Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains
German police say three people have been injured including seriously in an explosion at a construction site next to a busy railway line in Munich. (dpa via AP)
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Updated 01 December 2021

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains
  • Bavaria's state interior minister said the 250-kilogram bomb was found during drilling work

BERLIN: A World War II bomb exploded at a construction site next to a busy railway line in Munich on Wednesday, injuring three people, one of them seriously, German police said.
A column of smoke was seen rising from the site near the Donnersbergerbruecke station. The construction site run by Germany’s national railway is located on the approach to Munich’s central station, which is a bit over a kilometer (about a half-mile) to the east. Trains to and from that station, one of Germany’s busiest, were suspended.
Unexploded bombs are still found frequently in Germany, even 76 years after the end of the war, and often during work on construction sites.
They are usually defused or disposed of in controlled explosions, a process that sometimes entails large-scale evacuations as a precaution.
Bavaria’s state interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the 250-kilogram (550-pound) bomb was found during drilling work, German news agency dpa reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear why it wasn’t discovered earlier; in general, sites in central Munich are scanned carefully for possible unexploded bombs.


German woman in dock over joining Daesh in Syria as teenager

German woman in dock over joining Daesh in Syria as teenager
Updated 8 sec ago

German woman in dock over joining Daesh in Syria as teenager

German woman in dock over joining Daesh in Syria as teenager
  • Leonora Messing, 21, is on trial on suspicion that she and her husband enslaved a Yazidi woman
  • She joined Daesh in Syria at the age of 15

BERLIN: A German woman who traveled to Syria as a 15-year-old to join Daesh goes on trial on Tuesday accused of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.
Leonora Messing, now aged 21, is in the dock in the eastern German city of Halle on suspicion that she and her Daesh husband enslaved a Yazidi woman in Syria in 2015.
During the course of the trial scheduled to last until at least mid-May and being held behind closed doors, Messing will also face charges of membership of a terrorist organization and weapons law violations.
The high-profile case has prompted soul searching in Germany about how a teenage girl from a small town became radicalized and joined the Islamist cause.
Messing ran away from her home for the Daesh-controlled part of Syria in March 2015.
After reaching Raqqa, then the de facto “capital” of Daesh in Syria, she became the third wife of a German national originally from that region.
Messing’s father, a baker from the German village of Breitenbach, only learned his daughter had converted to a radical brand of Islam by opening her abandoned computer and reading her journal after her disappearance.
Six days after she vanished, her father received a message informing him his daughter “chose Allah and Islam” and that she had “arrived in the caliphate.”
“She was a good student,” her father, Maik Messing, told regional broadcaster MDR in 2019.
“She used to go to a retirement home to read to the elderly. She took part in carnival as a majorette. That was when a lot of the people we know saw her for the last time.”
Messing had been living a double life and was visiting, apparently without her parents’ knowledge, a mosque in the western city of Frankfurt that was in the crosshairs of Germany’s domestic intelligence service.
She is among the more than 1,150 Islamists who left Germany from 2011 for Syria and Iraq, according to government findings.
Her case has attracted particular scrutiny due to her young age, and because her father agreed to be followed for four years by a team of reporters from public broadcaster NDR.
As part of the report, he made public thousands of messages he continued to exchange with his daughter, offering rare insights into daily life under Daesh, but also eventually her attempts to break free.
Prosecutors say Messing took part in human trafficking, after her husband “bought” and then “sold” a 33-year-old Yazidi woman.
Messing, who had given birth to two small girls, wound up detained in a Kurdish-controlled camp in northern Syria.
In December 2020, she was repatriated in one of four operations bringing 54 people, most of them children, back to Germany.
Although she was arrested upon her arrival at Frankfurt airport, Messing was later released.
Germany has repeatedly been ordered by its courts to repatriate the wives and children of Daesh recruits.
A Berlin tribunal had demanded in October 2019 that a German woman and her three children be brought back, arguing that the minors were traumatized and should not be separated from their mother.
There are an estimated 61 Germans still in camps in northern Syria, as well as around 30 people with a link to Germany, according to official estimates.
A German court in November issued the first ruling worldwide to recognize crimes against the Yazidi community as genocide, in a verdict hailed by activists as a “historic” win for the minority.
The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, have for years been persecuted by Daesh militants who have killed hundreds of men, raped women and forcibly recruited children as fighters.


North Korea fires two suspected cruise missiles, Seoul says

North Korea fires two suspected cruise missiles, Seoul says
Updated 20 min 34 sec ago

North Korea fires two suspected cruise missiles, Seoul says

North Korea fires two suspected cruise missiles, Seoul says
  • The last time North Korea tested this many weapons in a month was in 2019
  • This year Pyongyang has embarked on a fresh flurry of sanctions-busting tests

SEOUL: North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles Tuesday, Seoul said, its fifth weapons test this year as Pyongyang flexes its military muscles while ignoring US offers of talks.
The last time North Korea tested this many weapons in a month was in 2019, after high-profile negotiations collapsed between leader Kim Jong Un and then-US president Donald Trump.
This year Pyongyang has embarked on a fresh flurry of sanctions-busting tests, including hypersonic missiles, after Kim re-avowed his commitment to military modernization at a key party speech in December.
Washington imposed new sanctions in response, prompting Pyongyang to double down on weapons testing and hint last week that it could abandon a years-long self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range tests.
“North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Tuesday, without giving further details.
Cruise missiles are not banned under current UN sanctions on North Korea, and Seoul does not always report such launches in real time, as it does for ballistic missile tests.
The last time North Korea is known to have tested a cruise missile was in September 2021.
A South Korean military official told the Yonhap news agency that “should such a missile be launched southward, our detection and interception systems have no problem countering it.”
Pyongyang’s latest test looks like an attempt to provoke the administration of US President Joe Biden, which has offered talks “without preconditions” but no substantive high-level engagement in the last year.
“North Korea appears to be wanting to test Washington’s reaction, while showing off its presence on the global stage,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said.
By firing a cruise missile, Pyongyang does not violate UN sanctions but can still try “to attract the world’s attention while thumbing its nose at the US.”
The string of launches in 2022 comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim’s sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March.
Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of late leader Kim Jong Il in February, as well as the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung in April.
Pyongyang has not tested inter-continental ballistic missiles or nukes since 2017, putting launches on hold as Kim embarked on a blitz of high-level diplomacy through three meetings with Trump.
But last week Pyongyang said it could examine restarting all temporarily-suspended activities.
The impoverished North, reeling economically from a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, has recently restarted cross-border trade with China.
And ally Beijing, along with Russia, last week blocked the UN Security Council from imposing fresh sanctions in response to the recent tests.
Defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il said the tests could also be an attempt by Pyongyang to pressure China.
“The Beijing Olympics cannot be a festival of peace without peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
“And peace on the Korean Peninsula depends on North Korea.”


Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at ASEAN if progress made

Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at ASEAN if progress made
Updated 47 min ago

Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at ASEAN if progress made

Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at ASEAN if progress made
  • Min Aung Hlaing led a coup in Myanmar last year and ASEAN made a surprise move in barring the junta from important meetings

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said he had invited Myanmar’s junta chief to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on the condition that progress is made on a peace plan he agreed to last year.
Hun Sen, the current ASEAN chair, said he would talk to military chief Min Aung Hlaing by video call on Wednesday, noting that since their face-to-face talks earlier this month, ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi had been sentenced and military aircraft had been deployed in operations.
Min Aung Hlaing led a coup in Myanmar last year and ASEAN made a surprise move in barring the junta from important meetings, over its failure to implement an agreed five-point ASEAN “consensus” on ceasing hostilities and allowing dialogue.
“He (Hun Sen) said that he had invited HE (His Excellency) Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN summit if there was progress in the implementation of the five points agreed unanimously,” said a statement on Hun Sen’s Facebook page, summarizing his call on Tuesday with Malaysia’s prime minister.
“But if not, he must send a non-political representative to ASEAN meetings.”
Cambodia has indicated it wants to engage not isolate the junta, but Hun Sen has been pressed this month by several ASEAN leaders including those of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, not to give way on the agreement.
Hun Sen’s Jan. 7 visit to Myanmar has been a thorny issue for some countries concerned it could have been interpreted as ASEAN recognition of the generals.
The ASEAN consensus which includes a halt on offensives, facilitating a humanitarian response and granting full access to a special ASEAN envoy to all parties in the conflict.


Hong Kong virus cluster in housing prompts partial lockdown

Hong Kong virus cluster in housing prompts partial lockdown
Updated 25 January 2022

Hong Kong virus cluster in housing prompts partial lockdown

Hong Kong virus cluster in housing prompts partial lockdown
  • The outbreak has also prompted the city of Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China to tighten rules on people arriving from Hong Kong

HONG KONG: Hong Kong expanded a partial lockdown and tightened pandemic restrictions Tuesday after more than 200 cases of COVID-19 were discovered at a public housing estate.
Hong Kong has already suspended many overseas flights and requires arrivals be quarantined, similar to mainland China’s “zero-tolerance” approach to the virus that has placed millions under lockdowns and mandates mask wearing, rigorous case tracing and mass testing.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said a second residential block at the Kwai Chung housing complex would be locked down for five days. The block where the virus was first discovered is already under lockdown, which will now be extended from five to seven days.
The measures aimed to “play safe protecting the residents as well as preventing the spread of the virus,” Lam told reporters.
Schools have been closed and restaurants cannot offer in-house dining after 6 p.m. in a return to previous measures to contain surges in cases. Compulsory testing has been ordered on people who reside in or visited buildings where the virus was detected.
The outbreak has also prompted the city of Shenzhen just across the border in mainland China to tighten rules on people arriving from Hong Kong. Starting from Wednesday, Hong Kong travelers will need to show a negative COVID-19 test result obtained over the previous 24 hours, undergo 14 days of quarantine at a government-designated location and seven further days of isolation at home.
Lam also criticized one of her senior Cabinet members, Home Affairs Secretary Casper Tsui, who was among several government officials suspended from duty and ordered into quarantine after they attended a birthday party where two guests later tested positive for coronavirus.
“The Secretary for Home Affairs is an official whom we will have to look into very deeply because of various aspects,” Lam said.
As with mainland China, Hong Kong’s tough anti-pandemic rules have helped keep case numbers relatively low, but are also taking a toll on the economy and public patience.
An international center of finance and trade, the city has a prominent expatriate population, some of whom are beginning to chafe at the travel controls and other restrictions.
A survey released this month by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong showed more than 40 percent of members surveyed were more likely to leave because of the restrictions.


At least 18 dead after clash, fire at club in Indonesia’s West Papua

At least 18 dead after clash, fire at club in Indonesia’s West Papua
Updated 25 January 2022

At least 18 dead after clash, fire at club in Indonesia’s West Papua

At least 18 dead after clash, fire at club in Indonesia’s West Papua
  • Police said the conflict was between two ethnic groups
  • Rebels have recently escalated their fight, targeting road contractors, as well as schools and clinics they say have links to the military

SORONG: At least 18 people were killed during clashes between two groups at a night club in the town of Sorong in Indonesia’s West Papua province, police said Tuesday, with most dying after the venue caught fire.
“The clash broke out last night (Monday) at 11 pm. It was a prolonged conflict from a clash on Saturday,” Sorong police chief Ary Nyoto Setiawan said in a statement.
One victim was stabbed and 17 more died in the blaze at the Double O nightclub, officials said.
“We found 17 bodies in Double O. They were all found on the second floor. We have evacuated the bodies to Selebe Solu Hospital,” said Sorong Police’s health division head Edward Panjaitan.
Police said the clash did not involve locals in remote West Papua, where there is a long-running, low-level insurgency.
They were investigating the cause of the fire, which gutted the large red and white building. A burnt-out vehicle was seen lying on its side by the club’s blackened entrance as officers guarded the site.
“The club was burnt from the first floor. We tried to evacuate as many people as possible, but after the firefighters extinguished the fire this morning, we found some bodies there,” police chief Setiawan said.
Police said the conflict was between two ethnic groups.
“It actually started with a misunderstanding between two members of the respective groups,” Setiawan said.
“We tried to mediate between the groups, as we called their leaders before last night’s clash.”
Police have deployed forces in the town to prevent any further clashes, according to an AFP journalist.
Sorong, gateway to the coral-rich Raja Ampat islands, is the largest city in West Papua province and home to a major port.
It is relatively quiet compared to other regions of West Papua, which have seen clashes due to the ongoing insurgency between separatists and Indonesian security forces.
Rebels have recently escalated their fight, targeting road contractors, as well as schools and clinics they say have links to the military. Authorities have responded by reinforcing deployments of troops and police.
The province shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea, just north of Australia.
A former Dutch colony, mineral-rich Papua declared independence in 1961 but neighboring Indonesia took control two years later, promising an independence referendum.
The subsequent vote in favor of staying part of Indonesia, approved by the UN at the time, was widely considered a sham.
Papua’s Melanesian population, predominantly Christian, share few cultural connections with the rest of Indonesia — the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country.