy toll on civilians, pushing hundreds of thousands to flee, while hundreds more have been killed or wounded.

On Thursday, the United States announced the results of an investigation into a deadly coalition air strike earlier this year.

The probe found that at least 105 civilians had been killed and 36 remained unaccounted for after the strike detonated IS-planted explosives.

There have also been reports that members of an Iraqi interior ministry special forces unit tortured and killed detainees during the Mosul operation.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

The recapture of Mosul will not however mark the end of the war against IS: the jihadists hold other territory in three Iraqi provinces and are also able to carry out frequent attacks in government-controlled areas.

The Popular Mobilisation forces — an umbrella organisation for pro-government paramilitaries that is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias — is battling the jihadists west of Mosul.

by Simon Valmary with Salam Faraj in Baghdad

Islamic State-Linked Militants Dump Bodies in Southern Philippines City

May 29, 2017

Bloody battle between government forces and extremist Maute group for control of Marawi continues

Filipino soldiers pass an armored vehicle as fighting continues between Islamist militants and government forces in Marawi city, Mindanao island, southern Philippines, on Sunday.

Filipino soldiers pass an armored vehicle as fighting continues between Islamist militants and government forces in Marawi city, Mindanao island, southern Philippines, on Sunday. PHOTO: FRANCIS R. MALASIG/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Islamic State-linked militants dumped the bodies of at least 16 civilians including a child, in and around the southern Philippines city of Marawi, officials said Sunday, as a bloody battle with government forces for control of the area continued into its sixth day.

The clash, which has left more than 100 people dead, has pitted the Philippines’ military against the extremist Maute group, an organization with support in Muslim-dominated parts of the south that has declared allegiance to Islamic State. Many of the civilians reported dead over the weekend appear to have been executed.

The battle has transfixed the Philippines, where it is swiftly turning into a political issue over concerns about the government’s implementation of martial law in the southern island of Mindanao.

In remarks Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte unnerved critics after he said he would ignore the country’s Congress and Supreme Court if they chose to vote on his declaration of martial law last Tuesday.

“Are they the ones who will suffer the wounds of war?” Mr. Duterte asked rhetorically during a speech, adding that he didn’t know when he would lift martial law.

The country’s joint houses of congress had been expected to meet to vote on the declaration of martial law, but on Sunday it was unclear whether that would occur after some lawmakers said there was no opposition and therefore no need for a vote.

Mr. Duterte’s fiery rhetoric and pledge to be “harsh” during martial law has drawn objections from rights groups and his opponents, despite assurances from the government that it is necessary to prevent the Maute and other extremist groups from reaching their goal of declaring a caliphate in the southern Philippines.

The Philippines’ constitution allows the president to declare martial law for 60 days. Any extensions require congressional approval, and the constitution says Congress should convene within 24 hours following a martial law proclamation if not already in session. It has yet to do so.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the president is committed to restoring peace and order in Mindanao and is focused on the terrorist threat, “not on the misguided commentaries of critics.”

Many older Filipinos still associate martial law with a two-decade period of dictatorship under former President Ferdinand Marcos, who used martial law to stay in power and silence his critics until he was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986. Mr. Duterte has said many times in public that he admires Mr. Marcos.

Mr. Duterte has asserted that any abuses of martial law would be treated severely, but he nonetheless has presented mixed messages. In remarks Friday to security forces that appeared to be intended as a joke, Mr. Duterte said he would take responsibility if his soldiers raped three women but punish them for a fourth.

Mr. Duterte’s remarks have drawn criticism from human rights groups, including the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights, which called on security services “to remain faithful to their roles as defenders of human rights and the dignity of all.”

On Twitter, Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, called Mr. Duterte “a murderous thug with no respect for human rights.”

Maute fighters first occupied Marawi on Tuesday, torching buildings in the city of 200,000 and attacking police and civilians after a failed attempt by authorities to arrest an influential allied faction leader.

Late Tuesday Mr. Duterte declared martial law in the entire southern island of Mindanao, home to 22 million people.

Government officials said last week that Maute fighters in Marawi had been joined by foreigners from other countries including Malaysia and Indonesia, who sought to join the group in its quest to declare a caliphate in the southern Philippines. The country’s solicitor-general, Jose Calida, called the development an “invasion.”

In a statement Sunday, the armed forces said it was focused on aiding residents of Marawi trapped inside the city, and it had rescued 124 civilians since the start of its operations. Officials said previously that Maute militants had taken hostages.

The military has been bombarding Marawi with airstrikes as it seeks to take back sections of the city.

Since the fighting began, 103 people have been killed, including 61 militants, 15 police and soldiers and 19 civilians, the military said Sunday afternoon.

The bodies of an additional eight civilian casualties were recovered by the army later on Sunday.

Diary of Terror

Abu Sayyaf’s Islamist militants have a quarter-century history of violence in the Philippines and Malaysia.

  • 1991

    Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, a ​​former ​Islamic preacher from the Philippines who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and received training in Libya, forms Abu Sayyaf. It is​ funded by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law.PHOTO: REUTERS

  • 1991

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda militant from Pakistan who would later mastermind the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001​,​ trains Abu Sayyaf members and helps form bases ​​in the Philippines and Malaysia, later planning a mission to assassinate ​Pope John Paul II and take​down several U.S. planes. The plot​ is foiled.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

  • April 1995

    Militants attack the town of Ipil,​ leaving more that 50 people dead.
  • December 1998

    Philippine security forces kill Abdurajak Janjalani. His brother, Khadaffy Janjalani, succeeds him.
  • April 2000

    Abu Sayyaf members kidnap 21 people in Sipadan Island, Malaysia. They are freed for ransom after six months.PHOTO: REUTERS

  • May 2001

    Militants kidnap 20 people, including three Americans, from a​ Philippine resort in Palawan. A year later, several hostages, captors and soldiers die in attempt to free them.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • February 2004

    Abu Sayyaf members ​plant a bomb on a Manila ferry, killing 116 people.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • February 2005

    Coordinated attacks in two Philippine cities kill at least 12 people on Valentine’s Day.
  • February 2012

    Militants in Tawi-Tawi abduct two bird watchers, Swiss and Dutch nationals. One is killed and the other escapes.
  • April 2014

    A German couple is kidnapped while sailing on their yacht off Palawan. They are ransomed months later.
  • July 2014

    An Abu Sayyaf faction leader, Isnilon Hapilon, swears allegiance to Islamic State.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • September 2015

    Three men, a Norwegian and two Canadians, and a Filipino woman are abducted from Samal Island. The two Canadians are later killed.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • November 2016

    A German couple is kidnapped in waters between the Philippines and Malaysia. The woman is found dead and the man is beheaded three months later.
  • January 2017

    A series of airstrikes kills several Abu Sayyaf fighters and injures Mr. Hapilon.
  • May 2017

    Philippine troops attempt to arrest Mr. Hapilon, triggering a battle on the southern island of Mindanao. President Rodrigo Duterte declares martial law on the island.PHOTO: REUTERS

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at

Iraq Paramilitaries Move on Key Town Near Syrian Border

May 29, 2017

BAGHDAD — A spokesman for the Iraqi government-sanctioned paramilitary force says the troops are moving to capture a key town beyond the city of Mosul, near the Syrian border.

Shiite lawmaker, Karim al-Nouri, says the mainly Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces seeks to drive Islamic State militants out of the center of strategic Baaj, west of Mosul near the border with Syria.

Image result for Hashed al-Shaabi, photos

Al-Nouri told The Associated Press on Monday that many of the surrounding villages have already been taken from IS.

He says once Baaj falls, the fight with IS will move to the Syrian border. He didn’t elaborate.

The Iran-backed paramilitary force— known as Hashed al-Shaabi in Arabic — has largely operated since October in the desert to the west of Mosul, trying to cut IS supply lines.

Image result for Hashed al-Shaabi, photos

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani (Left)

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Baaj is shown here as Al-Baadz

Philippine Authorities Seize 605 Kilos of Meth From China — China Sends the Drugs, Duterte Government Kills the Addicted, China Gets The South China Sea

May 29, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine authorities say they’ve seized 605 kilograms (1,334 pounds) of methamphetamine shipped from China following a tip from the Chinese government.

National Bureau of Investigation officials said Monday that the drugs, with a street value of 6.05 billion pesos ($121.4 billion), were seized over the weekend from a brokerage warehouse in metropolitan Manila, while a portion was intercepted from a shipment consignee.

The operation was jointly conducted with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, police and the Bureau of Customs, which alerted the NBI on information from China’s Office of National Narcotics Control Commission about a large shipment of illegal drugs.

Since taking office last year, President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a war on illegal drugs that has last left thousands of suspected drug dealers and addicts dead.


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. Ng Han Guan, Reuters (FILE)



Image result for Duterte and Putin, photos

President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru, on November 19. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./ Presidential Photo


British Airways: Boss who outsourced 700 IT jobs to India may have to quit after computer failure hits 300,000 potential passengers — Airline could be liable for £150m compensation

May 29, 2017

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  • BA boss Alex Cruz was blamed for IT meltdown that saw 1,000 flights disrupted 
  • Hundreds of skilled IT jobs at British Airways were outsourced to India last year 
  • Travellers queued out doors at Heathrow and Gatwick on Sunday to rebook trips 
  • Airline could be liable for £150m compensation – the largest ever such payment 

Alex Cruz (pictured) was appointed boss of British Airways last year

British Airways was accused of a ‘moronic’ cover-up last night after an IT meltdown brought misery to 300,000 passengers.

The systems failure caused mass flight cancellations over the weekend, ruining the half-term holiday plans of thousands of families and causing chaos at airports.

But the airline has kept travellers in the dark about its cause, denying a cyber attack and blaming only a ‘power failure’ at an undisclosed location.

Critics, however, blamed drastic cost-cutting – including a decision to axe 700 computer experts in the UK and contract out services to India.

There were calls last night for controversial BA chief executive Alex Cruz to resign amid condemnation of his ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to costs and service.

Yesterday, he sent a gagging email to staff in an unsuccessful attempt to stop them making public comments on the crisis. On a costly day for the airline:

  • There were chaotic scenes at Heathrow and Gatwick as families were forced to queue outside the terminal buildings;
  • Families condemned the ‘awful’ lack of communication from the airline;
  • Hotels near the airports were accused of cashing in on the crisis by hiking up their prices for desperate families;
  • BA’s compensation bill could reach a record £150 million;
  • MPs urged the airline to come clean about the cause of the IT failure;
  • Passengers were warned to brace themselves for further disruption this week.

Many families have lost their holidays, while others have been forced to sleep on the floor of Britain’s two biggest airports since the computer crash on Saturday.

Louise Wickham, who was travelling with her husband and two children, spoke for many. ‘There was no communication at all, it’s been a real shambles,’ she said.

While those without a booking were told not to come to the airports, that provided no relief for foreign passengers who found themselves stranded at the airport

While those without a booking were told not to come to the airports, that provided no relief for foreign passengers who found themselves stranded at the airport

Families who had dreamed of spending their bank holiday weekend away were instead left sleeping in a terminal building

Families who had dreamed of spending their bank holiday weekend away were instead left sleeping in a terminal building

‘We had no idea what was going on, there was no information, they just kept saying wait for the gate. We were trapped and kept against our will in conditions that were just awful.’ The airline and Mr Cruz have blamed the computer meltdown on a power failure. The vague explanation has been dismissed by aviation industry insiders as ‘moronic’. They said airlines made sure they survived power failures by using a system known as UPS – uninterruptible power supply. It means that if one mains power supply fails, the business switches automatically to a second supply.

Labour parliamentary candidate John Spellar called on BA and its boss to be honest with customers. ‘The failure to come clean on just where this problem occurred will fuel suspicions that it is linked to the decision to switch responsibility for computer systems to India,’ he said.

A letter, reportedly signed by a senior BA pilot, called on Mr Cruz to ‘take full responsibility for this calamitous day in BA’s history’. It adds: ‘Please stand aside and let the skilled staff of BA put some common sense back into our operation.’

Rival airline Ryanair poked fun at BA on Twitter by featuring an image from the BBC’s Little Britain comedy series with the caption ‘Computer says “No”.’

A 'power failure' with the airline's IT system at around 11am on Saturday caused all flights to be cancelled from both Gatwick and Heathrow (pictured on Sunday) for the rest of the day

A ‘power failure’ with the airline’s IT system at around 11am on Saturday caused all flights to be cancelled from both Gatwick and Heathrow (pictured on Sunday) for the rest of the day

At Gatwick (pictured) all scheduled flights departed on Sunday morning, though most were running with delays

At Gatwick (pictured) all scheduled flights departed on Sunday morning, though most were running with delays

Mr Cruz has refused to answer questions on the crisis. Instead he has been hiding behind video apologies issued on Twitter. Aviation workers, including BA staff, anonymously used a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network to vent their frustrations. Many were critical of Mr Cruz.

One wrote: ‘He is a slash-and-burn manager and his philosophy and aggressive cost-cutting has obviously been taken a step too far here and he has to go for the good of BA.’ Another said: ‘He is a rabid cost-cutter and frankly should be sacked.’

Industry analysts warned the computer failure will come with an enormous bill.

James Walker, chief executive of the Resolver claims website, said: ‘The average claim will be around £300. That’s £90 million – a monumental amount. But when you add in the cost of hotels the airline has to provide, the cost could top £150 million. It could be the biggest compensation payout ever.’

BA’s parent company IAG reported profits of £2.2 billion last year, and has said it expects an even higher figure this year.

The airline claimed flights out of Gatwick were returning to normal yesterday, albeit with long delays. Long-haul flights out of Heathrow were getting back on track, but short-haul flights to the Med were cancelled. A similar pattern is expected today.

Cost-cutting boss gags BA staff: Chief uses message to tell staff to refrain from ‘live commentary’ on the crisis

By Sean Poulter and James Burton

The beleaguered boss of British Airways tried to gag staff from commenting on the computer meltdown that has plunged hundreds of thousands of passengers into chaos.

Alex Cruz, who was brought in to cut costs at the airline, has so far refused to be publicly questioned on the crisis that has ruined families’ holidays.

Instead, the Spanish businessman has chosen to record a series of video messages issued via BA’s Twitter account.

Mr Cruz has been bombarded by messages from staff seeking an explanation for the chaos to pass on to passengers.

Mr Cruz’s email asking his workers not to comment

Alex Cruz pictured in a video on BA's internal social media system

Alex Cruz pictured in a video on BA’s internal social media system


either you are part of the team working to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of ‘debriefing on what happened’ but rather ‘let’s fix this mode’.

I have been answering some emails from colleagues (thank you for the support) and I just finished a video for media and another for all of us. I suppose you will have seen our Twitter account and

Now, your interest on today’s events is well noted. I am wondering if you would like to help out? Either LHR or LGW or anyone of our stations could use you, now. If you indeed can, drop me a message and I will connect you or go straight to the airport and make yourself available. I am sure they will appreciate your involvement.

In the meantime, if you do not want to get involved or cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary, unless it is a message of support to the thousands of colleagues that love BA as much as you do.


People attempt to keep themselves occupied on phones and with a nap at Heathrow on Sunday as the BA travel chaos spilled over into a second day

People attempt to keep themselves occupied on phones and with a nap at Heathrow on Sunday as the BA travel chaos spilled over into a second day

But instead of coming clean, he issued an email for BA staff urging them not to speak publicly about the crisis.

In a message seen by many staff as a veiled threat, he wrote: ‘Guys, either you are part of the team trying to fix this or you aren’t. We are not in the mode of “debriefing on what happened”, but rather “let’s fix this mode”.’

He asked employees to volunteer to come in to work at Heathrow and Gatwick to tackle the backlog of flights and passengers but added: ‘If you don’t want to get involved or you cannot get involved, I would kindly ask you to refrain from live commentary.’

The airline has confirmed the email is genuine and said the intention is to encourage staff to volunteer to deal with the problems.

A source at BA said: ‘There was no intention to silence people. While we welcome open discussion our focus now is to help our customers and get our operation back to normal.’

Mr Cruz made a controversial decision last year to shut down the airline’s British computer department with the loss of 700 jobs around the country.

The £5billion Spanish merger

It is the UK’s flag carrier, and was once known as ‘the world’s favourite airline’.

But in 2010, British Airways joined forces with Spanish airline Iberia in a £5 billion merger to create IAG, Europe’s third largest scheduled airline.

British shareholders took 55 per cent of the business and the firm based its operational headquarters in London, although the parent company is officially registered in Madrid. Willie Walsh, who first went to BA as chief executive after turning around Aer Lingus, is chief executive of IAG and saw his salary rise from £735,000 to £825,000 following the merger.

With its roots in the pioneers of commercial flight soon after the First World War, British Airways came from a merger of British European Airways and BOAC in 1974.

He is thought to have been paid £830,000 last year.

The tasks of designing and managing the firm’s IT systems were contracted out to the Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services.

One of those made redundant said yesterday: ‘The failure of their website doesn’t surprise me at all.

‘When I was still working there, all the BA-employed IT people still had some pride in what they did.’

The comments echo those of the GMB union’s national aviation officer, Mick Rix, who said: ‘This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.’

Mr Cruz, 51, has long had a reputation for ruthlessness. As boss of the no-frills airline Vuelling, he outlawed colour printing, banned paper towels from washrooms and offered visitors to business meetings only tap water.

The married father-of-four’s penny-pinching talents were rewarded with the top job at British Airways 18 months ago. Out went free meals on every flight and in came extra seats to cram more passengers on to flights, severely reducing legroom.

Such moves provoked a backlash from customers who felt the airline – which once claimed to be the world’s favourite – was selling its elegant image for swift profits.

But Mr Cruz breezily denied there was a problem. ‘Consumers value what they get from BA,’ he said in February. ‘If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have customers or see the numbers growing.’

Mr Cruz was born in Spain but went to university in Michigan and Ohio in the US before joining American Airlines in 1990.

The businessman, who is thought to live in London, went on to become the founding chief executive of start-up budget airline Clickair and took over rival Vueling when the two firms merged.

There was steady growth during his time in charge, delighting the board at parent firm International Airlines Group, which also owns BA.

While British Airways IT systems are now running again, the airline has not said how long disruption will last for (pictured, people asleep on the floor at Heathrow on Sunday)

While British Airways IT systems are now running again, the airline has not said how long disruption will last for (pictured, people asleep on the floor at Heathrow on Sunday)


People checking in for flights at Heathrow also faced long queues on Sunday, as more flights were cancelled and delayed

People checking in for flights at Heathrow also faced long queues on Sunday, as more flights were cancelled and delayed

But his tenure was marred by customer complaints, with embittered travellers even launching a Facebook page. In an interview soon after taking over at BA, Mr Cruz scornfully dismissed BA’s heritage as ‘legacy practices’.

He said the company was ‘very slow’ and it was time to ‘take decisions quickly and take them to market quickly’.

He was obsessed with technology, frequently citing Google, Facebook and Uber, and stressed that he thought airlines could thrive only if they mastered IT.

‘We’re prisoners, in a way, of really old technology which is very difficult to change,’ he said.

Mr Cruz initially promised he was going to introduce new computer systems that would speed everything up – words that might be coming back to haunt him.

‘There’s new technology coming in that makes operations safer and faster,’ he said. ‘Lots of customers want to use this sort of technology to access the plane.’

Stranded passengers’ fury as hotels hike their prices 

By George Odling

Stranded BA passengers have spoken of their anger after hotels cashed in on their desperation by massively inflating room rates.

The only room available near Heathrow from its Hotel Reservations desk yesterday was a £600 double at the Park Inn hotel.

A member of staff said the rooms were normally priced between £100 and £150 but the huge demand had driven prices up. The only room available at the airport’s Sofitel Hotel was a luxury suite for £495.

Christophe Hurault, 37, had spent Saturday night sleeping on the airport floor with his wife and three children – aged between nine and 11 – after the family’s flight to Paris was cancelled.

The airline was unable to rebook flights yesterday after all of its IT systems went down, meaning the work had to be started afresh on Sunday (pictured, people asleep at Heathrow)

The airline was unable to rebook flights yesterday after all of its IT systems went down, meaning the work had to be started afresh on Sunday (pictured, people asleep at Heathrow)

Mr Hurault, who works for the French interior ministry, said: ‘When we tried to book a room on Saturday night we were told the only one available was at the Hyatt and it would cost £1,500. So no chance.

Mr Hurault and his family have been told they could fly to Barcelona last night and then to Paris this morning.

New Yorker Jose Duran, 37, also spent the night on the airport floor when his flight to Greece was cancelled on Saturday.

‘They said they could reimburse us £100 each for a hotel room,’ he said. ‘But I gave up checking because there was no chance of getting a room for anywhere near that price.’

Brazilian banker Eric Nakamura, 37, said he stopped at a guest house in Hounslow on Saturday after his flight home was cancelled and was told a room would cost £2,000.

He said: ‘Eventually we paid about £200 to stay in the Tower Hotel in London.

‘I think it’s awful that the hotels nearby were taking advantage when people were desperate.’

‘Trapped against our will in awful conditions’

The Wickham and Carleton families spent 12 hours at Heathrow on Saturday after their flight to Greece was cancelled.

Liz and Mark Carleton, their two children, Mrs Carleton’s parents, James and Cathy, and friends Louise and Steve Wickham and their two children, had paid £14,000 for a week-long Neilson holiday.

They arrived at the airport at 9.30am for their 1.45pm flight, passed through security, and were repeatedly told their flight was simply delayed. When they were eventually told it had been cancelled they were unable to leave for four hours, as they were stuck in a queue of thousands and had to have their passports checked again.

The families had to leave their luggage overnight and travel home to Guildford, Surrey, in two taxis, costing £50 each.

Liz Carleton, 41, James Carleton, 71 Steve Wickham, 44, Cathy Carleton, 71, Mark Carleton, 42 and kids Olive, Sam, James and Jack

Liz Carleton, 41, James Carleton, 71 Steve Wickham, 44, Cathy Carleton, 71, Mark Carleton, 42 and kids Olive, Sam, James and Jack

They returned at 9.30am yesterday, only to be told they were not allowed into Terminal 5 until 90 minutes before their 1.45pm flight. Mrs Wickham, 40, said: ‘There was no BA staff anywhere; all the information we got was from Twitter or the news … We were trapped and kept against our will in conditions that were just awful. I think they intentionally kept the BA staff away because people would have been screaming at them. It’s been a real shambles … there were people in tears in there yesterday.’

John and Zoe Attwood, both 60, were forced to cancel a trip to Corfu. They spent more than ten hours at the airport yesterday after arriving for a 5.50am flight. At 12.30pm they were told it was cancelled and there would not be another until Tuesday.

Mr Attwood, who works in the air freight industry, said: ‘It is so disorganised, it’s just disgusting. There are no BA staff around at all, no one explaining anything to us.’

Dozens more BA flights were cancelled from Heathrow on Sunday morning, adding to the passenger blacklog

Dozens more BA flights were cancelled from Heathrow on Sunday morning, adding to the passenger blacklog

The couple from Hounslow, west London, had rented a £2,000 villa they planned to share with others for ten days. Mr Attwood added: ‘We’ve been here since the early hours and no one has offered us an apology, just a leaflet about how to get compensation … What a shambles.’

American singer Patrick Schwarz had an audition in New York today but will be unable to attend after his flight was cancelled. The 26-year-old spent eight hours at Heathrow on Saturday and was turned away from Terminal 5 yesterday. He said: ‘They are saying to book with another airline, but it’s about £1,000 and I just can’t afford that.’

Herman and Catharina Rierink, both 64, slept on the airport floor on Saturday night and planned to do so yesterday after their flight to Amsterdam was cancelled. The Dutch couple found out via the BBC website, rather than updates at the airport.

Mr Rierink said: ‘We were told they would reimburse us up to £200 for a hotel but all the hotels nearby were either full or more than £300. We had to sleep on the floor … It’s incredibly uncomfortable. It was terrible.’


What should airlines offer travellers who are delayed?

If the delay is more than two hours, the airline should provide food and drink, usually through a voucher.

If the delay is overnight, the airline should provide hotel accommodation, and fund the cost of transport to and from the hotel.

Where the airline does not provide accommodation, travellers can arrange their own and reclaim the cost. The hotel costs must be ‘reasonable’.

Customers are urged to keep any food, transport or hotel receipts and can claim through the BA Customer Relations team.

What are the rights to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight?

The EU Denied Boarding Regulation includes rights to compensation for delayed or cancelled services that depart within the EU or are operated by a European airline.

A delay of more than three hours for short-haul flights (up to 1,500km or 930 miles) equates to compensation of €250 (£219). The figure is €400 (£350) for medium-haul trips (1,500km to 3,500km).

For long-haul flights (more than 3,500km), delays of between three and four hours means compensation of €300 (£262). For delays longer than four hours the figure is €600 (£524).

Each traveller will be entitled to the compensation set out above. Consequently, a family of four travelling to the US who have been delayed more than four hours would be entitled to a full refund plus £2,096.

How to claim compensation?

BA says affected customers can claim a full refund or rebook to a future date up until the end of November 2017. It is legally required to compensate people whose flights have been delayed or cancelled.

However, the airline said it will deal with these on a ‘case by case’ basis, which means people will have to make a claim.

Advice and template letters to do this are provided by the consumer group Which? at

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