20/04/2014

Kano, Nigeria (CNN) — In an embarrassing blow to its perception from an increasingly skeptical public, the Nigerian military Thursday retracted a report that nearly all the 129 school girls kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants had been released.

Just hours after a parent of an abducted girl claimed the Defense Ministry lied Wednesday about all but eight girls finding freedom, the director of defense said the initial report was “not intended to deceive the public.”

Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade’s statement didn’t indicate how many of the girls were still unaccounted for.

“The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious,” it said.

‘Blatant lie’

Distraught parents have waited for news for four days, putting their faith in a military rescue, said Lawan Zanna, father of one of the students.

Abubakar Shekau is the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria. A reward up to $7 million has been offered by the U.S. government.

Mullah Mohammed Omar is the spiritual leader of the Taliban. A reward of up to $10 million has been offered by the U.S. government.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of Islamic State in Iraq. A reward up to $10 million has been offered by the U.S. government.

Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, is the leader of Al-Shabaab. A reward up to $7 million has been offered by the U.S. government.

Nasir al Wuhayshi is leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Hakimullah Mehsud is the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan. A reward of up to $5 million has been offered by the U.S. government.

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Leaders of deadliest terrorist groups

Boko Haram ‘increasingly monstrous’

Up to 200 girls kidnapped by terrorists

Explosion kills dozens in Nigeria

They are shocked that the government resorted to “blatant propaganda” and a “blatant lie,” he said.

Olukolade said the military received a “major breakthrough” report from a reliable source who supposedly included information from the principal of the school where the students were seized by gunmen Monday night.

But the principal denied releasing any information.

“I never made that claim to anybody,” said Asabe Kwambura, principal of Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern town of Chibok. “A total of 14 out of the 129 students taken away managed to escape and the rest are still being held by their captors.”

Olukolade called the misinformation an “unfortunate development indeed.”

How many are still missing?

Musa Inuwa Kubo, the Borno state education commissioner, said Thursday that 30 students had come home.

But the principal and Zanna each put the number at 14. Three girls escaped their captors Wednesday and were returned home by herdsmen, Zanna said. Others escaped from a broken truck as the abductors stopped, he said.

The military said “ongoing frantic efforts” of security forces, vigilante groups and hunters are attempting to find and free the students.

Rescue teams, aided by surveillance helicopters, were moving deeper into the vast forest that extends into neighboring Cameroon, said Ali Ndume, a senator representing southern Borno state.

A broken-down truck believed to have been part of the kidnappers’ convoy was found at the edge of the forest, which suggests the abductors took their hostages into the woods on foot, he added.

We ‘ran into the bush’

The incident began Monday night, when militants engaged in a gunbattle with guards at the boarding school, and then herded the students onto vehicles and drove off, authorities said.

“They left with us in a convoy into the bush,” said one girl who escaped, but, citing security concerns, declined to identify herself. “A group of motorcyclists flanked the convoy to ensure none of us escaped.”

When a truck broke down, the girls inside were transferred to another truck and the broken one was set afire, the girl said.

Another vehicle then broke down and, as the men tried to fix it, “some of us jumped out of the vehicles and ran into the bush,” she said. “We later found our way back to Chibok.”

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin” in the local Hausa language. The Islamist militant group is waging a campaign of violence in northeastern Nigeria, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

The militant group has bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders alike. Human Rights Watch says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence in the past five years.

Armed militant groups in Nigeria’s northeastern region are nothing new, but Boko Haram has taken the violence to unprecedented levels since 2009.

In early March, Borno closed its 85 secondary schools and sent more than 120,000 students home after increasing attacks by the group. Chibok is in Borno state.

Borno is one of three states under a state of emergency since mid-May.

Britain offers help

UNICEF has called for the girls’ “immediate and unconditional release” and said attacks on Nigerian schools are getting out of control.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague was among the world leaders condemning the kidnappings.

“We stand ready to provide assistance to help the Nigerian government ensure that these children can be returned to their families in safety, and to bring to justice those responsible” for the “cowardly act,” he said.

READ: Who are Boko Haram?

Journalist Aminu Abubakar reported from Kano, and CNN’s Faith Karimi and Steve Almasy wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Josh Levs and Vladimir Duthiers contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/4rKl0HReBxI/index.html

$250 million price tag for MH370 undersea search?

Posted by MereNews On April - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — A prolonged undersea search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 could cost nearly a quarter of a billion U.S. dollars if private companies are used, Australia’s top transport official said Thursday.

Martin Dolan emphasized that the $234 million price tag is a “ballpark rough estimate” of an extended search and salvage mission that includes an underwater vehicle that has come up empty in its first four missions.

The Bluefin-21 is back at work Friday morning on a fifth trip into the southern Indian Ocean. Authorities said the vessel has scanned a total of 110 square kilometers (42.5 square miles) without making any “contacts of interest.”

Searchers seem to be preparing for the possibility that an underwater drone scan of the southern Indian Ocean may not yield debris from the plane immediately.

Lack of progress angers Chinese families

Underwater drone aborts first mission

How hard is it to find a black box?

A Royal Malaysian Air Force plane takes off from an airbase near Perth, Australia, to help in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on Thursday, April 17. Searchers are combing thousands of square miles of the southern Indian Ocean for signs of Flight 370, which disappeared March 8.

Operators aboard the Australian ship Ocean Shield move Bluefin-21, the U.S. Navy’s autonomous underwater vehicle, into position to search for the jet on Monday, April 14.

A member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force looks out of a window while searching for debris off the coast of western Australia on Sunday, April 13.

British Royal Navy sailors aboard the vessel HMS Echo take part in the search for the jet on April 13.

Crew members aboard the Echo watch a smaller boat that’s part of the British search effort on April 13.

The Echo moves through the waters of the southern Indian Ocean.

A map provided Saturday, April 12, details efforts to find the missing jet.

Chinese navy personnel head out on a boat to the Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Success on Wednesday, April 9.

A Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion, on a mission to drop sonar buoys to assist in the search, flies past the Australian vessel Ocean Shield on April 9.

A relative of a missing passenger cries at a vigil in Beijing on Tuesday, April 8.

A member of the Royal Australian Air Force walks toward a plane that just arrived in Perth on April 8.

Australian Defense Force divers scan the water for debris Monday, April 7, in the southern Indian Ocean.

A towed pinger locator is readied to be deployed April 7 off the deck of the Australian vessel Ocean Shield.

Capt. Mark Matthews of the U.S. Navy talks to reporters in Perth about the search on April 7.

A member of the search operation points to a map outlining search areas during a news conference April 7 in Perth.

A U.S. Navy airplane takes off from Perth to assist in the search on April 7.

A member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force looks at a flare in the Indian Ocean during search operations on Friday, April 4.

Members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force monitor data April 4 on board an aircraft during search operations.

A relative of a Flight 370 passenger watches television in a Beijing hotel as he awaits new information about the missing plane on Thursday, April 3.

Another relative of a Flight 370 passenger waits for updates in Beijing on Wednesday, April 2. Many families have criticized the Malaysian government’s handling of information in the plane’s disappearance.

A member of the Japanese coast guard points to a flight position data screen while searching for debris from the missing jet on Tuesday, April 1.

Kojiro Tanaka, head of the Japanese coast guard search mission, explains the efforts en route to the search zone April 1.

A woman prepares for an event in honor of those aboard Flight 370 on Sunday, March 30, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

An underwater search-surveying vehicle sits on the wharf in Perth, ready to be fitted to a ship to aid in the search for the jet.

A girl in Kuala Lumpur writes a note during a ceremony for the missing passengers on March 30.

A teary-eyed woman listens from the back as other relatives of Flight 370 passengers speak to reporters March 30 in Subang Jaya, Malaysia. Dozens of anguished Chinese relatives demanded that Malaysia provide answers to the fate of those on board.

An object floating in the southern Indian Ocean is seen from a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion aircraft searching for the missing jet on Saturday, March 29. Ships participating in the search retrieved new debris Saturday, but no objects linked to the missing plane, according to Australian authorities.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force member launches a GPS marker buoy over the southern Indian Ocean on March 29.

The sole representative for the families of Flight 370 passengers leaves a conference at a Beijing hotel on Friday, March 28, after other relatives left en masse to protest the Malaysian government’s response to their questions.

A member of the Royal Australian Air Force is silhouetted against the southern Indian Ocean during the search for the missing jet on Thursday, March 27.

Flight Lt. Jayson Nichols looks at a map aboard a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft during a search on March 27.

People in Kuala Lumpur light candles during a ceremony held for the missing flight’s passengers on March 27.

Crew members of the Chinese icebreaking ship Xuelong scan the Indian Ocean during a search for the missing jet on Wednesday, March 26.

People work at a console at the British satellite company Inmarsat on Tuesday, March 25, in London.

The mother of a passenger who was on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 cries at her home in Medan, Indonesia, on March 25.

Australian Defense Minister David Johnston speaks to the media March 25 about the search for the missing jet.

A family member of a missing passenger reacts after hearing the latest news March 25 in Kuala Lumpur.

Angry relatives of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 react in Beijing on Monday, March 24, after hearing that the plane went down over the southern Indian Ocean, according to analysis of satellite data.

Grieving relatives of missing passengers leave a hotel in Beijing on March 24.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, delivers a statement about the flight March 24 in Kuala Lumpur. Razak’s announcement came after the airline sent a text message to relatives saying it “deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH 370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived.”

Relatives of the missing passengers hold a candlelight vigil in Beijing on March 24.

A member of the Royal Australian Air Force looks out an aircraft during a search for the missing jet March 24.

A woman reads messages for missing passengers at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on March 24.

Flight Lt. Josh Williams of the Royal Australian Air Force operates the controls of an AP-3C Orion on Sunday, March 23, after searching the southern Indian Ocean.

Ground crew members wave to a Japanese Maritime Defense Force patrol plane as it leaves the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Subang, Malaysia, on Sunday, March 23. The plane was heading to Australia to join a search-and-rescue operation.

A passenger views a weather map in the departures terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, March 22.

A Chinese satellite captured this image, released on March 22, of a floating object in the Indian Ocean, according to China’s State Administration of Science. It is a possible lead in the search for the missing plane. Surveillance planes are looking for two objects spotted by satellite imagery in remote, treacherous waters more than 1,400 miles from the west coast of Australia.

A member of the Royal Australian Air Force looks down at the Norwegian merchant ship Hoegh St. Petersburg, which took part in search operations Friday, March 21.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s Neville Dawson, left, goes over the search area with Brittany Sharpe aboard an AP-3C Orion some 2,500 kilometers (about 1,500 miles) southwest of Perth, Australia, over the Indian Ocean on March 21.

Satellite imagery provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Thursday, March 20, shows debris in the southern Indian Ocean that could be from Flight 370. The announcement by Australian officials that they had spotted something raised hopes of a breakthrough in the frustrating search.

A closer look at the satellite shot of possible debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Another satellite shot provided by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority shows possible debris from the flight.

A closer look at the satellite shot of possible debris.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s John Young speaks to the media in Canberra, Australia, on March 20 about satellite imagery.

A distraught relative of a missing passenger breaks down while talking to reporters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Wednesday, March 19.

A relative of missing passengers waits for a news briefing by officials in Beijing on Tuesday, March 18.

A relative of a missing passenger tells reporters in Beijing about a hunger strike to protest authorities’ handling of information about the missing jet.

A member of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency joins in a search for the missing plane in the Andaman
Sea area around the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra on Monday, March 17.

Relatives of missing passengers watch a news program about the missing plane as they await information at a hotel ballroom in Beijing on March 17.

Malaysian Transportation Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, center, shows maps of the search area at a hotel next to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 17.

U.S. Navy crew members assist in search-and-rescue operations Sunday, March 16, in the Indian Ocean.

Indonesian personnel watch over high seas during a search operation in the Andaman Sea on Saturday, March 15.

A foam plane, which has personalized messages for the missing flight’s passengers, is seen at a viewing gallery March 15 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

A member of the Malaysian navy makes a call as his ship approaches a Chinese coast guard ship in the South China Sea on March 15.

A Indonesian ship heads to the Andaman Sea during a search operation near the tip of Sumatra, Indonesia, on March 15.

Elementary school students pray for the missing passengers during class in Medan, Indonesia, on March 15.

Col. Vu Duc Long of the Vietnam air force fields reporters’ questions at an air base in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, after a search operation on Friday, March 14.

Members of the Chinese navy continue search operations on Thursday, March 13. The search area for Flight 370 has grown wider. After starting in the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, the plane’s last confirmed location, efforts are expanding west into the Indian Ocean.

A Vietnamese military official looks out an aircraft window during search operations March 13.

Malaysian air force members look for debris on March 13 near Kuala Lumpur.

A relative of a missing passenger watches TV at a Beijing hotel as she waits for the latest news March 13.

A member of the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency scans the horizon in the Strait of Malacca on Wednesday, March 12.

Relatives of missing passengers wait for the latest news at a hotel in Beijing on March 12.

Journalists raise their hands to ask questions during a news conference in Sepang on March 12.

Indonesian air force officers in Medan, Indonesia, examine a map of the Strait of Malacca on March 12.

A member of the Vietnamese air force checks a map while searching for the missing plane on Tuesday, March 11.

Iranians Pouri Nourmohammadi, second left, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, far right, were identified by Interpol as the two men who used stolen passports to board the flight. But there’s no evidence to suggest either was connected to any terrorist organizations, according to Malaysian investigators. Malaysian police believe Nourmohammadi was trying to emigrate to Germany using the stolen Austrian passport.

An Indonesian navy crew member scans an area of the South China Sea bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand on Monday, March 10.

Vietnam air force Col. Le Huu Hanh is reflected on the navigation control panel of a plane that is part of the search operation over the South China Sea on March 10.

Relatives of the missing flight’s passengers wait in a Beijing hotel room on March 10.

A U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter lands aboard the USS Pinckney to change crews before returning to search for the missing plane Sunday, March 9, in the Gulf of Thailand.

Members of the Fo Guang Shan rescue team offer a special prayer March 9 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

A handout picture provided by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency shows personnel checking a radar screen during search-and-rescue operations March 9.

Italian tourist Luigi Maraldi, who reported his passport stolen in August, shows his current passport during a news conference at a police station in Phuket island, Thailand, on March 9. Two passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight were reportedly traveling on stolen passports belonging to Maraldi and an Austrian citizen whose papers were stolen two years ago.

Hugh Dunleavy, commercial director of Malaysia Airlines, speaks to journalists March 9 at a Beijing hotel where relatives and friends of the missing flight’s passengers are staying.

Vietnamese air force crew stand in front of a plane at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City on March 9 before heading out to the area between Vietnam and Malaysia where the airliner vanished.

Buddhist monks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport offer a special prayer for the missing passengers on March 9.

The Chinese navy warship Jinggangshan prepares to leave Zhanjiang Port early on March 9 to assist in search-and-rescue operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight. The Jinggangshan, an amphibious landing ship, is loaded with lifesaving equipment, underwater detection devices and supplies of oil, water and food.

Members of a Chinese emergency response team board a rescue vessel at the port of Sanya in China’s Hainan province on March 9. The vessel is carrying 12 divers and will rendezvous with another rescue vessel on its way to the area where contact was lost with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The rescue vessel sets out from Sanya in the South China Sea.

A family member of missing passengers is mobbed by journalists at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday, March 8.

A Vietnamese air force plane found traces of oil that authorities had suspected to be from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, the Vietnamese government online newspaper reported March 8. However, a sample from the slick showed it was bunker oil, typically used to power large cargo ships, Malaysia’s state news agency, Bernama, reported on March 10.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, arrives to meet family members of missing passengers at the reception center at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.

Malaysia Airlines official Joshua Law Kok Hwa, center, speaks to reporters in Beijing on March 8.

A relative of two missing passengers reacts at their home in Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

Wang Yue, director of marketing of Malaysia Airlines in China, reads a company statement during a news conference at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing on March 8.

Chinese police at the Beijing airport stand beside the arrival board showing delayed Flight 370 in red on March 8.

A woman asks a staff member at the Beijing airport for more information on the missing flight.

A Malaysian man who says he has relatives on board the missing plane talks to journalists at the Beijing airport on March 8.

Passengers walk past a Malaysia Airlines sign on March 8 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Ahmad Juahari Yahya, front, speaks during a news conference on March 8 at a hotel in Sepang. “We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts” with the jet, he said.

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Photos: The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, tweeted Friday that authorities are looking at deploying more unmanned underwater probes.

Officials might consider searching along a large portion of sea highlighted by a partial digital “handshake” between the jetliner and an Inmarsat PLC satellite, Dolan said.

That arc of sea is over 370 miles long and 30 miles wide.

Underwater search

Officials didn’t indicate whether Bluefin’s fourth mission was a lengthy one.

The Bluefin was forced to abort its mission twice this week; the first time after it exceeded its original depth limit and the second time over a technical issue. After the latter was resolved, officials dipped it into the ocean again.

Phoenix International Holdings, which owns and operates the equipment under a contract for the U.S. Navy, called the third dive “very productive,” saying that the underwater drone spent nearly 13 hours at the sea bottom.

But after four dives, “there has been no debris or aircraft wreckage discovered,” the company said.

The underwater vessel takes two hours to get near the ocean floor and another two hours to return to the surface. It aims to map the ocean floor for 16 hours to retrieve data, which then take four hours to analyze.

The vessel searches maximum depths of 4,500 meters (14,764 feet). The U.S. Navy has determined the seafloor in the search area reaches a maximum depth of 4,600 meters (15,092 feet).

Bluefin operators said they can reprogram it to operate at 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), giving it more leeway.

New setbacks

Officials believe a recent ping heard in the search area has the right frequency to belong to the flight data recorder’s emergency beacon.

The quality of the “ping” led authorities to focus the underwater search in the area.

And as the underwater focus continues, officials faced other setbacks.

Renewed focus on MH370 pilot’s phone

Searches for Titanic and MH370 similar

MH370 partner: They’re still alive

Clues from possible debris scenarios

A preliminary analysis of an oil sample collected in the southern Indian Ocean shows that it is not aircraft engine oil or hydraulic fluid, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said Thursday.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing.

With no debris found so far and no possible pings from the plane’s “black boxes” detected in a week, officials shifted the focus of the search underwater.

Air and sea surface searches continued Friday across three areas northwest of Perth, Australia, officials said.

Those searches are probably nearing an end, officials said.

Disgruntled families

A technical glitch during a video conference to update Chinese families on the search Wednesday turned into a screaming match.

“You’re all bloody liars, and you’re lying to us again,” one man yelled.

Families of the passengers attending the Beijing briefing exploded in anger and stormed out.

Chinese relatives of those aboard the flight have accused Malaysia of withholding information. They demanded an apology from the Malaysian diplomat behind the botched briefing.

“We will request their team of experts to come to Beijing to conduct face-to-face communications and fulfill their commitment,” said Jing Hui, a spokesman for some of the families. “What is the truth? What problem do they want to cover up?”

The families have 26 questions they want answered. They included requests for shared evidence, including the flight’s logbook and recordings of air traffic control the night the plane disappeared.

Most of the people on the plane were Chinese. Their relatives have become distrustful of Malaysian authorities and airline officials.

Hishammuddin defended his government’s handling of the operation and accused the media of focusing on the Chinese families. He said relatives of other nations represented have not had problems.

“The most difficult part of any investigation of this nature is having to deal with the families in our case,” he said.

A Malaysian delegation will travel to Beijing in a few days to advise families on the ongoing search.

Malaysia has put together a committee to work with the relatives, Hishammuddin said.

READ: MH370 families storm out of glitchy teleconference with Malaysian officials

READ: A primer on the latest in the search for Flight 370

READ: How deep is deep? Imagining the MH370 search underwater

CNN’s Ivan Watson, Brian Todd, Elizabeth Joseph, Erin Burnett and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/S8Y3Rfe1DOQ/index.html

Snowden questions Putin on camera

Posted by MereNews On April - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Edward Snowden asked Vladimir Putin on Russian television about Moscow’s surveillance practices.

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Mother slaps, then forgives son’s murderer

Posted by MereNews On April - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son’s murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.

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Russia: Disarm illegal forces in Ukraine

Posted by MereNews On April - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) — Diplomats meeting for emergency talks on the crisis in Ukraine issued a joint statement Thursday aimed at de-escalating the tensions and ensuring the security of all Ukrainians.

The statement — which appears to be the biggest step toward calming the situation in days — followed talks lasting several hours between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his acting Ukrainian counterpart, Andriy Deshchytsia, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The pact calls for all illegal armed groups to be disarmed, all illegally seized buildings to be returned to their legitimate owners and all occupied public spaces to be vacated. It promises amnesty for protesters who leave buildings and give up their weapons, apart from those convicted of capital crimes.

It also urges a halt to violence in Ukraine and condemns all extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism, in the country.

Kerry, speaking alongside Ashton, said the sides had worked hard to narrow the differences between them.

But he stressed that the agreement was just words and that the proof of it would be in its swift implementation on the ground.

“What is important is that these words are translated into actions and none of us leave here with the sense that the job is done, because the words are on the paper,” he said. “The job will not be done until these principles are implemented and are followed up on.”

Kerry warned that Russia could face “further costs” if the situation does not de-escalate in line with the concrete steps set out in the statement. Ukraine’s leaders must also play their part in calming the situation, he said.

Asked about what NATO has said is a large Russian troop build-up near the border with Ukraine, Kerry said “our hope is” that Russia will withdraw more troops from the area as steps to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis are implemented.

Russia indicates that it has withdrawn one battalion from the area in response to the West’s calls for deescalation, Kerry said.

All sides have agreed to ask for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has a mission in Ukraine, to help implement the measures.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed negotiations, while stressing that the situation in Ukraine remains “extremely volatile.”

Ban “expects all sides, moving forward, to show their serious intention to continue to engage, in a good-faith effort, and to implement the steps laid out in the Geneva Statement, which will contribute to a lasting solution to this crisis,” a U.N. statement read.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Thursday that he was happy but cautious after the Geneva talks.

Yatsenyuk said he was willing to grant more autonomy to eastern Ukraine in order to defuse tensions.

He took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, saying that Putin wants to restore the Russian empire and that a new Soviet Union would be a disaster for Europe.

Obama: U.S. military options not on the table

“I don’t think we can be sure of anything (in the Ukrainian crisis). I think there is the possibility, the prospect, that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday at the daily White House news conference when asked about the meeting in Geneva between top officials from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.

He said referred to “a promising public statement” to disarm all groups that have been occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine, pointing out that the Russians have signed on to that statement. “We’re not going to know whether there is follow-through on these statements for several days,” Obama said.

The President stressed that he has emphasized to Putin that the United States will continue to uphold the basic principles of sovereignty of all countries.

“It is our belief … that Russia’s hand is in the disruptions and chaos that we’ve been seeing in southern and eastern Ukraine,” Obama said. “But there is an opportunity for Russia to take a different approach. We are encouraging them to do so. In the meantime, we’re going to prepare additional responses should Russia fail to take a different course.”

The President emphasized that he’s been very clear that U.S. military options are not on the table in dealing with the situation in Ukraine.

Lavrov: ‘Disgusting expressions’

Kerry said Ukraine’s interim leaders had made an impressive commitment toward listening to the demands of people in different regions of Ukraine, including the restive east, for increased autonomy and had promised constitutional reforms.

He said the agreement offered the best prospect for a positive way forward for Ukraine.

Lavrov, giving a separate news conference in Geneva, echoed the commitments of the joint statement, as well as stressing the need for Russian speakers in Ukraine to be protected from discrimination.

Speaking about the agreement to condemn extremism in Ukraine, Lavrov alleged that members of Ukraine’s Parliament had made “absolutely disgusting expressions” against those who speak Russian.

He urged a national dialogue in Ukraine, saying the process of constitutional reform must be transparent, inclusive and accountable — and that it was down to Ukrainians themselves to decide their future.

Russia has said it reserves the right to intervene in eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians.

The four parties stressed the importance of Ukraine’s financial and economic stability, the statement added, “and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented.”

Military base attacked

The emergency talks in Geneva were called in the hope of resolving a deepening crisis that has seen armed pro-Russian protesters seize swaths of Ukraine.

The unrest in the east, which shares a border with Russia, has been spiraling so fast it has left diplomacy in the dust, amid the worst crisis in East-West relations since the end of the Cold War.

Will Ukraine talks yield results?

Ukraine blames Russia for unrest

What is the end game for Vladimir Putin?

Masked pro-Russian protesters stand guard in front of the city hall in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 17. Ukraine has seen a sharp rise in tensions since a new pro-European government took charge of the country in February. Moscow branded the new government illegitimate and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region last month, citing threats to Crimea’s Russian-speaking majority. And in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists have seized government and police buildings in as many as 10 towns and cities.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaches out to shake hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the start of a bilateral meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine. The meeting took place April 17 in Geneva, Switzerland.

A masked gunman stands guard near tanks in Slaviansk, Ukraine, on Wednesday, April 16.

A Ukrainian helicopter flies over a column of Ukrainian Army combat vehicles on the way to Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine, on April 16.

A masked pro-Russian gunman guards combat vehicles parked in downtown Slaviansk on April 16.

A man talks with Ukrainian soldiers as they are blocked by people on their way to Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian soldiers sit atop combat vehicles on their way to Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian Gen. Vasily Krutov is surrounded by protesters after addressing the crowd outside an airfield in Kramatorsk on Tuesday, April 15.

Pro-Russian activists guard a barricade April 15 outside the regional police building that they seized in Slaviansk.

Ukrainian troops receive munitions at a field on the outskirts of Izium, Ukraine, on April 15.

Armed pro-Russian activists stand guard on top of a Ukrainian regional administration building in Slaviansk on Monday, April 14.

A pro-Russian activist carries a shield during the mass storming of a police station in Horlivka, Ukraine, on April 14.

Russian supporters attend a rally in front of the security service building occupied by pro-Russian activists in Luhansk, Ukraine, on April 14.

A man places a Russian flag over a police station after storming the building in Horlivka on April 14.

Men besiege the police station in Horlivka.

The Horlivka police station burns on April 14.

A Ukrainian police officer receives medical care after being attacked at the police station in Horlivka on April 14.

Pro-Russian supporters beat a pro-Ukrainian activist during a rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, April 13.

Pro-Russian activists escort a man outside the secret service building in Luhansk on April 13.

Pro-Russian protesters guard a barricade in Slaviansk on April 13 outside a regional police building seized by armed separatists the day before.

Armed pro-Russian activists carrying riot shields occupy a police station in Slaviansk on April 12.

A group of pro-Russian activists warm themselves by a fire Friday, April 11, in front of a Ukrainian Security Service office in Luhansk.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk speaks April 11 during his meeting with regional leaders in Donetsk, Ukraine. Yatsenyuk flew into Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists occupied the regional administration building and called for a referendum.

Pro-Russian young men look over the fence of a military recruitment office in Donetsk on Thursday, April 10.

Armed pro-Russian protesters occupy the Security Service building in Luhansk on April 10.

Members of the self-proclaimed government the “Donetsk Republic” vote April 10 during a meeting at the seized regional administration building in Donetsk.

Ukrainian lawmakers from different parties scuffle during a Parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 8.

Workers clean up on April 8 after pro-Russian separatists and police clashed overnight in Kharkiv.

Pro-Russian protesters burn tires near a regional administration building in Kharkiv after police cleared the building on Monday, April 7.

A masked man stands on top of a barricade at the regional administration building in Donetsk on April 7.

Protesters wave a Russian flag as they storm the regional administration building in Donetsk on Sunday, April 6. Protesters seized state buildings in several east Ukrainian cities, prompting accusations from Kiev that Moscow is trying to “dismember” the country.

Pro-Russian protesters clash with police as they try to occupy a regional administration building in Donetsk on April 6.

Pro-Russian activists hold a rally in front of a Ukrainian Security Service office in Luhansk on April 6.

A young demonstrator with his mouth covered by a Russian flag attends a pro-Russia rally outside the regional government administration building in Donetsk on Saturday, April 5.

A Ukrainian soldier guards a road not far from Prokhody, a village near the Russian border, on April 5. Ukrainian and Western officials have voiced alarm about Russia’s reported military buildup on Ukraine’s eastern border.

Ukrainian cadets at the Higher Naval School embrace a friend who has decided to stay in the school during a departure ceremony in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Friday, April 4. Some 120 cadets who refused to take Russian citizenship left the school to return to Ukraine.

Soviet military veterans take part in a flower-laying ceremony at the Soviet-era World War II memorial in Sevastopol on Thursday, April 3.

Ukrainian soldiers conduct a training session on the Desna military shooting range northeast of Kiev on Wednesday, April 2.

Russian soldiers prepare for diving training in front of a Tarantul-III class missile boat Tuesday, April 1, in Sevastopol.

People pass by barricades near the Dnipro Hotel in Kiev on April 1.

People walk past a train loaded with Russian tanks Monday, March 31, in the Gvardeyskoe railway station near Simferopol, Crimea.

A Russian solder sits in a tank at the Ostryakovo railway station, not far from Simferopol on March 31.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks about the economic development of Crimea during a meeting March 31 in Simferopol.

Members of the Ukrainian National Guard take part in military exercises on a shooting range near Kiev on March 31.

A woman cries Sunday, March 30, during a gathering to honor those who were killed during protests in Kiev’s Independence Square.

A woman and child walk past a line of police officers during a rally in Kharkiv on March 30.

Ukrainian soldiers take part in a training exercise at a military base in Donetsk on Saturday, March 29.

Demonstrators protest Friday, March 28, in Kiev, displaying police vehicles they seized during earlier clashes with authorities.

Members of the Right Sector group block the Ukrainian parliament building in Kiev on Thursday, March 27. Activists called for Interior Minister Arsen Avakov to step down after the recent killing of radical nationalist leader Oleksandr Muzychko, who died during a police operation to detain him. Muzychko and the Right Sector are credited with playing a lead role in the protests that toppled Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych.

Ukrainian tanks are transported from their base in Perevalne, Crimea, on Wednesday, March 26. After Russian troops seized most of Ukraine’s bases in Crimea, interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from the Black Sea peninsula, citing Russian threats to the lives of military staff and their families.

Ukrainian marines wave as they leave a base in Feodosia, Crimea, on Tuesday, March 25.

Russian sailors stand on the deck of the corvette ship Suzdalets in the bay of Sevastopol on March 25.

Pro-Russian militia members remove a resident as Russian troops assault the Belbek air base, outside Sevastopol, on Saturday, March 22. After its annexation of Crimea, Russian forces have consolidated their control of the region.

Soldiers in unmarked uniforms sit atop an armored personnel carrier at the gate of the Belbek air base on March 22.

A Russian sailor holds the Russian Navy’s St. Andrew’s flag while standing on the bow of the surrendered Ukrainian submarine Zaporozhye on March 22 in Sevastopol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the final decree completing the annexation of Crimea on Friday, March 21, as Upper House Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, left, and State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin watch.

A Ukrainian serviceman leaves a Ukrainian military unit that Russian soldiers took control of in Perevalne on March 21.

Ukrainian border guards run during training at a military camp in Alekseyevka, Ukraine, on March 21.

Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding a Ukrainian military unit in Perevalne on Thursday, March 20.

Pro-Russian protesters remove the gate to the Ukrainian navy headquarters as Russian troops stand guard in Sevastopol on Wednesday, March 19.

Pro-Russian forces walk inside the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol on March 19.

A member of pro-Russian forces takes down a Ukrainian flag at the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol on March 19.

Alexander Vitko, chief of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, leaves the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol after pro-Russian forces took it over on March 19.

A Russian flag waves as workers install a new sign on a parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, on March 19.

Russian military personnel surround a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne on March 19.

Nameplates on the front of the Crimean parliament building get removed Tuesday, March 18, in Simferopol.

From left, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov; Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament; Russian President Vladimir Putin; and Alexei Chaly, the new de facto mayor of Sevastopol, join hands in Moscow on March 18 after signing a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia.

Demonstrators hold a Crimean flag at Lenin Square in Simferopol on March 18.

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint near Strilkove, Ukraine, close to Crimea on Monday, March 17.

Former boxer and Ukrainian politician Vitali Klitschko addresses reporters in Kiev on March 17.

Ukrainian troops stand guard in front of the Ukrainian Parliament building in Kiev on March 17.

A Ukrainian man applies for the National Guard at a mobile recruitment center in Kiev on March 17.

Civilians walk past riot police in Simferopol on March 17.

A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of an armored vehicle at a military camp near the village of Michurino, Ukraine, on March 17.

Policemen stand guard outside the regional state administration building in Donetsk during a rally by pro-Russia activists March 17.

Armed soldiers stand guard outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne on March 17.

A man holds a Crimean flag as he stands in front of the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on March 17.

Crimeans holding Russian flags celebrate in front of the parliament building in Simferopol on Sunday, March 16.

A Ukrainian police officer tries to shield himself from a road block thrown by pro-Russia supporters in Kharkiv on March 16.

Pro-Russia demonstrators storm the prosecutor general’s office during a rally in Donetsk on March 16.

A woman leaves a voting booth in Sevastopol on March 16. See the crisis in Ukraine before Crimea voted

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Photos: Crisis in Ukraine

Kiev’s embattled new leaders have been struggling to reassert their authority in eastern towns largely controlled by armed pro-Russian separatists. They have tried dialogue and a show of force, both to little effect.

In the southeastern city of Mariupol, a gang of 300 attacked a Ukrainian military base Thursday, leading to gunfire between the two sides. In Donetsk, the self-declared chairman of the people’s council said he wants a referendum by May 11 to ask residents whether they wanted sovereignty.

And in Slaviansk, pro-Russian militants are firmly in control.

The Geneva gathering, held amid talk in the United States of fresh sanctions, was the first meeting since the crisis worsened.

Speaking earlier in the day in a televised question-and-answer session, Putin said the talks were important “to figure out how to get out of this situation.”

However, he also reiterated his thoughts about Kiev’s new interim government — in place since pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February after months of protests — calling it “illegitimate” and without a national mandate.

Presidential elections in May are taking place under “unacceptable conditions,” he added

“If the elections are to be legitimate, the constitution of Ukraine needs to be revised,” he said.

9 questions about Ukraine

Attack on military base

Earlier Thursday, about 300 pro-Russian militants repeatedly attacked a military base in Mariupol, Kiev said.

Soldiers opened fire, killing three attackers, wounding 13 and detaining 63 others. But some soldiers surrendered.

“The 25th Airborne Brigade whose soldiers showed cowardice and laid down weapons will be disbanded,” acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told Parliament. “Guilty soldiers will stand before the court.”

Vitaliy Naida, a senior counterintelligence officer with Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said investigators are still trying to determine the nationalities of the 63 people detained in Mariupol.

He said that 16 of them were not carrying ID at the time of arrest and that he was not able to confirm whether any are Russian citizens at this stage.

Since March, officers have taken around 40 Russian citizens and their recruited Ukrainian agents into custody, he said. Five of these people have Russian military backgrounds.

Seeking another referendum

In an ominous echo of what happened in Crimea just weeks ago, the Donetsk People’s Republic wants to follow that region’s lead and hold a referendum early next month, said Denis Pushilin, the self-declared chairman of the people’s council. The referendum will essentially ask residents which country they want to be a part of: Russia or Ukraine.

Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula last month after its predominantly Russian-speaking residents voted yes in a referendum.

The moved was deemed illegal by Kiev and the West, but Putin has repeatedly defended it.

 Where unrest has occurred in eastern Ukraine

Where unrest has occurred in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian troops face militants in east

Militants, army face off in Ukraine

Expert: Russia’s propaganda worse now

“The threats to Russian-speaking people were absolutely clear, and that is why people of Crimea voted for their future and asked Russia for help,” he said. “Russia never planned any annexation, never, quite the contrary.”

Putin also said Russian forces had been active in Crimea in order to support local defense forces, the first time he has acknowledged the deployment of Russian troops on the Black Sea peninsula.

The interim authorities in Kiev said Thursday that Ukraine has tightened its border controls while efforts to contain the uprising in the east continue.

Sergey Astahov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Border Service, said it is restricting the entry of Russian males aged 16 to 60, letting them enter only under exceptional circumstances. He said the tighter checks are due to the ongoing anti-terror operation announced this week by the government.

Russian airline Aeroflot also said on its website that Ukraine was imposing tighter border controls on Russian men and Ukrainian citizens registered in Crimea and the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Russia is demanding an immediate official clarification from Ukraine regarding the steps taken by the Ukrainian border services, the Russian Foreign Minister said in a statement Thursday.

Threats of sanctions

Kiev and the West dispute Putin’s claims that Russia is not involved in the current unrest in Ukraine’s east. They accuse Moscow of backing the pro-Russian protesters and point to the 40,000 Russian troops that NATO says are assembled near the Ukrainian frontier.

Moscow insists that the troops are merely conducting exercises.

There are no Russian divisions in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Thursday, adding that all evidence pointed to the groups causing the unrest being local residents.

He said the presence of tanks and planes constituted “a very serious crime” that authorities in Kiev were committing.

Moscow has warned in the past week that Ukraine was “on the brink of a civil war.”

On Wednesday, Obama said Russia’s actions risk more sanctions for the country.

“What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences. And what you’ve already seen is the Russian economy weaker, capital fleeing out of Russia,” Obama told CBS.

Obama has signed off on sending more nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian military, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Thursday.

The Pentagon is still not supporting lethal aid for Ukraine “because it could exacerbate the situation, which is what we do not want to do,” a senior Pentagon official said.

“If we provide arms and ammunition, then we are in the fight. We don’t want that.”

Ukrainian lawmakers voted Thursday to reinstate military service in the country. Until it was dropped last year, it was compulsory for all males in Ukraine.

Lawmakers have now voted to bring it back because of what has been termed “Russian aggression.” The legislation must still be signed off by the acting President.

Advance stalled

Since Yanukovych’s ouster, Kiev’s interim government has faced a wave of protests in the predominantly Russian-speaking east.

Pro-Moscow protesters took over government buildings in several cities.

And when Ukraine’s armored vehicles rolled Wednesday, its attempt to take back eastern towns from pro-Russian militants seemed to stall.

In Donetsk, six armored vehicles sent into the nearby city of Kramatorsk in the morning later showed up carrying Russian flags in Slaviansk.

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour those Ukrainian soldiers “preferred to switch sides and join the people.”

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the vehicles had been seized by militants.

Gas supplies

Separately, in a reply to a letter from Putin in which he warned of gas supply disruption, the European Union said it was willing to hold talks with Russia and Ukraine on gas security.

“We believe that this approach allows for the most useful process with the Russian Federation and other third parties,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in his reply, released by the commission.

Russia supplies 30% of Europe’s gas needs. It has threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine because of debts.

Ukraine military push appears to lose momentum in the east

Can ‘odd couple’ Kerry and Lavrov take the edge off Ukraine crisis talks?

Opinion: Is Ukraine about to go nuclear again?

Nick Paton Walsh reported from Donetsk, Ukraine. Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Laura Smith-Spark reported and wrote from London. CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Arwa Damon, Kellie Morgan, Claudia Rebaza, Barbara Starr, Radina Gigova and Alex Felton and journalist Azad Safarov also contributed to this report.


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/u13_ytPnOlc/index.html

Pakistan Taliban: Ceasefire over

Posted by MereNews On April - 18 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — The Pakistan Taliban said Wednesday it will not extend a cease-fire with the Pakistani government, six days after a weeks-long pause in hostilities officially ended.

In a statement released to the news media, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, alleged the Pakistani government hadn’t responded positively to the cease-fire, which began as a monthlong observance on March 1 and eventually was extended to April 10.

One of the militant group’s leaders, Umer Khalid Khurrsani, said Wednesday that the government wasn’t serious about peace and that the only way to implement Sharia, Islamic law, was jihad. The group made a series of demands this month, including the release of detained noncombatants.

Pakistanis view of talks with Taliban

Pakistan’s government has not yet issued a response to the announcement, Interior Ministry spokesman Danial Gillani said Wednesday.

The TTP has waged an insurgency against the Pakistani government, fighting for its austere version of Sharia across Pakistan and rejecting the country’s constitution.

Pakistan announced a peace initiative, and a cease-fire was reached to pave the way for talks, but discussions broke down in March after Taliban attacks. Pakistani government representatives did meet the Taliban for talks on March 26, the first direct contact between the two sides.

The Taliban had made demands, including the release of noncombatants, in early April. At least 19 Taliban noncombatants were released earlier as a good will gesture to promote peace talks, said Shaukatullah Khan, governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The release came at the directive of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Khan said. Since taking office last year, Sharif faced mounting pressure to bring the violence under control.

READ: Pakistan Taliban extend cease-fire, demand prisoner release

READ: GPS Blog: How Pakistan moves against Taliban could complicate Afghan ties


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/xCQ3zgLHJvM/index.html

Potential air pockets offer hope for ferry survivors

Posted by MereNews On April - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — As almost 300 ferry passengers — many of whom are high school students — remain missing amid a massive rescue operation in the Yellow Sea off Korea’s southwest coast, the wait on land remains agonizing.

Many of those rescued had to leap off the side of the capsized ferry into water barely 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), where they were picked up by one of the multitude of military and fishing vessels on the scene.

But others were told to stay put, even as the ship sank and not instructed to abandon ship.

Rescue personnel dive during search operations for passengers aboard the Sewol, a South Korean ferry, in the waters of the Yellow Sea near Jindo, South Korea, on Thursday, April 17. It’s not yet known what caused the ship to sink.

The body of a victim is moved at a hospital in Mokpo, South Korea, on April 17.

Relatives of a passenger aboard the ferry cry at a port in Jindo as they wait for news on the rescue operation on April 17.

South Korean Coast Guard members and rescue teams search for passengers at the site of the sunken ferry on April 17.

A relative of a passenger aboard the ferry cries as she waits for news on Wednesday, April 16.

South Korean Coast Guard members search for survivors from the Sewol as it sinks on April 16.

Rescue teams and fishing boats try to rescue passengers on April 16. Most of the people on board were high school students on their way to a resort island called Jeju.

The body of a ferry passenger is moved into a hospital in Jindo, South Korea, on April 16.

Relatives check a list of survivors April 16 in Jindo.

Relatives of missing ferry passengers wait for news at a gym in Jindo.

Rescue crews attempt to save passengers from the ferry.

A South Korean Coast Guard helicopter lifts passengers off the vessel on April 16.

Police and rescue teams carry a passenger at the port in Jindo on April 16.

A relative waits for a missing loved one at the port in Jindo.

Parents at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, search for names of their children among the list of survivors. Ansan is a suburb of Seoul, the South Korean capital.

Helicopters hover over the ferry as rescue operations continue April 16.

A man in Seoul watches a news broadcast about the sinking vessel.

Officials escort rescued passengers April 16 in Jindo.

A passenger is helped onto a rescue boat on April 16.

A passenger is rescued from the sinking ship on April 16.

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Photos: South Korean ship sinks

Desperate search for ferry passengers

Rescue crews continue search for missing

Those trapped on board reached out to parents and relatives via text message.

“No phone connection so there is no Internet connection. So just sending text message,” says one purported text message from a passenger obtained by CNN. “There are few people on the ship, can’t see a thing, it’s totally dark. So there are few men and women, women are screaming.”

But with these panicked messages comes a reason to believe more survivors will be found.

Even though only a small section of the ferry’s hull remains out of the water, rescuers — including South Korean Special Forces divers — hope that within the ship isolated pockets of air are able to support passengers still trapped within the vessel.

 South Korean ferry rescue operation

South Korean ferry rescue operation

“From the images that I’ve seen, there’s clearly some areas of the hull that are above the water, that are not flooded,” Mike Dean, the U.S. Navy deputy director for salvage and diving, told CNN Tonight.

“So absolutely, there could be areas in there where there is breathable air, but the trouble right now is the temperature and getting people to them.”

Conditions are not ideal for the rescue effort, with potentially strong winds, fog and tidal currents making things difficult for ships and divers, maritime expert Kim Petersen told CNN. However he also sounded some hope that air pockets, also known as “voids”, could provide those on board with a chance of survival.

“It’s difficult to say since we don’t know the cause of the vessel sinking,” he said.

Did human error sink the South Korean ferry?

South Korean ferry rescue growing desperate

“If it had been because of a problem with one of the vehicle doors of course that could cause massive flooding very quickly and reduce the likelihood of voids, but the fact is that this is a vessel that is almost 500 feet in length and its sitting in waters that we believe to be between 70 and 110 feet deep, so there is the strong possibility that there are voids and the possibility of survivors.”

However, Petersen warned that the effort to reach those trapped in potential voids will not be easy.

“The problem now is getting divers down into those areas and bringing those people to the surface. That’s going to be a daunting proposition.

“We still have the issue with cold water and currents but right now the situation is fairly positive for trying to find survivors.”

‘We are not dead yet’ passengers texted


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/FHwXsMNk6Do/index.html

Witness contradicts Pistorius

Posted by MereNews On April - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS


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Oscar Pistorius is hugged by a woman as he leaves court in Pretoria, South Africa, on Wednesday, April 16. Pistorius, the first double amputee runner to compete in the Olympics, is accused of intentionally killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in February 2013. Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to murder and three weapons charges.

Pistorius rubs his eye Tuesday, April 15, after testifying during his murder trial.

Pistorius arrives at the court in Pretoria on Monday, April 14.

Pistorius’ sister, Aimee, cries in court as she listens to her brother’s testimony on Tuesday, April 8.

June Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, reacts as she listens to Pistorius’ testimony on April 8.

Pistorius is hugged by his aunt Lois Pistorius in court on Monday, April 7.

Pistorius sits inside the courtroom as members of his defense team talk in the foreground Friday, March 28.

Pistorius leaves court on March 28. The trial was delayed until April 7 because one of the legal experts who will assist the judge in reaching a verdict was sick.

Steenkamp’s mother, right, and family friend Jenny Strydom react in court Tuesday, March 25, during cross-questioning.

Cell phone analyst Francois Moller testifies during the trial on March 25. Questioned by the prosecution, Moller listed in order the calls made and received by Pistorius after he shot Steenkamp.

Pistorius cries as he sits in the dock during his trial on Monday, March 24.

Pistorius talks to defense attorney Barry Roux on March 24.

Pistorius holds his head while members of his family talk behind him on Tuesday, March 18.

Steenkamp’s mother, wearing the white collared shirt, looks on while a police officer takes notes in court March 18.

Pistorius is hugged by his aunt Lois on March 18.

Pistorius takes notes Monday, March 17, as his murder trial enters its third week.

Pistorius covers his head as he listens to forensic evidence Thursday, March 13.

Forensic investigator Johannes Vermeulen, left, is questioned during the trial March 13.

Pistorius listens to questions during his trial on Wednesday, March 12.

A police officer takes part in a court reconstruction March 12. A police forensic expert said Pistorius was on the stumps of his amputated legs when he knocked down a locked toilet door with a cricket bat to reach his shot girlfriend. That counters the track star’s assertion he was wearing his prosthetic legs at the time. Defense attorney Barry Roux countered by suggesting that even with his prosthetic legs on, Pistorius would not be swinging a bat at the same height as an able-bodied person.

Pistorius listens to cross-questioning on Monday, March 10.

Friends of Steenkamp’s family watch Pistorius during his trial on March 7.

Pistorius covers his ears on Thursday, March 6, as a witness speaks about the morning Steenkamp was killed.

Pistorius’ sister, Aimee, right, speaks with members of Steenkamp’s family on March 6.

Pistorius sits in court on the third day of his trial Wednesday, March 5.

Pistorius appears on the second day of his trial Tuesday, March 4.

Members of the media work during a break in proceedings March 4.

Pistorius talks with Roux inside the court on March 4.

Pistorius speaks with his legal representatives on March 4.

Pistorius is escorted out of the court Monday, March 3, after the first day of his murder trial.

People try to get a glimpse of Pistorius as he leaves the court building on March 3.

Pistorius is seen shortly after arriving for his trial on March 3.

Pistorius walks into the courtroom on March 3.

Pistorius takes a drink of water March 3 during his trial.

The case has captivated South Africa. Here, Lauren Wentzel watches the proceedings from her home outside Cape Town on March 3.

June Steenkamp arrives at the court building for the start of the trial.

Pistorius’ relatives wait inside the courtroom on March 3.

People at the court building wait for Pistorius’ arrival on March 3.

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(CNN) — Prosecutor Gerrie Nel went on the attack again Thursday, trying to discredit a defense witness for Oscar Pistorius on the last day of testimony before the court takes a two-and-a-half week break.

Forensics expert Roger Dixon, on the stand for a third day, was grilled over his interpretation of a reconstruction of the scene where double-amputee runner Pistorius killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February last year.

One key line of questioning dealt with the position of a magazine rack within the toilet room where she was shot.

Under pressure from Nel, Dixon directly contradicted Pistorius’ version of where he saw the magazine rack when he entered the toilet room after shooting Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius off stand. What’s next?

Is that a cricket bat or gunshot?

Reeva’s last words to Oscar: I love you

In his own testimony, Pistorius said that when Steenkamp was slumped over the toilet bowl, she wasn’t on top of the magazine rack. He said it was off to the side. Nel then showed him a photo of the toilet with the magazine rack standing in a pool of blood — and Pistorius said it must have been placed there.

Dixon directly contradicted this in his testimony Thursday, saying the rack was moved after it was in the pool of blood.

The question is important in part because Pistorius contends that police contaminated the crime scene by moving certain key items, including the magazine rack.

Pistorius also told the court he opened fire after hearing the sound of movement within the toilet room, which made him believe the door was opening. In retrospect, he concluded that what he heard was the magazine rack moving.

In his questioning Thursday, Nel also tried to cast doubt on Dixon’s analysis of a mark on the toilet door that the expert says was made by Pistorius kicking it with his prosthesis, and about the expert’s ballistics reconstruction.

Bullet ricochet

Nel’s aim in the murder trial is to prove that Pistorius intentionally shot and killed Steenkamp after a heated argument in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

The defense team is seeking to cast doubt on that account and prove that the star sprinter shot his girlfriend through the closed toilet door after mistaking her for an intruder.

In his testimony Wednesday, Dixon disputed a conclusion by a pathologist on the cause of Steenkamp’s back wounds.

The pathologist said they were made by a bullet ricochet, while Dixon said they were made by the magazine rack. The autopsy said they were made by a blunt, hard object.

Pistorius cross-examination highlights

Pistorius: ‘Not sure’ who is to blame

Gerrie ‘The Bull Dog’ Nel on the attack

Following Dixon’s testimony, the court in Pretoria, South Africa, was adjourned until May 5.

When the court reconvenes, the next defense witness will be Johan Stander, manager of the Silver Woods Estate where Pistorius lived and the first person the athlete called after he shot Steenkamp.

Gripping trial

The trial is scheduled to continue until the middle of May. Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide the verdict in collaboration with two experts called assessors. South Africa does not have jury trials.

If Pistorius is found guilty of premeditated murder, he faces 25 years to life in prison.

The trial has gripped South Africa and sports fans worldwide who considered Pistorius a symbol of triumph over physical adversity.

His disabled lower legs were amputated when he was a baby, but he went on to achieve global fame as the “Blade Runner,” winning numerous Paralympic gold medals on the carbon-fiber blades fitted to his prostheses. He also competed against able-bodied runners at the Olympics.

Only those in the courtroom saw Pistorius on the stand, because he chose not to testify on camera. His testimony could be heard in an audio feed.

INTERACTIVE: Oscar Pistorius on trial: Explore each side’s case

READ: Oscar Pistorius trial enters new phase after blistering cross-examination

READ: Gerrie Nel: ‘Bull dog’ prosecutor sinks teeth into Oscar Pistorius at murder trial


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/CGrGMrmii84/index.html

Who are Boko Haram?

Posted by MereNews On April - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN)Boko Haram‘s lethality is indisputable.

The militant group has bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders alike.

It made headlines again this week with the abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria. After a fierce gunbattle with soldiers, the militants herded the girls out of bed and onto buses, and sped off. Only a few of the 129 girls have been freed.

What exactly is Boko Haram, and why has it turned into a Nigerian synonym for fear and bloodshed?

Terrorist group abducts Nigerian girls

U.S. designates Boko Haram as terrorists

Boko Haram threatens U.S. in video

What does ‘Boko Haram’ mean?

The name translates to “Western education is sin” in the local Hausa language.

The militant group says its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Africa’s most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

In recent years, its attacks have intensified in an apparent show of defiance amid the nation’s military onslaught. Its ambitions appear to have expanded to the destruction of the Nigerian government.

How long has it been around?

The group was founded 12 years ago by Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic cleric who called for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria. Police killed him in 2009 in an incident captured on video and posted to the Internet.

The crackdown, some say, made Boko Haram more violent and defiant.

Abubakar Shekau took control of the group and escalated the attacks. It murdered and kidnapped Westerners, and started a bombing campaign that targeted churches, mosques and government buildings.

Why not just kill Abubakar Shekau?

One word: elusive.

Questions have swirled about Shekau, including whether he’s dead or alive. Even his age is unknown — estimates range between 35 and 44.

In recent years, the Nigerian military has touted his death, only to retract its claim after he appeared alive and vibrant in propaganda videos.

He uses the alias Darul Tawheed, and analysts describe him as a ruthless loner and master of disguise. He does not speak directly with members, opting to communicate through a few select confidants.

Why would an Islamist militant group target the Muslim north?

Despite its religious fanaticism, Boko Haram does not consider all Muslims as supporters and allies.

There have been suggestions that it attacks certain mosques because members have spoken out against it and helped federal officials with their crackdown. Its attacks are aimed at striking fear at the heart of the local population to prevent cooperation with the government, analysts say.

Does the north support the group?

Although the northern populace mostly abhors the violence, there is considerable local sympathy and support for Sharia law, seen by many as the only way to end what is widely regarded as a corrupt and inept government. Poverty is prevalent in the northern region, and as the military struggles to halt Boko Haram’s attacks, the militant group is winning perhaps its most important battle: making Nigerians question government competency.

Rights groups have accused local authorities of human rights violations in the fight against the group, adding to the anti-government sentiment.

What’s the West doing to help?

The United States has put a $7 million bounty on Shekau’s head. It also designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist network last year. Though it has provided technical and financial support to the Nigerian teams battling the insurgency, there has been a reluctance to put boots on the ground unless there’s a direct national security threat to the West. Boko Haram’s attacks have been limited primarily to Nigeria.

If I don’t live in Nigeria, so why should I care?

With a population of 175 million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and is considered a political and economic powerhouse in the continent. The key U.S. partner is rich in oil, a major trading partner with China, and is the hub of global business in the region.

And as we’ve learned with Mali, any unresolved local Islamist insurgency has the potential of spiraling into a world problem.

Last year, Shekau released a statement vowing to attack the United States.

“Our strength and firepower is bigger than that of Nigeria. Nigeria is no longer a big deal to us, as far as we are concerned. We will now comfortably confront the United States of America,” he said.

Does it have ties to al Qaeda?

The U.S. says Boko Haram has links to the al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa and to extremist groups in Mali.

What other attacks has the group conducted?

Just this week, a massive explosion ripped through a bus station in the Nigerian capital, killing at least 71 people. Though the group did not claim responsibility, the blast had the hallmarks of a Boko Haram attack.

In November, the group abducted dozens of Christian women, most of whom were later rescued by the military. Some were pregnant or had children, and others had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers.

In 2011, a Boko Haram suicide attack on the United Nations building in Abuja killed at least 25 people.

A year of attacks linked to Nigeria’s Boko Haram


Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/ys92Z7wWF_k/index.html

Snowden questions Putin on TV

Posted by MereNews On April - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Edward Snowden asked Vladimir Putin on Russian television about Moscow’s surveillance practices.

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Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_world/~3/w1-LlgDa7sw/inside-politics-newday-snowden-questions-putin.cnn.html

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