North Korea fires ballistic missile after US, South Korea stage drills

North Korea fires ballistic missile after US, South Korea stage drills
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says was a test launch of a hypersonic missile on Jan. 5, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency via AP)
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Updated 05 June 2022

North Korea fires ballistic missile after US, South Korea stage drills

North Korea fires ballistic missile after US, South Korea stage drills
  • Last week, the US called for more UN sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia vetoed the suggestion

SEOUL: North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Sunday, a day after South Korea and the US wrapped up their first combined military exercises involving an American aircraft carrier in more than four years.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea had fired an “unknown” missile, without elaborating.
Japan’s government also reported that the North had launched a suspected ballistic missile.
The launch also followed a visit to Seoul by the US point man on North Korean affairs, US Special Representative Sung Kim, who departed on Saturday.
He met his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Kim Gunn and Takehiro Funakoshi, on Friday to prepare for “all contingencies” amid signs North Korea was preparing to conduct a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
Washington has made very clear directly to Pyongyang that it is open to diplomacy, Kim said during the visit, which wrapped up on Sunday, noting that he was willing to discuss items of interest to Pyongyang, such as sanctions relief.
Last week, the US called for more UN sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia vetoed the suggestion, publicly splitting the UN Security Council on North Korea for the first time since it started punishing it in 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.
In recent weeks, North Korea has test-fired a range of missiles, including its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea’s last tests were on May 25, when it launched three missiles after US President Joe Biden ended an Asia trip where he agreed to new measures to deter the nuclear-armed state.
The first missile appeared to be the North’s largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17, while a second unspecified missile appeared to have failed mid-flight, South Korean officials said at the time. The third missile was a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).
On Saturday South Korean and American ships concluded three days of drills in international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa, including air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and maritime interdiction operations, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The exercises included the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, among other major warships.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10, had agreed with Biden to increase bilateral military drills to deter North Korea.
North Korea has criticized previous joint drills as an example of Washington’s continued “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang, despite its talk of diplomacy.


Canada struggles to restore power after storm; body found

Canada struggles to restore power after storm; body found
Updated 11 sec ago

Canada struggles to restore power after storm; body found

Canada struggles to restore power after storm; body found
  • Authorities found the body of a 73-year-old woman in the water who was missing in Channel-Port Aux Basques, a town on the southern coast of Newfoundland

TORONTO: Hundreds of thousands of people in Atlantic Canada remained without power Sunday and officials said they found the body of a woman swept into the sea after former Hurricane Fiona swept away houses, stripped off roofs and blocked roads across the country’s Atlantic provinces.
After surging north from the Caribbean, Fiona came ashore before dawn Saturday as a post-tropical cyclone, battering Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec with hurricane-strength winds, rains and waves.
Defense Minister Anita Anand said troops would help remove fallen trees, restore transportation links and do whatever else is required for as long as it takes. She didn’t specify how many troops would be deployed.
Fiona was blamed for at least five deaths in the Caribbean, and one death in Canada. Authorities found the body of a 73-year-old woman in the water who was missing in Channel-Port Aux Basques, a town on the southern coast of Newfoundland.
Police said the woman inside her residence moments before a wave struck the home Saturday morning, tearing away a portion of the basement. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a release on social media that with assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard, as other rescue teams her body woman was recovered late Sunday afternoon.
Police said the woman was last seen inside the residence moments before a wave struck the home Saturday morning, tearing away a portion of the basement.
As of Sunday, more than 252,000 Nova Scotia Power customers and over 82,000 Maritime Electric customers in the province of Prince Edward Island — about 95 percent of the total — remained in the dark. So were more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick.
More than 415,000 Nova Scotia Power customers — about 80 percent in the province of almost 1 million people — had been affected by outages Saturday.
Utility companies say it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said Sunday that over 200 people were in temporary shelters. Over 70 roads were completely inaccessible in her region. She said she couldn’t count the number of homes damaged in her own neighborhood.
She said it was critical for the military to arrive and help clear debris, noting that the road to the airport is inaccessible and the tower has significant damage.
McDougall said it is amazing there are no injuries.
“People listened to the warnings and did what they were supposed to do and this was the result,” she said
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said that over 100 military personnel would arrive Sunday to assist in recovery efforts. Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday. He said many bridges are destroyed.
“The magnitude and severity of the damage is beyond anything that we’ve seen in our province’s history,” King said, and that it would take a “herculean effort by thousands of people” to recover over the coming days and weeks.
Kim Griffin, a spokeswoman for Prince Edward Island’s electricity provider, said it would likely take “many days” to restore power across the island. She added that she was “terrified” that people could be injured or killed by downed power lines as they tried to clean up the storm damage.
Entire structures were washed into the sea as raging surf pounded Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland.
“This is not a one-day situation where we can all go back to normal,” Mayor Brian Button said on social media. Unfortunately, this is going to take days, it could take weeks, it could take months in some cases.”
Much of the town of 4,000 had been evacuated and Button said asked for patience as officials identify where and when people can safely go home. He noted that some residents are showing up at barricades angry and wanting to return.
In Puerto Rico, too, officials were still struggling to grasp the scope of damage and to repair the devastation caused when Fiona hit the US territory a week ago.
As of Sunday, about 45 percent of Puerto Rico’s 1.47 million power customers remained in the dark, and 20 percent of 1.3 million water customers had no service as workers struggled to reach submerged power substations and fix downed lines.
Gas stations, grocery stores and other businesses had temporarily shut down due to lack of fuel for generators: The National Guard first dispatched fuel to hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
“We’re starting from scratch,” said Carmen Rivera as she and her wife mopped up water and threw away their damaged appliances, adding to piles of rotting furniture and soggy mattresses lining their street in Toa Baja, which had flooded.
Officials across Eastern Canada also were assessing the scope of damage caused by the storm, which had moved inland over southeastern Quebec.
Mike Savage, mayor of Halifax, said the roof of an apartment building collapsed in Nova Scotia’s biggest city and officials had moved 100 people to an evacuation center. He said no one was seriously hurt.
The Canadian Hurricane Center tweeted that Fiona had the lowest pressure — a key sign of storm strength — ever recorded for a storm making landfall in Canada.
“We’re getting more severe storms more frequently,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said more resilient infrastructure is needed to withstand extreme weather events.
Peter MacKay, a former foreign and defense minister who lives in Nova Scotia, said he had never seen anything to match Fiona, with winds raging through the night and into the afternoon.
“We had put everything we could out of harm’s way, but the house got hammered pretty hard. Lost lots of shingles, heavy water damage in ceilings, walls, our deck is destroyed. A garage that I was building blew away,” MacKay said in an email to The Associated Press.


Russia’s call-up splits EU; Ukraine says it shows weakness

Russia’s call-up splits EU; Ukraine says it shows weakness
Updated 8 min 50 sec ago

Russia’s call-up splits EU; Ukraine says it shows weakness

Russia’s call-up splits EU; Ukraine says it shows weakness
  • Putin's partial mobilization order is also triggering protests in Russia, with new anti-war demonstrations on Sunday

KYIV, Ukraine: Russia’s rush to mobilize hundreds of thousands of recruits to staunch stinging losses in Ukraine is a tacit acknowledgement that its “army is not able to fight,” Ukraine’s president said Sunday, as splits sharpened in Europe over whether to welcome or turn away Russians fleeing the call-up.
Speaking to US broadcaster CBS, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said he’s bracing for more Russian strikes on Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure, as the Kremlin seeks to ramp up the pressure on Ukraine and its Western backers as the weather gets colder. Zelensky warned that this winter “will be very difficult.”
“They will shoot missiles, and they will target our electric grid. This is a challenge, but we are not afraid of that.” he said on “Face the Nation.”
He portrayed the Russian mobilization — its first such call-up since World War II — as a signal of weakness, not strength, saying: “They admitted that their army is not able to fight with Ukraine anymore.”
Zelensky also said Ukraine has received NASAMS air defense systems from the US NASAMS uses surface-to-air missiles to track and shoot down incoming missiles or aircraft. Zelensky did not say how many Ukraine received.
Although the European Union is now largely off limits to most Russians, with direct flights stopped and its land borders increasingly closed to them, an exodus of Russian men fleeing military service is creating divisions among European officials over whether they should be granted safe haven.
The partial mobilization is also triggering protests in Russia, with new anti-war demonstrations on Sunday.
In Dagestan, one of Russia’s poorer regions in the North Caucasus, police fired warning shots to try to disperse more than 100 people who blocked a highway while protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military call-up, Russian media reported.
Dozens of women chanted “No to war!” in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala on Sunday. Videos of the protests showed women in head scarves chasing police away from the rally and standing in front of police cars carrying detained protesters, demanding their release.
Women also protested in the Siberian city of Yakutsk, chanting “No to genocide!” and marching in a circle around police, who later dragged some away or forced them into police vans, according to videos shared by Russian media.
At least 2,000 people have been arrested in recent days for similar demonstrations around Russia. Many of those taken away have immediately received a call-up summons.
Unconfirmed Russian media reports that the Kremlin might soon close Russian borders to men of fighting age are fueling panic and prompting more to flee.
German officials have voiced a desire to help Russian men deserting military service and have called for a European-wide solution. Germany has held out the possibility of granting asylum to deserters and those refusing the draft.
In France, senators are arguing that Europe has a duty to help and warned that not granting refuge to fleeing Russians could play into Putin’s hands, feeding his narrative of Western hostility to Russia.
“Closing our frontiers would fit neither with our values nor our interests,” a group of more than 40 French senators said.
Yet other EU countries are adamant that asylum shouldn’t be offered to Russian men fleeing now — when the war has moved into its eighth month. They include Lithuania, which borders Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic Sea exclave. Its foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, tweeted: “Russians should stay and fight. Against Putin.”
His counterpart in Latvia, also an EU member bordering Russia, said the exodus poses “considerable security risks” for the 27-nation bloc and that those fleeing now can’t be considered conscientious objectors since they did not act when Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Many “were fine with killing Ukrainians, they did not protest then,” the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, tweeted. He added that they still have “plenty of countries outside EU to go.”
Finland also said it intends to “significantly restrict” entry to Russians entering the EU through its border with Russia. A Finnish opposition leader, Petteri Orpo, said fleeing Russian military reservists were an “obvious” security risk and “we must put our national security first.”
Russia is pressing on with its call-up of hundreds of thousands of men, seeking to reverse recent losses. Without control of the skies over Ukraine, Russia is also making increasing use of suicide drones from Iran, with more strikes reported Sunday in the Black Sea port city of Odesa.
For Ukrainian and Russian military planners, the clock is ticking, with the approach of winter expected to make fighting much more complicated. Already, rainy weather is bringing muddy conditions that are starting to limit the mobility of tanks and other heavy weapons, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Sunday.
But the think-tank said Ukrainian forces are still gaining ground in their counteroffensive, launched in late August, that has rolled back the Russian occupation across large areas of the northeast and which also prompted Putin’s new drive for reinforcements.
The Kremlin said its initial aim is to add about 300,000 troops to its invasion force, which is struggling with equipment losses, mounting casualties and weakening morale. The mobilization marks a sharp shift from Putin’s previous efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation that wouldn’t interfere with most Russians’ lives.
The mobilization is running hand-in-hand with Kremlin-orchestrated votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine that could pave the way for their imminent annexation by Russia.
Ukraine and its Western allies say the referendums in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south and the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions have no legal validity, not least because many tens of thousands of their people have fled. They also call them a “sham.” Some footage has shown armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting.
The voting ends Tuesday and there’s little doubt it will be declared a success by the Russian occupiers. The main questions then will be how soon Putin’s regime will annex the four regions and how that will complicate the war.
 


Bangladesh ferry accident kills 25, several missing

Bangladesh ferry accident kills 25, several missing
Updated 7 min 18 sec ago

Bangladesh ferry accident kills 25, several missing

Bangladesh ferry accident kills 25, several missing
  • Passengers said more than 70 people had been on the boat, which sank in the Karatoya river
  • Hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country that has extensive inland waterways

DHAKA: At least 25 people were killed and dozens were missing after a boat packed with Hindu devotees sank on Sunday in Bangladesh, a local official said, in the worst waterways disaster to hit the country in more than a year.
The bodies recovered so far included 12 women and eight children, said Jahurul Islam, district administrator of northern Panchagarh, where the accident occurred.
“The rescue operation for those missing is ongoing,” he said, adding the ferry was taking mostly devotees to a Hindu temple on the occasion of Mahalaya.
Islam said he did not know the exact number of people missing, but passengers said more than 70 people had been on the boat, which sank in the Karatoya river.
A committee has been formed to investigate the incident, he said.
Police said nearly 20 people were still missing while some of the passengers managed to swim ashore or were rescued.
Hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country that has extensive inland waterways.
At least 34 people died in April last year after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank on the Shitalakhsya River outside the capital Dhaka.


Militant attack kills four in Burkina Faso

Militant attack kills four in Burkina Faso
Updated 51 min 2 sec ago

Militant attack kills four in Burkina Faso

Militant attack kills four in Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU: At least two soldiers and two civilian auxiliaries died in a “terrorist” attack on a patrol in eastern Burkina Faso, the army said Sunday.

A military unit and VDP volunteer auxiliaries were ambushed on Saturday between Sakoani and Sampieri in Tapoa province, bordering Niger and Benin, an army statement said.

“The fighting unfortunately cost the lives of two soldiers and two VDP,” it added.

However, a security source said the death toll was four soldiers and two volunteers.

A VDP official confirmed two dead from the volunteer ranks with “some still missing.”

Another security source said the militants also suffered losses, without giving a figure for the dead.

Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba seized power in a January coup, ousting Burkina’s elected leader and promising to rein in the militants.

But the violence has raged on in neighboring countries stoked by insurgents affiliated to Al-Qaeda and Daesh. Thousands have died and some two million been displaced by the fighting in landlocked Burkina since 2015.

Separately, Damiba defended his military takeover, though he acknowledged it was “perhaps reprehensible” and inconsistent with the UN’s values.

Damiba said the overthrow of the democratically elected president was “necessary and indispensable.”

“It was, above all, an issue of survival for our nation,” he said. That’s even if it was “perhaps reprehensible in terms of the principles held dear by the United Nations and the international community as a whole.”

Burkina Faso’s coup came in the wake of similar takeovers in Mali and in Guinea, heightening fears of a rollback of democracy in West Africa. None of the juntas has committed to a date for new elections.


Religious hymns cause concern among Kashmiris

Religious hymns cause concern among Kashmiris
Updated 25 September 2022

Religious hymns cause concern among Kashmiris

Religious hymns cause concern among Kashmiris
  • Viral clip showed Muslim students practicing Hindu hymn for Mahatma Gandhi birthday celebrations
  • Hymn is not controversial, BJP leader says

NEW DELHI: Kashmiri communities are raising concerns over alleged attempts to “undermine the Muslim identity” in the valley after a clip showing Muslim students in public schools reciting a Hindu hymn sparked controversy among religious and political leaders in the region.

New Delhi revoked the constitutional semi-autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, its portion of the region contested by India and Pakistan, into two federally governed territories in 2019.

The abrogation of its autonomy, which was followed by a total communications blackout, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, the detention of hundreds of local political leaders and the deployment of thousands of additional troops, has since compounded fears that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to alter the Muslim-majority region.

When Muslim students earlier this month were instructed to recite a Hindu hymn as part of preparations to celebrate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi on Oct. 2, a clip of the activity triggered new concerns among communities in the valley, such as the Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema Jammu and Kashmir, a collective of 30 religious and educational bodies in the region.

“MMU appeals to the government and concerned authorities to immediately withdraw its orders and stop these practices in schools and educational institutions, which deeply hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims and cause them grief,” they said in a statement.

The collective issued the statement after a meeting was held over the weekend “in the wake of unfortunate attempts being made to undermine the Muslim identity of Kashmir.”

Mohd Ashraf Rather, chief education officer of the region’s Kulgam district, told Arab News on Sunday that the hymn was practiced in school “because it is an all-faith prayer” and had been part of a “one-day activity” ahead of Gandhi’s birthday celebrations.

“This is the same hymn that Mahatma Gandhi used to sing and the prayer invokes both Ishwar (Hindu address to God) and Allah,” Rather said.

The Hindu hymn controversy appears to be part of a “deliberate” plan, said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who has been held under house arrest since August 2019.

“It is becoming clear that there seems to be a deliberate plan to push our young generation through state-run educational institutions towards apostasy, to wean them away from Islamic beliefs and identity, to speed their so-called ‘integration’ with the Hindu majoritarian idea of India,” Farooq told Arab News.

Though recitations of Hindu hymns are not something new in Kashmir, the questions raised in the valley were triggered by concerns over the intention of the ruling BJP party, the region’s political leader Ghulam Mir of the Apni Party, told Arab News.

“Prayers can be performed in any language but the important thing is to look at the intention. If the intention is an ulterior motive, then anyone can raise an objection,” Mir said.

“Earlier also people used to recite Hindu hymns, but that time (the) intention was different, but the majoritarian politics of the BJP looks like (being) against Muslims — their profile is anti-Muslim so whatever they do, Muslims feel it’s against them.”

Imran Nabi Dar, spokesperson of Kashmir’s oldest political party, National Conference, urged the government to provide an explanation.

“The government needs to come out with clarification. What is the intent behind it?” Dar told Arab News.

“There is a serious attempt to hurt the sentiments of the majority community of Kashmir. There is an attempt to provoke the people,” he added.

Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, a senior leader and convenor of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — a political alliance between several regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir campaigning to restore its special autonomous status — stressed the importance of secular education in Kashmir.

“Any encroachment compromising the secular spirit of the constitution is dangerous,” Tarigami said. “Whatever is happening in Kashmir is part of the program to ‘Hindunize’ education and this will provoke and promote other varieties of extremism.”

Dr. Hina Bhat, a local leader and spokesperson for the BJP based in Srinagar, told Arab News the hymn is not controversial.

“What is controversial about the hymns?” Bhat asked. “They should stop politicizing the issue where kids are not allowed to grow in an open space.”

Kapil Kak, former Indian air marshal and member of the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, said “there should be no changes” in the patterns of prayers and school songs in Kashmir.

“The issue can turn into a potential trouble spot. Kashmiris have been very patient; they have gone through multiple types of assaults on their identity for the last three years but they have borne it.”

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