SAUDI ARABIA CALLS HALT TO YEMEN STRIKES, THEN STRIKES AGAIN
Hopes that the Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab countries was ending its “Decisive Storm” campaign in Yemen were short-lived after reports of more airstrikes against Houthi Shia rebels emerged Wednesday morning, less than a day after Riyadh had indicated a halt to attacks. A local official in the Yemeni province of Aden told Al Jazeera that warplanes had targeted Houthi tanks in the city. According to Reuters, Houthi forces were also hit after they took a military base in Taiz.
- After four weeks of airstrikes, Saudi Arabia said it was moving to a new phase of its operation in neighboring Yemen, “Renewal of Hope” which it claimed was aimed at protecting civilians and fighting terrorists thanks to a “combination of political, diplomatic and military action.” The move came after the U.S., which supported the Saudi intervention, reinforced its presence in the Gulf of Aden, which the Pentagon said was aimed at preserving their options, Voice of America reports.
- According to local witnesses and media quoted by Iranian network PressTV, the capital Sana’a and Sa’ada were also hit by airstrikes early Wednesday.
- Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif urged for “urgent humanitarian assistance” in Yemen, and renewed calls for intra-Yemeni dialogue as a way-out of the crisis.
ON THIS DAY
Earth Day was first celebrated exactly 45 years ago today. Get a glimpse of that and three more notable events in your 57-second shot of history.
FOOD BANK USE SOARED IN BRITAIN
More than a million people have resorted to using food banks in Britain in the last 12 months, 19% more than a year before, suggesting the poorest are not benefiting from what the Conservative-led government hails as a recovery, The Guardian reports. The revelation is a blow to David Cameron’s bid for a second term as Prime Minister 15 days before national elections. A BBC poll shows that the two main parties, the Conservatives and Labour, are neck and neck with each at 34%.
Photo: Jorge Villegas/Xinhua/ZUMA
Villarrica — one of Chile's most active volcanoes — in the Araucania region, celebrated Earth Day by erupting.
FRENCH POLICE FOIL CHURCH TERROR PLOT
The rescue of a young wounded man on Sunday morning in Paris has led to the French police foiling a potential terror threat after it emerged that the man was in fact a murder suspect who was planning to attack one or two churches during mass, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed. According to Le Monde, the affair is “as worrying as it is strange.” The suspect, a 23-year-old Algerian-born technology student, is said to have shot himself by accident after having murdered a 32-year-old woman. The man, known as a security threat, later called for an ambulance and following the blood trail, the police found his car loaded with weapons. Read more in English from AP.
While the showdown with its creditors continues, the Greek government is quickly losing its popular support. In a Skair Television poll, just 45.5% of Greeks polled approved of Athens’ strategy, down from 72% last month. This comes ahead of a crucial Eurogroup summit on Friday and there’s a growing understanding that Athens might run out of cash and fail to pay wages and pensions this month, French business daily Les Echos reports. According to the Financial Times, the Syriza-led government came under fire yesterday from a group of prominent Greek mayors after “it caved in to international pressure and ordered local authorities to hand over their spare cash,” a move which the mayors said was “unconstitutional.”
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
China’s state-run People’s Daily splashed its front page with coverage of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Pakistan. But it only offered part of the story. Have a look here.
HONG KONG UNVEILS BEIJING-BACKED ELECTION PLANS
The government of Hong Kong unveiled a reform package Wednesday ahead of the planned 2017 election of its next leader, which Chinese news agency Xinhua hails as the first election in Hong Kong’s history to be decided by universal suffrage. But according to AP, the proposals fall far short of what pro-democracy lawmakers and activists expect, and will likely be rejected by the Parliament and spark renewed protests. The most controversial proposal is one that would see the last three candidates selected by a small group of pro-Beijing tycoons through a secret ballot.
Katja de Bragança, a German biologist spent two years on a project whose aim was to understand how people with Down syndrome think about the world. She wound up creating a magazine that capitalizes on their intelligence, Die Welt’s Manuel Stark reports: “The conventional wisdom for a long time was that the people affected by the condition were unable to read or write. No one knows this to be untrue better than de Bragança. In 2000, she founded the magazine Ohrenkuss (Earskiss), which is published twice a year, with articles written exclusively by people with Down syndrome. ‘People with Down syndrome are considered to be a bit simple-minded, although they are quite intelligent,’ de Bragança says. ‘There are an awful lot of untrue prejudices in circulation in regards to how people with Down syndrome function.’”
Read the full article, Down Syndrome Does Not Mean Dumb, A Magazine Can Prove It.
“There's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that's all there really was to it,” said New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after being forced to apologize for repeatedly pulling a young waitress’ hair at a cafe. Commenting on what’s been dubbed the tailgate, Kim Dotcom tweeted, “John Key's hair pulling fetish will dominate the news in a way mass surveillance & loss of your rights never could.”
COME DINE WITH TIM
A minimum bid of over $200,000 is what you need to enjoy a meal with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters.
The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.
Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.
Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.
Investigated as terrorism
Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.
Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.
Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.
Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.
Previous criminal history
In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.
The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.
According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.
The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack
Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.
The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.
The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms
In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.
With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.
As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.
Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.
Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."
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