Dozens die in Ukraine clashes

Updated 20 August 2014

Dozens die in Ukraine clashes

DONETSK, Ukraine: Fierce fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left dozens of civilians dead on Wednesday as Ukrainian troops pushed on with a bloody offensive to break the insurgency in the east of the country.
Deadly battles to crush the ailing rebellion appeared to intensify ahead of a fresh round of diplomatic haggling that will see the presidents of Russia and Ukraine sit down next week for their first meeting in months.
Clashes in Donetsk region, one of the two separatist areas, have killed 34 civilians since Tuesday, regional authorities said, as troops reclaimed another town from the rebels.
In the city of Makiyivka, adjoining the main rebel bastion Donetsk, residents were woken up by shelling in the early hours of Wednesday.
The renewed offensive comes as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gears up for talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin next week over how to end the conflict, which has killed about 2,200 people over the past four months.
In Geneva the UN said at least 415,800 people have fled their homes due to fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
According to the latest UNHCR estimates, at least 190,000 have been displaced within Ukraine, while 197,400 have fled to Russia. A further 14,600 have travelled to Poland and 13,883 to Belarus.
Poroshenko this week said the army was regrouping to continue its push on the separatist hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk and to fragment the rebel-held territory to stop the flow of weapons from Russia.
“Both (Kiev and Moscow) are trying to improve their starting positions,” said political analyst Oleksiy Golubutskyi. “If Ukraine manages to gain control over Lugansk or even Donetsk before these talks, then the issue of demilitarising them disappears.”
Ukraine’s National Guard said it had wrested back control over on the town of Ilovaysk, a key railway hub some 45 kilometers east of Donetsk.
In besieged Donetsk, authorities said water supplies had been restored after fighting cut power to a filtering station over the weekend.
Kiev claims Moscow is ratcheting up arms flows to help the separatists as Ukrainian forces have pushed deeper into dwindling rebel territory.
Western powers also fear Putin could be preparing to send in the 20,000 troops NATO says he has massed on the border as a last role of the dice.
A Ukrainian military spokesman could not confirm claims from a commander in the field Tuesday that a massive convoy of Russian armor entered the second-largest insurgent city of Lugansk.


FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

Updated 49 min 52 sec ago

FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

  • Special agent Rachel Rojas thanked Saudi Arabia for its cooperation in the investigation
  • Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was shot dead after he opened fire and killed three people at the base in Florida

PENSACOLA: Investigators believe a Saudi Air Force lieutenant acted alone on Friday when he killed three people and wounded eight at a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida before being fatally shot by police, the FBI said on Sunday.
Rachel Rojas, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, said the shooter used a Glock model 45 9mm handgun that he had purchased legally in Florida.
“We currently assess there was one gunman who perpetrated this attack and no arrests have been made in this case,” Rojas, the lead investigator on the case, said at a news conference.
“We are looking very hard at uncovering his motive and I would ask for patience so we can get this right,” she said.
Authorities confirmed the suspect was a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.
The FBI identified him as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21.
A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the gunman, authorities said, ending the second deadly attack at a US military base within a week. Within hours, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had called US President Donald Trump to extend his condolences and pledge the Kingdom’s support in the investigation.
Rojas said there were several Saudi students who were close to the shooter and are cooperating with investigators.
“Their Saudi commanding officer has restricted them to base, and the Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation,” she said. “I thank the kingdom for their pledge of full and complete cooperation.”