Connect with us

World

Iraqi PM chairs security meeting after drone attack on residence

Published

on

November 7, 2021

By John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped unharmed in an assassination attempt by armed drone in Baghdad, officials said on Sunday, in an incident that dramatically raises tension in the country weeks after a general election disputed by Iran-backed militia groups.

Kadhimi appeared in a video footage published by his office on Sunday chairing a meeting with top security commanders to discuss the drone attack.

Advertisement

“The cowardly terrorist attack that targeted the home of the prime minister last night with the aim of assassinating him, is a serious targeting of the Iraqi state by criminal armed groups,” the premier’s office said in a statement issued following the meeting.

Six members of Kadhimi’s personal protection force stationed outside his residence in the Green Zone were wounded, security sources told Reuters.

Three drones were used in the attack, including two that were intercepted and downed by security forces while a third drone hit the residence, state news agency INA quoted an interior ministry spokesman as saying.

A spokesman for the armed forces commander in chief said the security situation was stable inside the fortified Green Zone – which houses the residence, government buildings and foreign embassies – following the attack.

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Advertisement

The attack came two days after violent clashes in Baghdad between government forces and supporters of Iran-backed political parties, most of which have armed wings, since those groups lost dozens of seats in parliament after a general election on Oct. 10.

Kadhimi has ordered an investigation into the deaths and injuries of demonstrators and security forces in those clashes.

President Barham Salih condemned the attack as a heinous crime against Iraq. “We cannot accept that Iraq will be dragged into chaos and a coup against its constitutional system,” he said in a tweet.

Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose party was the biggest winner in last month’s election, called the attack a terrorist act against Iraq’s stability that aimed to “return Iraq to a state of chaos to be controlled by non-state forces”.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran condemned the attack.

Advertisement

DAMAGE TO RESIDENCE

Video footage released by the prime minister’s office showed damage to some parts of the prime minister’s residence and a damaged SUV vehicle parked in the garage.

Footage also showed unexploded ordnance on the rooftop of the prime minister’s residence after the drone attack.

Remains of a small explosive-laden drone were retrieved by security forces to be investigated, a security official with knowledge of the attack told Reuters.

“It’s premature now to say who carried out the attack,” the security official on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment on security details.

Advertisement

“We’re checking our intelligence reports and waiting for initial investigation results to point the finger at perpetrators.”

The Iraqi military said in a statement the attack targeted Kadhimi’s residence and that he was in “good health”. It provided no further detail.

Two government officials said Kadhimi’s residence had been hit by at least one explosion.

Western diplomats based nearby in the Green Zone said they heard explosions and gunfire in the area.

U.S. CONDEMNATION

Advertisement

The United States offered assistance with the investigation.

“This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said the attack was a “cowardly terrorist act”, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported.

Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, condemned the attack, calling it “a new sedition” in a tweet.

The groups leading protests and complaints about the result of the Oct. 10 vote are heavily armed Iran-backed militias that lost much of their parliamentary power in the election. They have alleged voting and vote-counting irregularities, allegations rejected by the country’s election officials.

Advertisement

Demonstrations by their supporters turned violent on Friday when protesters pelted police with stones near the Green Zone, injuring several officers.

The police responded with tear gas and live gunfire, killing at least one demonstrator, according to security and hospital sources in Baghdad.

Independent analysts say the election results were a reflection of anger towards the Iran-backed armed groups, which are widely accused of involvement in the killing of nearly 600 protesters who took the street in separate, anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

Heads of various political parties, most of which have armed wings and are aligned with Iran, denounced the drone attack and called on the government to conduct an investigation and hold the perpetrators to account.

A security official from the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah group in Iraq dismissed suggestions on Sunday that Iraqi groups were behind the attack on Kadhimi.

Advertisement

(Reporting by John Davison, Ahmed Rasheed, Baghdad newsroomAdditional reporting by Lucia Mutikani in Washington; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, William Mallard and Frances Kerry)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

World

N.Korea fires two ballistic missiles from Pyongyang airport, S.Korea says

Published

on

January 17, 2022

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-used-railway-born-missile-fridays-test-kcna-2022-01-14 this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal.

Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security.

Advertisement

In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusually rapid series of launches. Two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) fired from train cars.

Monday’s launch appeared to involved two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have travelled about 300 km and landed in the ocean near North Korea’s east coast.

“It is self-evident that the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology,” he told reporters.

Advertisement

“The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi added, noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development.

The pace of testing and variety of launch sites suggests that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable expending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and helps reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began unveiling and testing a range of new SRBM designs.

Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.

“Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the U.S. … has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development,” Richey said.

Advertisement

‘ISOLATING AND STIFLING’

The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a U.S. administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the U.N. Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions.

In a statement before Friday’s missile tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was still engrossed in its policy of “isolating and stifling” North Korea.

Advertisement

South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday’s test, with members stressing that “above all else, it is essential to start dialogue as soon as possible in order for the situation on the Korean Peninsula to not become more strained and to restore stability”, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a COVID-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China.

Chinese brokers said they expect the resumption of regular trade with North Korea as soon as Monday, after a North Korean train pulled into a Chinese border town on Sunday in the first such crossing since anti-coronavirus lockdowns began in 2020.

“This timing suggests Beijing is more than complicit with Pyongyang’s provocations; China is supporting North Korea economically and coordinating with it militarily,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul.

Last week, China criticised the new U.S. sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.

Advertisement

China says it enforces existing international sanctions on North Korea, but has joined with Russia to urge https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-russia-revive-push-lift-un-sanctions-north-korea-2021-11-01 the U.N. Security Council to ease the measures, saying they hurt the civilian population.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Neil Fullick and Gerry Doyle)

Continue Reading

World

China’s birth rate drops to record low in 2021

Published

on

January 17, 2022

BEIJING (Reuters) -Mainland China’s birth rate dropped to a record low of 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Monday, accelerating a downward trend that led Beijing last year to begin allowing couples to have up to three children.

China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try to avoid the economic risks from a rapidly aging population, but the high cost of urban living has deterred couples from having more children.

The birth rate was the lowest since 1949, when the statistics bureau began collating the data.

Advertisement

The natural growth rate of China’s population, which excludes migration, was only 0.034% for 2021, the lowest since 1960, according to the data.

“The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population aging is clearly faster than expected,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset management.

“This suggests China’s total population may have reached its peak in 2021. It also indicates China’s potential growth is likely slowing faster than expected,” Zhang said.

There were 10.62 million births in 2021, the data showed, compared with 12 million in 2020.

The birth rate in 2020 was 8.52 births per 1,000 people.

Advertisement

(Reporting by Liangping Gao, Tony Munroe and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Continue Reading

World

Australia, New Zealand step up efforts to aid tsunami-hit Tonga

Published

on

January 17, 2022

By Kirsty Needham and Praveen Menon

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON (Reuters) -Australia and New Zealand dispatched surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage in Tonga, isolated from the rest of the world due to the eruption of an underwater volcano that triggered a tsunami and blanketed the Pacific island with ash.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to provide support for Tonga as early as possible but said the volcano ash had hampered relief efforts.

Advertisement

“There’s been a lot of challenges there with the ash cloud and the disruption to communications and so we are working together to get as much support to Tonga as we possibly can,” Morrison told radio station 2GB on Monday.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology told Reuters in an emailed statement on Monday there was “no current volcanic activity, and the volcano is not spewing ash”. It said ash that had reached the Australian state of Queensland was from a previous eruption.

Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja said initial reports suggested no mass casualties and that Tonga’s airport “appears to be in relatively good condition” but there were “significant damage” to roads and bridges.

Seselja said Australia was liaising with the United States, New Zealand, France and other countries to coordinate responses.

New Zealand’s Defence Minister Peeni Henare said at a news conference in Auckland that power had been restored in large parts of Nuku’alofa and some communications are back up.

Advertisement

A New Zealand Hercules C-130 would perform drops of essentials after the requirements are assessed and the navy will also be deployed.

An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami on the shores of Tonga and cutting off phone and internet lines for the entire island.

There are no official reports of injuries or deaths in Tonga as yet but communications are still limited and outlying costal areas remain cut off.

Satellite images show some of the outlying islands submerged.

A U.K. woman has reportedly gone missing after she was washed away, media reports said.

Advertisement

Angela Glover and her husband James, who own the Happy Sailor Tattoo in Nuku’alofa, had gone to get their dogs when the wave hit. James managed to hold onto a tree but his wife, who also runs a dog rescue on the island, and their dogs were washed away, New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ reported. Several social media posts from family and friends said she has still not been found.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday that the tsunami had a significant impact https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/new-zealand-pm-ardern-says-tonga-eruption-hugely-concerning-2022-01-15 on infrastructure.

Red Cross said it was mobilising its regional network to respond to what it called the worst volcanic eruptions the Pacific has experienced in decades.

“Red Cross has enough relief supplies to support 1,200 households with essential items such as tarpaulins, blankets, kitchen sets, shelter tool kits and hygiene kits,” said Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation told Reuters.

Greenwood said the agency is expecting up to 80,000 people to be affected by the tsumani

Advertisement

“That is what we are planning for as a worst case scenario until we can get further confirmation from the people on the ground,” she said.

The agency said there were concerns that communities may not have access to safe drinking water as a result of saltwater inundation caused by the tsunami waves and ashfall.

MASSIVE BLAST

The Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano has erupted regularly over the past few decades but the impact of Saturday’s eruption was felt was far away as Fiji, New Zealand, the United States and Japan. Two people drowned off a beach in Northern Peru due to high waves caused by the tsunami.

About 26 hours since the eruption, nations thousands of kilometres to the west have volcanic ash clouds over them, New Zealand forecaster WeatherWatch said in a statement.

Advertisement

Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia are affected and the ash cloud is expected to fan out towards eastern Australia on Monday, it said.

Early data suggests the volcanic eruption was the biggest blast since Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines 30 years ago, New Zealand-based volcanologist Shane Cronin told Radio New Zealand.

“This is an eruption best witnessed from space,” Cronin said.

“The large and explosive lateral spread of the eruption suggests that it was probably the biggest one since about the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo,” Cronin said.

(Reporting by Praveen MenonEditing by Nick Zieminski and Michael Perry)

Advertisement

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending