TPM World News

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A North Korean missile exploded during launch Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said, a high-profile failure that came as a powerful U.S. aircraft supercarrier approached the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.

Read More →

MOSCOW (AP) — International organizations on Thursday urged the Russian government to investigate the reported abuse and killings of gay men in Russia’s southern republic of Chechnya.

The respected Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported earlier this month that police in the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya have rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three of them have been killed.

Chechen authorities have denied the reports, while the spokesman for leader Ramzan Kadyrov insisted there were no gay people in Chechnya.

The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights called upon the Russian government in a statement “to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual … who are living in a climate of fear fueled by homophobic speeches by local authorities.”

Separately, the director of the human rights office at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Michael Georg Link, said Thursday that Moscow must “urgently investigate the alleged disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment” of gay men in Chechnya.

After two separatist wars in the 1990s, predominantly Muslim Chechnya became increasingly conservative under late President Akhmat Kadyrov and then his son Ramzan.

Novaya Gazeta also reported this month that Chechen authorities are running a secret prison in the town of Argun where men suspected of being gay are kept and tortured.

Several hundred people rallied on Wednesday evening outside the Russian embassy in London, waving rainbow flags. One placard read “Love is love” in Russian.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

BEIRUT (AP) — A misdirected airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition earlier this week killed 18 allied fighters battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria, the U.S. military said Thursday.

U.S. Central Command said coalition aircraft were given the wrong coordinates by their partner forces, the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, for a strike intended to target IS militants south of their Tabqa stronghold, near the extremists’ de facto capital, Raqqa.

The strike hit an SDF position instead, killing 18. Central Command said the strike was launched Tuesday.

Several nations have lent their air power to the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group. It was not clear which air force was behind the strike.

The SDF acknowledged the strike on Thursday, saying a number of its fighters were killed and wounded.

The SDF-linked Hawar News Agency reported the group was holding funerals for 17 of its fighters in the border town of Tal al-Abyad, though it did not link them to the strike. An activist-run group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, says three days of mourning have been declared for the town. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 25 SDF fighters were killed in the last two days of battle.

The SDF meanwhile announced the launch of a fourth phase of their campaign to capture Raqqa, a Euphrates River city that is home to 300,000 people.

The SDF, with U.S.-led air and ground support, has surrounded Tabqa, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Raqqa. They say they are working to clear Islamic State militants out of Jalab Valley, north of Raqqa.

The SDF says it wants to isolate Raqqa before attacking it. Their closest position is less than 8 kilometers (5 miles) northeast of the city. But the countryside south of Raqqa is still under IS control. It is unclear how many stages are planned for the campaign.

In a separate development, the international chemical weapons watchdog is testing samples from a suspected nerve gas attack that killed at least 87 people in Syria last week and could produce a report on the matter within three weeks, the British delegation to the commission said Thursday.

The report comes one day after Russia vetoed a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a speedy probe into the April 4 attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which has been widely blamed on government forces. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the veto left Moscow, a key ally of the Syrian government, with “a lot to prove.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has a standing fact-finding mission on Syria to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks, but does not apportion blame. The OPCW’s executive council held a session of its executive council on Thursday to address the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, in the northern rebel-held province of Idlib.

Britain’s delegation to the OPCW tweeted from the executive session that the “Fact Finding Mission is working to gather evidence” and has already started testing samples in a lab.

The U.S. blamed the Syrian government for the attack and fired 59 missiles at an air base in central Syria in response, killing nine people.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he expected the OPCW to conduct an extensive probe into the attack, and insisted the organization visit both Khan Sheikhoun and the air base struck by U.S. missiles.

Russia has said chemicals were released in Khan Sheikhoun when a Syrian airstrike hit an insurgent arms factory that contained chemical weapons. Syria has denied ever using chemical weapons.

The Syrian army said hundreds of Islamic State fighters as well as civilians were killed when a U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a militant position in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

It said white smoke billowing from the area of the strike turned yellow, “most likely because of the explosion of a large warehouse containing large quantities of toxic substances.” It said that the airstrike showed that militants have chemical weapons in their possession.

Opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is from Deir el-Zour and currently lives in Europe, denied that report. Abu Laila is with Deir Ezzor 24, an activist group that has reporters throughout the eastern province.

___

Associated Press writers Sylvia Hui in London and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia vetoes a UN resolution condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and urging a speedy investigation.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says that comparing Nazi war crimes to present-day situations “leads to nothing good” — a reaction to his U.S. counterpart’s remarks about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s invoking of the Holocaust to illustrate the severity of chemical weapons use drew rebukes from Jewish groups and critics.

Spicer apologized on Tuesday for making an “inappropriate and insensitive” comparison.

He had said that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Critics noted the remark ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said Wednesday that Spicer’s comment “only shows what is in any case the German government’s position — any comparison of current situations with Nazi crimes leads to nothing good.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) — Local police say a player for German soccer team Borussia Dortmund was injured following explosions near the team bus ahead of the Champions League quarterfinal match against Monaco.

North Rhine-Westphalia police spokesman Gunnar Wortmann told The Associated Press Tuesday that there were “three explosions near the team bus as they left the hotel to go to the stadium” and that “there was one player injured inside and damage to a window.”

Dortmund said the player, reported in German media to be Spain’s Marc Bartra, was “in safety” and that “there is no danger in and around the stadium.”

In a statement, police say there was an explosion after 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

BERLIN (AP) — Organizers say former U.S. President Barack Obama will take part in a discussion event with Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German Protestant conference in Berlin next month as Germany marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

News agency dpa reported Tuesday that the May 25 event will take place in front of Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate, where Obama delivered a speech as president in 2013.

The discussion on “shaping democracy — taking responsibility at home and in the world” is part of the German Protestant Kirchentag conference, held every two years.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, is expected to visit Germany for the first time as president when Merkel hosts the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg in July.

Martin Luther’s revolt against Catholic Church practices started in Germany in 1517.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Islamic State group has lost more than three-fourths of the territory it seized when it swept across Iraq in the summer of 2014, the Iraqi military said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a military spokesman, said the extremist group currently controls less than 30,000 square kilometers (12,000 sq. miles) in Iraq, or 6.8 percent of the country’s territory, down from more than 40 percent at its height.

The extremist group has also lost ground in Syria, and is currently fighting U.S.-backed forces near Raqqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled Islamic caliphate.

Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes have gradually pushed the militants out of a string of towns and cities over the past two years, and are currently battling the extremists in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Iraq declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January, and Rasool said Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the more densely populated western side.

“Our troops are very cautious in their advance,” Rasool told reporters in Baghdad. “The biggest challenge they face is the civilians.”

Col. John Dorrian, a U.S. spokesman for the coalition, said the fight for western Mosul has been “difficult.”

“The enemy’s tactics are not only hiding among the civilian population but also actively pulling civilians into harm’s way, surrounding their snipers with civilians, loading buildings that they are firing from with civilians and publicly executing civilians who are trying escape the danger,” he said.

Victory against IS has come at a staggering cost, with some towns and neighborhoods reduced to rubble by airstrikes and shelling. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced, and many have been unable to return even after the fighting because of demolished infrastructure and the lingering threat of attacks.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has opened a new laundromat for the homeless to wash and dry their clothing.

The laundromat, near the Vatican, has six washing machines and dryers.

On Tuesday, Ciro Guardaccione was among the first to use the new machines. He carefully placed his clothing in the washing machine and watched it spin around.

“This is a fantastic thing, I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything,” he said.

The laundromat will remain open four days a week and services are free.

Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has made an effort to reach out to the homeless in Rome. In 2015 the Vatican opened a free barber shop and showers under the Vatican Colonnade and set up a dormitory for homeless men near St. Peter’s Basilica.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read More →

LiveWire