Southern Philippine City of Marawi Siege

Sunday, May 28, 2017
(MARAWI, Philippines) — Philippine fighter aircraft unleashed rocket fire against militants on Saturday, prompting villagers to hoist white flags to avoid being targeted as the military turned to airstrikes to try to end the siege of a southern city by Islamic State group-allied militants.
The predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, home to some 200,000 people, has been under siege since a failed army raid Tuesday on a suspected hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists.
Hapilon got away and fighters loyal to him took over parts of the city, burning buildings, taking cover in houses and seizing about a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest. Their condition remains unknown.
At least 48 people have died in the fighting, including 35 militants and 11 soldiers, officials say, adding that an unspecified number of civilians are feared to have died.
While up to 90 percent of Marawi’s people have fled amid the fighting, many who were trapped or refused to leave their homes have impeded military assaults, officials said.
That has slowed efforts to end the most serious crisis President Rodrigo Duterte has faced since he took power nearly a year ago.

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141 Smuggled Pangolins Seized In Malaysian State

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
ALOR SETAR, Kedah, Malaysia -  141 live pangolins of the ‘Manis Javanica’ variety that were supposed to be smuggled abroad were seized by the Kedah Wildlife Department and the police in a raid on a house in Taman Desa Seraya, here yesterday evening.
Kedah Wildlife Department director Muhammad Ali Che Aman said the seizure was made following a tip-off received by the police on a premises used to store the pangolins before they were sold.
In the raid, the man who was renting the house, was not at home. Its owner was then called to give a statement for further investigation,” he said in a statement today.
According to Ali, the case is being investigated under Section 68(2)(a) which provides for a fine of between RM50,000 and RM100,000, or a jail term of up to three years, or both, if convicted.
Meanwhile, Kota Setar police chief ACP Mohd Rozi Jidin said baskets, nets and trollies believed to be connected to the case, were also seized.

Source: FMT, Agency
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Shafie’s Alleged Acquaintance With Sulu Commander Contradicted With His “Sabah for Sabahans”?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sabah opposition party says photo of Shafie with Sulu commander taken at dinner hosted by ex-premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) has hit out at an attempt to smear its president Shafie Apdal by linking him to the commander of the Sulu militant band which invaded Lahad Datu on Sabah’s east coast in 2013.
The issue surfaced recently after a Sabah Umno leader, Ainal Fattah, challenged Shafie to explain a photo of himself alongside Agbimuddin Kiram who led 235 armed militants to invade Sabah in February 2013 under the instruction of then self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III. 
The militants fought with Malaysian forces in skirmishes lasting over a month which resulted in the death of 10 Malaysian security forces, 56 militants and six civilians. 
However in a Facebook post today, Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking said the photo was taken during a dinner hosted by ex-premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. 
He also posted a photo of Najib posing with Agbimuddin, which had in the past been circulated online, and challenged Najib to explain the photo. 
“If Shafie had any links to the Sulu militants or their leaders, why hasn’t he been investigated before?
 “Why are there no questions asked of Abdullah or (Prime Minister) Najib Razak? Why aren’t they investigated too? Why isn’t the federal government’s stand on ties with the Sulu sultans questioned?” Leiking said. 
Leiking, who is the Penampang MP, also questioned why the bodies of the dead militants were buried in Sabah.
 “Why wasn’t there any mutual legal assistance request to try the Kiram family in the Philippines and why hasn’t the Philippines dropped its claim over Sabah?” 
 Previously, Leiking claimed that Agbimuddin had Malaysian citizenship and had served as an assistant district officer in Kudat, Sabah. 
Then-home minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he was unable to confirm if Agbimuddin possessed Malaysian citizenship. 
Sabah newspaper Daily Express recently reported that Ainal, who is the Bum-Bum Island Umno branch chief, called on Shafie to explain if the photo of him and Agbimuddin was fake. 
Ainal said Shafie’s alleged acquaintance with the Sulu commander contradicted with his “Sabah for Sabahans” political battle cry.

Source: FMT, Agensy
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9 Malaysians Trapped In North Korea On Way Home

Friday, March 31, 2017
The nine Malaysians trapped in Pyongyang have been allowed to leave North Korea, Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement today. 
He said the nine “took off from Pyongyang today at 7.45pm Malaysian time, and will land in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow around 5am”. He also announced that North Koreans in the country would now be allowed to leave Malaysia. 
The ban was imposed after North Korea prevented the Malaysians there to leave the country. In addition, following the completion of the autopsy on Kim Jong Nam and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner approved the release of the body, he said. 
 “I would like to thank those in the Malaysian government involved in the negotiations, led by our ministry of foreign affairs. 
“I had a deep personal concern about this matter, and we worked intensively behind the scenes to achieve this successful outcome. 
“Many challenges were overcome to ensure the return of our fellow Malaysians. The safety and security of our citizens will always be my first priority. 
 “The government believes strongly in the principles of justice and sovereignty.” Najib said police investigations into the killing of Jong Nam would continue. 
Jong Nam was the estranged elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was killed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.

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Duterte To US: Why Didn't You Send Armada vs China Islands?

Thursday, March 30, 2017
 MANILA, Philippines  — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he has asked the U.S. ambassador why America did not deploy an armada of warships to pressure China to stop constructing man-made islands that are now at the heart of regional concerns in the disputed South China Sea.

Duterte said in a speech that U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim was unable to reply to the question when they met Monday in southern Davao city, where the president had a separate meeting with the Chinese ambassador. While criticizing the U.S., Duterte did not berate China's behavior in his speech.
Duterte said he told Kim that he was surprised by what he described as U.S. inaction when newspapers were publishing pictures of China's construction of runways and other structures on the newly built islands in the disputed waters.
"Had America really wanted to avoid trouble, early on ... why did you not send the armada of the 7th Fleet which is stationed there in the Pacific, you just make a U-turn and go there and tell them right on their face, stop it?" Duterte said he asked Kim, referring to the U.S. naval fleet based in Japan.
Kim, who arrived in Manila last year as American ambassador, replied that he was assigned elsewhere at the time and could not give an answer, Duterte said.
Duterte spoke in a visit to Oriental Mindoro province a day after concerns were raised over a report by a U.S. think tank that China has nearly completed construction work on three man-made islands that will allow it to deploy combat aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.
The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies analyzed recent satellite photos and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters have either been finished or are nearing completion.
One of the islands mentioned in the report, Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef, was seized by China in 1995, drawing protests from Manila then. Another island, Subi, is very close to a Philippine-occupied island in the Spratly chain, which is claimed in whole or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
Duterte repeated that he would not go to war with militarily superior China over the territorial conflict.
"The first thing that will be blasted away from this planet Earth will be Palawan," Duterte said, referring to the western Philippine island province facing the disputed waters. "All of the deposits of armaments of the Americans, including ours, are there."
When Duterte took office in June, he reached out to China to mend relations strained under his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, over the territorial dispute. While taking a friendly stance toward Beijing, he lashed out at the United States for criticizing his brutal campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte thanked President Xi Jinping over the renewed friendship and return of normal trade relations, praising the Chinese leader as "very kind."
Duterte, however, said he will invoke an international arbitration ruling that declared China has no historic title to the disputed waters if Beijing drills for oil or gas in a shoal contested by China and the Philippines.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in Manila that China and the Philippines have agreed to hold a bilateral consultation on the South China Sea disputes and Beijing has offered to host an initial meeting in May.
"The purpose of this bilateral consultation mechanism is to have a platform where issues about the South China Sea can be discussed," Jose told reporters.

Source: AP
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US Embassy Jerusalem Move 'Assault' On Muslims?

Saturday, January 14, 2017
Jerusalem's Grand Mufti on Friday branded plans by President-elect Donald Trump to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem an "assault" on Muslims across the globe.
"The pledge to move the embassy is not just an assault against Palestinians but against Arabs and Muslims, who will not remain silent," Muhammad Hussein said in a sermon at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City.
On Tuesday, Palestinian leaders called for Friday prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest Trump's campaign pledge.
There have been warnings that the move would constitute recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and could inflame tensions in the Middle East and possibly sink what remains of peace efforts.
"The transfer of the embassy violates international charters and norms which recognise Jerusalem as an occupied city," Hussein said in his sermon, avoiding mentioning Trump by name.
The Palestinians regard east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its capital.
The city's status is one of the thorniest issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official and Fatah central committee member, said on Tuesday that the Palestinian leadership had been informed by diplomatic contacts that Trump could call for the move in his inauguration speech on January 20.
The Palestinians have added the issue to the agenda of a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on January 19 in Malaysia, he added.

Source: AFP, Agensi
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5 Dead, 8 Injured In Mass Shooting At Florida's Fort Lauderdale Airport

Saturday, January 07, 2017
MIAMI, Florida, USA - Five people have been killed and eight have been wounded in a shooting Friday at the Fort Lauderdale airport, the Broward County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter.
The gunman, identified as Esteban Santiago, 26, is in custody and was a lone shooter, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief told CNN on Friday.
"We have no evidence at this time that he was acting with anyone else. He is currently in custody and we're investigating," Sharief said. 
Investigators are looking into the suspect's motive, she said.
  • Parts of the airport were apparently evacuated. Aerial footage from CNN affiliates showed large groups of people standing outside on the tarmac.
  • As of 8:00 p.m. ET, the entire Fort Lauderdale Airport remains closed. There is no word as to when the airport will open for service again.
  • At about 2 p.m., reports of a second shooter sent travelers sprinting across the tarmac and ducking behind parked cars. After an extensive search, no second shooter was found.
  • The Broward Count Sheriff's Office has only confirmed one set of gunshots.
  • "The citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil. Whoever is responsible will held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a press conference. The governor said that now was time to mourn the dead and pray for hospitalized victims, not talk about gun laws.
Gene Messina had just arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Delta Flight 2012 as people were being evacuated from the terminal.
"I got off the plane and I saw people running and screaming.
At first I was in shock but when I saw TSA agents running, I booked," Messina told CNN over Instagram.
In November 2016, nearly 2.5 million travelers passed through Fort Lauderdale's airport, according to a government report on the facility.
There are four terminals at the airport.

Source: ABC2news

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‘Santa attack’ In Istanbul Nightclub, Kills 35

Sunday, January 01, 2017
ISTANBUL, Turkey -  At least 35 people were killed and 40 wounded in a “terror” attack in Istanbul Sunday when gunmen reportedly dressed as Santa stormed an elite nightclub where partygoers were celebrating the New Year, the latest carnage to rock Turkey after a bloody 2016.
Two gunmen entered the venue dressed as Santa and spraying bullets at random inside the Reina nightclub, one of the city’s most exclusive party spots, Dogan news agency said. 
“Unfortunately, at least 35 of our citizens lost their lives. One was a police officer. 

  • Forty people are receiving treatment in hospitals,” Vasip Sahin told reporters at the scene of the nightclub on the Bosphorus in the city’s European side. 
    “What happened today is a terror attack,” he added. 
    Many party-goers threw themselves into the Bosphorus in panic after the attack and efforts were underway to rescue them from the waters, NTV television said. 
    Dogan news agency reported that some witnesses claimed the attackers were “speaking Arabic” while NTV broadcaster said special force police officers were still searching the nightclub.
TV images showed the scene cordoned off by police officers. According to Dogan, there were at least 700 revellers celebrating the start of 2017 at the club. 
Television pictures showed the New Year partygoers — including men in suits and women in cocktail dresses — emerging out of the nightclub in a state of shock.
The nightclub in the Ortakoy district of Istanbul is one of the most elite spots in the city, and getting inside past the bouncers who seek out only the best dressed is notoriously hard.

Source: AFP
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