Kremlin says date and location of Putin-Biden summit not yet decided

Kremlin says date and location of Putin-Biden summit not yet decided
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia April 21, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 26 April 2021

Kremlin says date and location of Putin-Biden summit not yet decided

Kremlin says date and location of Putin-Biden summit not yet decided

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia and the United States had not yet agreed on a date and place for a summit meeting of President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin and that many factors still needed to be looked at before it is finalized.
A Kremlin aide said on Sunday that the meeting could happen in June, the RIA news agency reported. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said Biden had offered Putin to meet on June 15-16 in a European country.


Many feared dead after Florida beachfront condo collapses

Many feared dead after Florida beachfront condo collapses
Updated 7 min 2 sec ago

Many feared dead after Florida beachfront condo collapses

Many feared dead after Florida beachfront condo collapses
  • Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett warned that the death toll was likely to rise, saying the the tower was quite full at the time of the collapse
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis said rescue crews are ‘doing everything they can to save lives — that is ongoing, and they’re not going to rest’

SURFSIDE, Florida: A wing of a 12-story beachfront condo building collapsed with a roar in a town outside Miami early Thursday, killing at least one person and trapping residents in rubble and twisted metal. Rescuers pulled out dozens of survivors and continued to look for more.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett warned that the death toll was likely to rise, saying the building manager told him the tower was quite full at the time of the collapse around 1:30 a.m., but the exact number of people present was unclear.
“The building is literally pancaked,” Burkett said. “That is heartbreaking because it doesn’t mean, to me, that we are going to be as successful as we wanted to be in finding people alive.”
Hours after the collapse, searchers were trying to reach a trapped child whose parents were believed to be dead. In another case, rescuers saved a mother and child, but the woman’s leg had to be amputated to remove her from the rubble, Frank Rollason, director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald.
Video showed fire crews removing a boy from the wreckage, but it was not clear whether he was the same person mentioned by Rollason.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who toured the scene, said television did not capture the scale of what happened.
Rescue crews are “doing everything they can to save lives. That is ongoing, and they’re not going to rest,” he said.
Authorities did not say what may have caused the collapse. On video footage captured from nearby, the center of the building appeared to fall first, with a section nearest the ocean teetering and coming down seconds later as a huge dust cloud swallowed the neighborhood.
Work was being done on the building’s roof, but Burkett said he did not see how that could have been the cause.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she got a call from President Joe Biden, who offered federal aid. Hotels opened to some of the displaced residents, she said, and deliveries of food, medicine and more were being hastily arranged. Rescue officials tried to determine how many people might be missing and asked residents to check in with them.
About half of the building’s roughly 130 units were affected, the mayor told a news conference. Rescuers pulled at least 35 people from the wreckage by mid-morning, and heavy equipment was being brought in to help stabilize the structure to give them more access, Raide Jadallah of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue said.
Fifty-one people who were thought to be in the building at the time of the collapse were unaccounted for by mid-morning — but there was a possibility that some weren’t at home, said Sally Heyman, of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners.
The tower has a mix of seasonal and year-round residents, and while the building keeps a log of guests, it does not keep track of when owners are in residence, Burkett said.
Earlier, Burkett said two people were brought to the hospital, one of whom died. He added that 15 families walked out of the building on their own.
The collapse, which appeared to affect one leg of the L-shaped tower, tore away walls and left a number of homes in the still-standing part of the building exposed in what looked like a giant dollhouse. Television footage showed bunk beds, tables and chairs inside. Air conditioners hung from some parts of the building, where wires now dangled.
Piles of rubble and debris surrounded the area, and cars up to two blocks away were coated with with a light layer of dust from the debris.
Barry Cohen, 63, said he and his wife were asleep in the building when he first heard what he thought was a crack of thunder. The couple went onto their balcony, then opened the door to the building’s hallway to find “a pile of rubble and dust and smoke billowing around.”
“I couldn’t walk out past my doorway,” said Cohen, the former vice mayor of Surfside. “A gaping hole of rubble.”
He and his wife made it to the basement and found rising water there. They returned upstairs, screamed for help and were eventually brought to safety by firefighters using a cherry-picker.
Cohen said he raised concerns years ago about whether nearby construction might be causing damage to the building after seeing cracked pavers on the pool deck.
Surfside City Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told Miami television station WPLG that the building’s county-mandated 40-year recertification process was ongoing. Salzhauer said the process was believed to be proceeding without difficulty. A building inspector was on-site Wednesday.
“I want to know why this happened,” Salzhauer said. “That’s really the only question. ... And can it happen again? Are any other of our buildings in town in jeopardy?”
At an evacuation site set up in a nearby community center, people who live in buildings neighboring the collapse gathered after being told to flee. Some wept. Some were still dressed in pajamas. Some children tried to sleep on mats spread on the floor.
Jennifer Carr was asleep in a neighboring building when she was awakened by a loud boom and her room shook. She thought it was a thunderstorm but checked the weather app on her phone and saw none. The building’s fire alarms went off, and she and her family went outside and saw the collapse.
“It was devastation,” Carr said. “People were running and screaming.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said in a tweet that more than 80 units were at the scene with help from municipal fire departments. Teams of firefighters walked through the rubble, picking up survivors and carrying them from the wreckage.
Nicolas Fernandez waited early Thursday for word on close family friends who lived in the collapsed section of the building.
“Since it happened, I’ve been calling them nonstop, just trying to ring their cellphones as much as we can to hep the rescue to see if they can hear the cellphones,” she said.
The seaside condo development was built in 1981 in the southeast corner of Surfside. It had a few two-bedroom units currently on the market, with asking prices of $600,000 to $700,000 in an area with a neighborhood feel that provides a stark contrast to the glitz and bustle of nearby South Beach.
The area has a mix of new and old apartments, houses, condominiums and hotels, with restaurants and stores serving an international combination of residents and tourists. The main oceanside drag is lined with glass-sided, luxury condominium buildings, but more modest houses are on the inland side. Among the neighborhood’s residents are snowbirds, Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jewish families.
Patricia Avilez considered spending the night in her brother-in-law’s vacant condo on Wednesday but didn’t, only to awake to news of the collapse.
“And then I came here, and it’s gone,” she said. “Everything is disaster.”


Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege
Updated 24 June 2021

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege

Fear stalks northern Afghan city as Taliban lay siege
  • The Taliban have held Kunduz twice in recent years — both times briefly — but have now captured the surrounding districts and the main border crossing with Tajikistan
  • Violence surged after the US military began the withdrawal of its last remaining 2,500 troops from the country to meet a September 11 deadline

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: Fear stalked Kunduz Thursday as residents prepared for a lengthy siege, with government forces patrolling the streets and Taliban insurgents surrounding the northern Afghan city.
The Taliban have held the city twice in recent years — both times briefly — but have now captured the surrounding districts and the main border crossing with Tajikistan.
“The Taliban have besieged our city,” said Qudratullah, a fruit seller who has done hardly any business since fighting first erupted in Kunduz province two weeks ago.
“Even today there is sporadic fighting on the outskirts of the city,” said Qudratullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
“If the government does not launch an operation against the Taliban, their siege will continue for a long time.”
Most businesses in Kunduz remained shut and vehicles stayed off the roads, an AFP correspondent who toured the city reported.
Dozens of military vehicles patrolled the streets as new government forces were deployed in the city of around 300,000, swelled by an influx of rural residents fleeing fighting in the districts.
Troops were seen firing sporadically at Taliban positions, and the bodies of two insurgents lay on the ground on the eastern edge of Kunduz.
The city’s public health director told AFP that since the fighting erupted a week ago, 21 civilians have been killed and 225 wounded.
Residents said they were suffering from water and power cuts, and few shops were open.
Kunduz resident Hasib said he feared the Taliban would soon launch a major offensive on the city.
“We don’t feel safe... We have seen the Taliban capture the city twice before, and we do not want the city to fall again to them,” he said.
“The government forces should break the Taliban siege, if not the Taliban will continue their offensives... and their siege will continue forever.”
Fighting has raged across Kunduz province for days, with the Taliban and Afghan forces engaged in bloody battles.
On Tuesday the insurgents captured Shir Khan Bandar, Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan, in one of their most significant gains in recent months.
On Thursday, Afghan authorities attempted to put on a brave front, with Interior Minister Abdul Satar Mirzakwal flying in for a brief visit.
“Saving and protecting Kunduz is among our top priorities,” he said in a video message released to reporters.
“We are taking serious measures and will provide more weapons and technical equipment to Afghan forces in all provinces.”
Since early May, the Taliban have launched several major offensives targeting government forces across the rugged countryside and say they have seized at least 87 of the country’s more than 400 districts.
Many of their claims are disputed by the government and difficult to independently verify.
Violence surged after the US military began the withdrawal of its last remaining 2,500 troops from the country to meet the September 11 deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end America’s longest war.


Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
Updated 24 June 2021

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president

Poland withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, says president
  • Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11
  • First troops would return to Poland on Thursday night

WARSAW: Poland will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan at the end of June, President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday, bringing its two-decade presence in the country to an end.
NATO allies agreed in April that foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a US pull-out by Sept. 11.
“At the end of June, after 20 years, we are ending our military involvement in the largest NATO operation in history,” Duda wrote on Twitter, adding that the first troops would return to Poland on Thursday night.
After withdrawing, the United States and NATO aim to rely on Afghan military and police forces, which they have developed with billions of dollars in funding, to maintain security.


UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 24 June 2021

UK Muslim convert reunited with ex-far-right father

A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL), members pictured here in 2016. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Faith Abbey was shunned by her dad for 5 years when he developed anti-Islam views, joined English Defence League
  • ‘It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving’

LONDON: A Muslim convert has reunited with her father, who shunned her for half a decade after he became involved with the far-right English Defence League (EDL).

Faith Abbey, 28, had been close with her father until he developed what she described as “narrow-minded and rigid views on Muslims and their presence in the UK.”

He went on to join the EDL, established in 2009 and known for its Islamophobic and anti-immigrant stances.

Its members have regularly faced criminal proceedings for violence and hate crimes against Britain’s ethnic and religious minorities.

“He was in trouble with the police for various incidents related to the EDL, and realized he’d fallen in with the wrong kind of people,” Abbey said.

“He realized that the people in life who’ve been most kind to him and generous and forgiving are actually Muslims, and they’re kind people who are full of love, not hate. He also realized a lot of what the EDL believe about Muslims isn’t actually true.”

Abbey grew up in the UK, and told Metro newspaper that she was originally a Christian before converting to Islam nine years ago.

She said reuniting with her father over lunch in London was “one of the best days of (her) life.”

She added: “It was amazing. I’ve always loved my father and wanted him to be happy. It’s from my religion to be forgiving and caring and loving … I always loved him and wished the best for him.”


Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
Updated 24 June 2021

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer

Jailed British white supremacist praised Christchurch killer
  • Judge: Michael Nugent had ‘knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism’
  • He created video celebrating Christchurch mosque massacre

LONDON: A British man who was jailed after encouraging terror attacks from his parents’ house praised Brenton Tarrant, who committed mass shootings in two mosques in Christchurch in 2019.

White supremacist Michael Nugent, 38, admitted five counts of disseminating terrorist publications, and 11 of possessing information useful to a terrorist.

He organized several messaging groups on Telegram, an app popular with extremists, where people shared terrorist manifestos and explosives manuals.

The court heard how he “honored” right-wing terrorists in his messaging groups, including Tarrant and Norwegian Anders Breivik.

Michael Nugent (London Metropolitan Police)

Nugent described Tarrant’s mass murder of 51 Muslims as a “game-changer,” and created a celebration video on the one-year anniversary.

Nugent disseminated Tarrant’s manifesto, published after the massacre, which encouraged others to launch similar attacks. “I understand why Tarrant did what he did,” he wrote on Telegram.

As he was sentenced on Wednesday, Judge Peter Lodder QC told Nugent he had “knowingly encouraged right-wing terrorism.”

Jailing him for three-and-a-half years, Lodder added: “You did not work but spent all of your time at home in your parents’ house, where from your bedroom you developed your online extremist persona.

“You posted toxic, offensive material to websites and administered groups which were dedicated to violent racist, antisemitic and neo-Nazi ideology.

“Whatever your mental health at the time, no-one concludes that you weren’t aware of what you were doing.” The court was told that Nugent suffered from psychosis.

He wrote in a diary, seized by police, that he wanted to see ethnic minorities “sent home” and “sterilized.”

One section said: “We are being genocided in our own homes and our own country … Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Nugent’s lawyer Liam Walker said the defendant “does not recognize the person he was at the time or the views he held.”

Walker said Nugent’s family had described him as a “withdrawn man, agoraphobic in his habits.”

Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is. That is why it is important that anyone who believes that they have a friend or loved one who they think has been radicalized, or is vulnerable, seeks help.”