Soldiers in Gabon say they’ve seized power and appointed the republican guard chief as head of state

Update Soldiers hold General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema aloft in Libreville, Gabon, Wednesday Aug. 30, 2023. (AP)
Soldiers hold General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema aloft in Libreville, Gabon, Wednesday Aug. 30, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 30 August 2023
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Soldiers in Gabon say they’ve seized power and appointed the republican guard chief as head of state

Soldiers hold General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema aloft in Libreville, Gabon, Wednesday Aug. 30, 2023. (AP)
  • The coup leaders said in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee
  • In a video apparently from detention in his residence, Bongo called on people to “make noise” to support him

LIBREVILLE, Gabon: Mutinous soldiers in Gabon announced late Wednesday that the head of the country’s elite republican guard would lead the Central African country, hours after saying they had placed the country’s newly re-elected president under house arrest.
The coup leaders said in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee to lead the country.
Oligui is the cousin of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who earlier Wednesday had been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election in a victory that appeared to extend his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich nation.
In a video apparently from detention in his residence, Bongo called on people to “make noise” to support him. But the crowds who took to the streets of the capital instead celebrated the coup against a dynasty accused of getting rich on the country’s resource wealth while many of its citizens struggle.
“Thank you, army. Finally, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing near soldiers from Gabon’s elite republican guard, one of the units that staged the takeover.
Coup leaders said there would be a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time but that people would be allowed to move about freely during the day on Thursday.
“The president of the transition insists on the need to maintain calm and serenity in our beautiful country ... At the dawn of a new era, we will guarantee the peace, stability and dignity of our beloved Gabon,” Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi said on state TV Wednesday.
Bongo, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with his reign. Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.
The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40 percent of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the US Energy Information Administration, or $2,720 per capita.
Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability. Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, the group says.
A spokesman for the soldiers who claimed power Wednesday said that Bongo’s “unpredictable, irresponsible governance” risked leading the country into chaos. In a later statement, the coup leaders said people around the president had been arrested for “high betrayal of state institutions, massive embezzlement of public funds (and) international financial embezzlement.”
Some analysts warned that the takeover risked bringing instability and could have more to do with divisions among the ruling elite than efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Gabonese. Celebrating soldiers hoisted the head of the republican guard — who is a relative of Bongo — into the air. It’s unclear if the military intends to name him as their new leader.
The coup came about one month after mutinous soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government, and is the latest in a series of coups across West and Central Africa in recent years. The impunity those putschists enjoyed may have inspired the soldiers in Gabon, said Maja Bovcon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk assessment firm.
In weekend elections, Bongo faced an opposition coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former education minister whose surprise nomination came a week before the vote. Every election held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multiparty system in 1990 has ended in violence, and there were fears this one would as well.
The vote was criticized by international observers, but a relative calm prevailed until the early hours of Wednesday, when Bongo was declared the winner. Minutes later, gunfire was heard in the center of the capital, Libreville. Later, a dozen uniformed soldiers appeared on state television and announced that they had seized power.
Soon after, crowds poured into the streets. Shopkeeper Viviane Mbou offered the soldiers juice.
“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with armored policemen.
Libreville is a stronghold of support for the opposition, but it was unclear how the coup attempt was seen in the countryside, where more people traditionally back Bongo.
The president pleaded for support in a video showing him sitting in a chair with a bookshelf behind him. He said he was detained in his residence and that his wife and son were elsewhere.
“I’m calling you to make noise, to make noise, to make noise really,” he said in English. The video was shared with The Associated Press by BTP Advisers, a communications firm that helped the president with polling for the election.
The coup leaders have said the president was under house arrest, surrounded by family and doctors.
Ossa, the opposition leader, told The AP he wasn’t ready to comment and was waiting for the situation to evolve.
“Gabon was in a midst of another electoral coup, so a coup chased another coup and the latest one has more chances of being popular, but let’s remain cautious,” said Thomas Borrel, a spokesperson for the Paris-based human rights group Survie, which advocates against France’s interventionist policies in Africa. “If a military dictatorship replaces Bongo’s dictatorship, the Gabonese population would lose again.”
The mutinous officers vowed to respect “Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.” But the coup attempt threatened to bring the economy to a halt.
A man who answered the phone at the airport said flights were canceled Wednesday, and the private intelligence firm Ambrey said all operations at the country’s main port in Libreville had been halted, with authorities refusing to grant permission for vessels to leave. Several French companies said they were suspending operations and moving to ensure the safety of their staff.
“France condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon and is closely monitoring developments in the country,” French government spokesperson, Olivier Veran, said Wednesday.
France has maintained close economic, diplomatic and military ties with Gabon, and has 400 soldiers stationed in the country leading a regional military training operation. The US Africa Command said it has no forces stationed in the Central African nation other than at the US Embassy.
Unlike Niger and two other West African countries run by military juntas, Gabon hasn’t been wracked by jihadi violence and had been seen as relatively stable.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the events in Gabon were being followed with “great concern.” He said it was too early to call it part of a trend or a “domino effect” in military takeovers on the continent.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, however, cited a “contagion of autocracy we are seeing spread across our continent,” in a statement issued by his office. It said he was conferring with other heads of state and the African Union, whose commission condemned the coup and called for a return to “democratic constitutional order.”
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Gabon would be discussed by the bloc’s ministers this week, adding that another military coup, if confirmed, would increase “instability in the whole region.”
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, called on the parties to resolve the issue peacefully.


Treason trial of Russian American woman opens as tensions rise between Washington and Moscow

Treason trial of Russian American woman opens as tensions rise between Washington and Moscow
Updated 15 sec ago
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Treason trial of Russian American woman opens as tensions rise between Washington and Moscow

Treason trial of Russian American woman opens as tensions rise between Washington and Moscow
The defendant was identified by Russian authorities as Los Angeles resident Ksenia Karelina
Russia's main domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service, charges that Karelina raised money for a Ukrainian organization

MOSCOW: The trial of a Russian American dual citizen whom Russia accuses of treason opened on Thursday as tensions rise between Washington and Moscow, including over the arrests of two American journalists.
The trial is being held behind closed doors in Yekaterinburg, in the same court that next week is to begin hearing the case of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested in March 2023 and charged with espionage.
The defendant was identified by Russian authorities as Los Angeles resident Ksenia Karelina, although U.S. media reports frequently use the surname Khavana, the name of her ex-husband.
Karelina was born in Yekaterinburg and was arrested in February while visiting her family.
Russia's main domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service, charges that Karelina raised money for a Ukrainian organization that was providing weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the Ukrainian military. Her boyfriend has said she made a single donation of about $50 to a Ukrainian organization, according to media reports.
Karelina faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Almost all Russian criminal cases that make it to court end in convictions. The trial was adjourned in the afternoon and the next session was set for Aug. 7, Russian news agencies said.
Gershkovich, the highest-profile American behind bars in Russia, is accused of gathering secret information from a tank factory in Nizhny Tagil, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Yekaterinburg. His employers deny the allegation, and the U.S. State Department has declared him to be wrongfully detained.
Gershkovich's trial, also closed, is to begin next Wednesday.
A journalist for U.S.-funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe with U.S. and Russian dual citizenship has been held since October on charges of gathering military information and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Since sending troops into Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has sharply cracked down on dissent and has passed laws that criminalize criticism of the operation in Ukraine and remarks considered to discredit the Russian military. Concern has risen since then that Russia could be targeting U.S. nationals for arrest.

WHO issues warnings on fake diabetes and weight-loss drugs

WHO issues warnings on fake diabetes and weight-loss drugs
Updated 9 min 21 sec ago
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WHO issues warnings on fake diabetes and weight-loss drugs

WHO issues warnings on fake diabetes and weight-loss drugs
  • WHO has also noted increased demand for these medicines
  • Falsified products could be harmful

DUBAI: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday issued warnings on falsified semaglutides used in diabetes and weight-loss drugs in light of three altered batches of products detected in Brazil, the UK and the United States.
Semaglutide is the active ingredient used in Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic and weight-loss treatment Wegovy.
The WHO has been observing increased reports of falsified semaglutide products in Brazil, the UK and the United States since 2022, it said, though Thursday’s was the first official notice issued by the agency after confirmation of some reports.
It has also noted increased demand for these medicines.
Falsified products could be harmful and if they do not have the necessary raw components, they can lead to health complications resulting from unmanaged blood glucose levels or weight, the WHO said.


Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region

Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region
Updated 20 June 2024
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Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region

Russian attack kills three, injures four in Ukraine’s eastern region
  • The village of Rozkishne, about 25 km from the front line, was targeted by the strike

KYIV: Russia attacked a village in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Thursday, killing three people and injuring four more, including a child, prosecutors said.
The village of Rozkishne, about 25 km from the front line, was targeted by the strike, regional prosecutors said on Telegram.
According to preliminary data, Russian troops used the Smerch system to launch cluster munitions, prosecutors said.
Among the injured was a 14-year-old boy who was hospitalized. Four households, cars, and a gas pipeline were damaged in the attack, prosecutors added.


Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead

Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead
Updated 20 June 2024
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Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead

Cruise ship rescues 68 migrants heading for Spain’s Canaries, five dead
  • Bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff sighted the boat adrift 440 nautical miles (815 km) south of the island of Tenerife
  • Insignia cruise ship was diverted to the area to pick up the survivors, the Coast Guard said

MADRID: A luxury cruise ship has rescued dozens of migrants who were trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands in a fishing boat that had stalled in rough seas killing five people, Spanish authorities and the cruise operator said on Thursday.
The archipelago has become the main point of entry to Spain for illegal migrants from Africa in recent years, and the route is also the deadliest. Migration rights group Walking Borders said last week that nearly 5,000 migrants died at sea on that route in the first five months of 2024.
Bulk carrier Philipp Oldendorff sighted the boat adrift 440 nautical miles (815 km) south of the island of Tenerife on Wednesday and provided first assistance to the migrants, while the Insignia cruise ship was diverted to the area to pick up the survivors, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The Insignia, which is owned by Miami-based Oceania Cruises, also managed to recover three bodies from the boat, but bad weather prevented the recovery of another two bodies so the ship left a locating device to facilitate the search.
The small luxury cruise ship with a 670-passenger capacity is undertaking a 180— day trip around the world that started in January. It was expected to reach Tenerife at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Friday.
“Safety of life at sea is of paramount importance for all seafarers,” said a spokesperson for Oceania Cruises, which is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
“We can confirm that the Insignia rescued 68 people from a vessel in distress between Cape Verde and Tenerife, brought them onboard for medical assistance and provided food, drinks, clothing and a safe place to rest,” the spokesperson added.
A Spanish coast guard vessel was en route from the Canary Islands on Thursday to meet the Insignia and then locate the shipwreck.


Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India
Updated 20 June 2024
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Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India

Illegally brewed liquor kills at least 34 with dozens hospitalized in southern India
  • People died after consuming alcohol tainted with methanol in Tamil Nadu, says chief minister
  • District official says number of those in critical condition keeps changing, death toll could rise

NEW DELHI: At least 34 people have died and dozens hospitalized after drinking illegally brewed liquor in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, local media reported on Thursday.

The state’s chief minister M K Stalin said the 34 died after consuming liquor that was tainted with methanol, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The incident occurred in the state’s Kallakurichi district, where more than 100 people are being treated in various hospitals, top district official M S Prasanth said. He added that the number of those who are in critical condition keeps changing, suggesting that the death toll could rise.

Ambulances, doctors and specialists from nearby areas were deployed to the district.

Government officials earlier said several people who were vomiting and had stomach pain were admitted to hospitals Wednesday, triggering a police investigation.

Later that day, Stalin, the chief minister, said in a post on social media platform X that those involved in the crime have been arrested, and action has also been taken against officials who failed to prevent it. “Such crimes that ruin the society will be suppressed with an iron fist,” he added.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. The illicit liquor, which is often spiked with chemicals such as pesticides to increase potency, has also become a hugely profitable industry as bootleggers pay no taxes and sell enormous quantities of their product to the poor at a cheap rate.

In 2022, more than 30 people died in eastern India’s Bihar state after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization. Earlier that same year, at least 28 died from drinking altered liquor in Gujarat state. And in 2020, at least 120 people died after drinking tainted liquor in India’s northern Punjab state.