New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order

New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order
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People wait in line to buy provisions from a supermarket as charred items previously set on fire are seen following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order
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Police patrol a street blocked by debris and burnt out items following overnight unrest in the Magenta district of Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 18, 2024. (AFP)
New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order
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French security personnel use armored vehicles to restore order in the Pacific island territory of New Caledonia on May 18, after a fifth night of riots, looting and unrest. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2024
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New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order

New Caledonia ‘under siege’ as French troops bid to restore order
  • The unrest has been blamed on economic malaise, social tensions and — above all — a political fight between mostly Indigenous pro-independence activists and Paris authorities
  • New Caledonia has been a French territory since the mid-1800s

NOUMEA, New Caledonia: French Pacific territory New Caledonia was “under siege” Saturday, the mayor of its capital Noumea said, after another person was killed, bringing the toll to six in six days of unrest.

Two other men were wounded in Saturday’s deadly incident, which occurred in the archipelago’s northern Kaala-Gomen area, General Nicolas Mattheos said.
Hundreds of heavily armed French soldiers and police patrolled the debris-filled streets of Noumea Saturday.
But Philippe Blaise, vice president of the territory’s southern province, said: “Today, the rule of law, security for citizens, are not back in place everywhere in (New) Caledonia.”
And Noumea mayor Sonia Lagarde told news channel BFMTV: “We’re far from getting back to calm.”
Anger is still high over a contested voting reform, even after the arrival of hundreds of military and police reinforcements.
AFP reporters in the city’s Magenta district saw vehicles and buildings torched, with riot police on the scene trying to reassert control.
Overnight, residents reported hearing gunfire, helicopters and “massive explosions” — seemingly gas canisters blowing up inside a burning building.
For days, Helene, 42, has been guarding makeshift barricades in shifts with neighbors as they waited for hundreds of French security forces to be flown in to restore order.
“At night we hear shooting and things going off,” she told AFP. “Helicopters and military planes landing — which is sweet music to our ears.”

Economic malaise

For almost a week, the usually calm oceanside city has been convulsed with violence.
Two gendarmes and three other people, Indigenous Kanaks, have also been killed.
The unrest has been blamed on economic malaise, social tensions and — above all — a political fight between mostly Indigenous pro-independence activists and Paris authorities.
French officials have accused a separatist group known as the CCAT of being behind the riots and have placed 10 of its activists under house arrest.
CCAT on Friday called for “a time of calm to break the spiral of violence.”
Annie, an 81-year-old Noumea resident, said the week’s violence had been worse than that seen during the tumultuous 1980s: a time of political killings and hostage-taking referred to as “The Events.”
“At the time, there weren’t as many weapons,” she said.




Google map showing the location of New Caledonia.

Seeking independence
New Caledonia has been a French territory since the mid-1800s.
Almost two centuries on, its politics remains dominated by debate about whether the islands should be part of France, autonomous or independent — with opinions split roughly along ethnic lines.
The latest cycle of violence was sparked by plans in Paris to impose new voting rules that could give tens of thousands of non-Indigenous residents voting rights.
Pro-independence groups say that would dilute the vote of Indigenous Kanaks, who make up about 40 percent of the population.
French authorities have called for talks and insist the situation is now “calmer” and being brought under control.
Around 1,000 security forces began reinforcing the 1,700 officers on the ground from Thursday.
Efforts to negotiate peace have so far stumbled, although French President Emmanuel Macron had begun contacting pro- and anti-independence officials individually on Friday, his office said.

'Azerbaijani actors'
A local business group estimated the damage, concentrated around Noumea, at 200 million euros ($217 million).
The damage to the islands’ reputation may cost even more.
Tourism is a big earner for New Caledonia, but an estimated 3,200 tourists and other travelers have been stranded inside or outside the archipelago by the closure of Noumea’s international airport.
The unrest has also pushed organizers to cancel plans to bring the Olympic flame through New Caledonia on its journey from Athens to Paris — where the summer Games will begin in late July.
“I think everyone understands, given the current context, the priority is consolidating a return to public order and then appeasement,” French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said on Saturday.
On Friday, French government agency Viginum said it detected a “massive and coordinated” online campaign pushing claims that French police had shot pro-independence demonstrators in New Caledonia.
Paris pointed to the involvement of “Azerbaijani actors” in the campaign, deepening a diplomatic spat between the two countries.
Azerbaijan has denied accusations of interference in New Caledonia.
 


Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding

Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding
Updated 2 sec ago
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Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding

Three missing after heavy Swiss flooding
A woman feared to have been swept away had been found alive after being caught in torrential rain and thunderstorms
“Intensive searches are under way for the three people still listed as missing,” police said

GENEVA: Swiss authorities in the southeastern canton of Grisons said Saturday that they were searching for three people missing after heavy flooding the previous day in the region.
Police said a woman feared to have been swept away had been found alive after being caught in torrential rain and thunderstorms that caused landslides and flooding in the Mesolcina valley and forces dozens of residents to be briefly evacuated.
“Intensive searches are under way for the three people still listed as missing,” police said in a statement, adding they were likely at home when floodwaters swept away three houses along with three vehicles.
Local media reports said the missing included an elderly woman and a couple.
One police rescue vehicle was also swept away by the floodwaters but police said two colleagues inside were able to get out and swim to safety.
Police urged people to stay away from the worst-hit areas and not attempt their own rescue searches.
Several villages were left without electricity and drinking water following the storm, local reports said.
Recent days have seen other areas of Switzerland, including the ski resort of Zermatt, affected by heavy rainfall with several roads cut off and rail services hit.
President Viola Amherd posted on X that her thoughts were with those people affected.

As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes
Updated 15 min 29 sec ago
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As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

As US-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes
  • Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the U.S. to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv
  • The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions

KHARKIV, Ukraine: Weeks after the decision allowing Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons for limited strikes in Russian territory, the country is having some success in halting Russia’s new push along the northeast front, but military commanders are clamoring for restrictions on long-range missiles to be lifted.
Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the U.S. to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv by targeting border regions where the Kremlin’s forces assemble and launch attacks.
The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions.
But commanders said that without the ability to use long-range guided missiles, such as ATACMS, their hands are tied.
“We could target (Russian) brigade command points and the entire northern grouping, because they are located 100 to 150 kilometers from the front line,” said Hefastus, an artillery commander in the Kharkiv region who goes by his callsign. “Normal ammunition can’t get at them. With this kind, we can do a lot to destroy their centers of command.”
The Ukrainian commanders interviewed spoke on condition that their callsigns be used, in line with brigade rules.
The U.S. expanded the scope of its policy to allow counterstrikes across a wider region Friday. But the Biden administration has not lifted restrictions on Ukraine that prohibit the use of U.S.-provided ATACMS to strike inside Russian territory, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. The U.S. began providing Ukraine with long-range ATACMS earlier this year, but with rules, including that they cannot be used to strike inside Russia and must be used within sovereign territory, which includes land seized by the Russians.
That prevents attacks on airfields and military infrastructure in Russia’s deep rear, underscoring a common Ukrainian complaint that Western allies anxious about potentially provoking Russia are undermining Ukraine's ability to fight effectively.
Ukrainian officials are pushing U.S. allies to be able to strike particular high-value targets inside Russia using ATACMS, which can reach over 100 kilometers (62 miles).
“Unfortunately, we still cannot reach, for example, airfields and their aircraft. This is the problem,” Yehor Cherniev, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, defense and intelligence, said earlier this month. “That’s why we are asking (allies) to lift the restrictions to use long-range missiles against limited military targets in the territory of Russia.”
Since late May, Ukraine has been able to target Russian troops and air defense systems 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border in the Kharkiv region. Moscow opened a new front in the region on May 10, capturing village after village in a sweeping advance that caught Ukrainian troops unprepared.
Though not a panacea, the move has greatly slowed Russia’s momentum, even allowing Ukrainian troops to make advances along the northeast border, including recently recapturing areas southwest of Vovchansk, according to local reports. Brigades there said high mobility army rocket systems, or HIMARS, were fired hours after permission was granted, destroying an air defense complex outfitted to launch the deadly missiles.
At the time, the stakes were high as Ukrainian military leaders anticipated another assault designed to divert troops from other intense battlegrounds in the Donetsk region. First Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Havryliuk told The Associated Press that at least 90,000 Russian troops deep in Russian territory were gearing up for a new assault.
“The HIMARS were not silent for the whole day,” Hefastus said, recalling the first hours when permission was granted to use the rocket systems. “From the first days, Ukrainian forces managed to destroy whole columns of troops along the border waiting for the order to enter Ukraine.”
“Before, we couldn’t target them. It was quite complicated. All warehouses with ammunition and other resources were located a 20-kilometer distance beyond what we could hit,” he said.
The dynamics shifted almost immediately, allowing Ukrainian forces to stabilize that part of the front line. Soldiers near a strategic area north of Kharkiv where fighting to push Russian troops back is ongoing said enemy troops had moved positions several kilometers back. Such claims could not be independently verified.
“Tactics have changed" as a result of Ukraine’s improved striking ability, said Kalina, a platoon commander for the Khartia Brigade. Before, they were only able to hit incoming infantry assaults; now, they can employ more artillery against Russian firing points.
The U.S. decision came in the 11th hour, after much lobbying by Ukrainian officials and right as troops were preparing for combat in anticipation of Russia opening a new front in the northeast.
Ukrainian officials are hoping to convince American allies to allow the use of ATACMS against specific targets.
“It seems pretty absurd when the enemy is so actively advancing on our territory and striking with all types of missiles and calibers at Ukrainian territory and we cannot strike back inside the enemy’s territory where they hold logistics and supplies,” said Lys Mykyta, the commander of a drone company in the 103rd Territorial Defense Brigade.
But Ukrainian officials said only desperate battlefield conditions are likely to convince American officials to walk back the restriction.
The renewed invasion of the Kharkiv region, which drew in precious Ukrainian reserves, pushed the U.S. to have a change of heart on allowing self-defense strikes in Russian territory, Cherniev said.
“Probably, the decision about the ATACMS will also be changed based on the situation on the ground,” he said. “I hope the decision will be made as soon as possible.”


Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’
Updated 22 June 2024
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Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’
  • “I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said
  • Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said

USSEL, France: French President Emmanuel Macron’s ascendancy is “over,” former head of state Francois Hollande told AFP Saturday, after his former protege called a snap election likely to hand massive gains to the far right.
“I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said on the campaign trail in his native Correze department in central France, where he is standing to be an MP.
Suffering at the time from abysmal poll ratings, Socialist Hollande did not himself stand for a second term at the 2017 election.
Running as a pro-business centrist, his former economy minister Macron pulled off a surprise win that shattered traditional governing parties on the left and the right.
Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said.
“I don’t mean that his presidential term is coming to an end, that’s something different. But what he may have represented for a time is over,” he added.
Re-elected in 2022 for a second five-year term, Macron lost his absolute majority in parliament in legislative polls the same year.
His party has limped on in minority government, passing hard-fought and controversial reforms including raising the pension age and toughening immigration law.
But a heavy defeat at June 9’s European Parliament election prompted Macron to dissolve parliament in hopes of breaking the deadlock.
A new chamber will be elected on June 30 and July 7 with the far-right National Rally (RN) looking set to win the most seats.
France’s two-round electoral system makes predicting outcomes tricky, but it is highly unlikely that Macron’s gamble will pay off by winning a new majority.
Instead, he could find himself presiding over a government run by an ideological opponent.
Macron’s rule has “had a heavy political cost,” Hollande said.
“The parties were heavily damaged and public morale was too. The far right has never been so strong.”
Hollande’s Socialist party has formed an electoral alliance with other left parties including Greens, Communists and hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).
Their New Popular Front (NFP) is currently running second to the RN in the polls, both well ahead of Macron’s Renaissance outfit.
“It’s time for a political realignment,” Hollande said.
“I didn’t plan to stand for any election in my position, something very serious had to happen” in the shape of the RN’s more than 31 percent in the European election, he added.
Some Socialist voters have struggled with the idea of backing an alliance with LFI and its fiery leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, with some party figures accused of anti-Semitism and a history of Euroskeptic statements.
“I’m in the framework of an alliance because it has to be done, but there’s no kind of confusion” between his positions and Melenchon’s, Hollande said.
If elected, “I’ll be an MP who will call for responsibility whatever happens... vigilant and committed to finding solutions,” he added.


Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage
Updated 22 June 2024
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Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage
  • The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back
  • Falco warned of “a real emergency“

ROME: The Italian island of Capri banned tourists from disembarking Saturday after problems with the water supply from the mainland threatened to leave the holiday hotspot parched.
The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back.
The company charged with supplying the island with water said there had been a technical problem on the mainland on Thursday, and while that had since been fixed problems with the supply to Capri remained.
Falco warned of “a real emergency” and said that while there was still water on most of the island on Friday, local tanks were “running out.”
“The emergency would be worsened by the arrival of the thousands of tourists which arrive on Capri daily,” he said.
Locals could collect up to 25 liters of drinking water per household from a supply tanker, he said.
The ban, which does not apply to residents, will be in place until further notice.
Capri, in the Bay of Naples, is famed for its white villas, cove-studded coastline and upscale hotels. There are some 13,000 permanent residents but huge numbers of day-trippers in summer months.


Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv
Updated 22 June 2024
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Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv
  • Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured
  • “This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram

KYIV: Russian guided bombs struck an apartment building in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, on Saturday, killing three people, injuring 29 and prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for more help from Kyiv’s allies.
Pictures posted online showed parts of an apartment building in ruins, with windows smashed, balconies shattered and rubble strewn about a crater on the ground.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured in the mid-afternoon attack. Regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said two children were among the injured and four of those hurt were in serious condition.
“This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
“We need strong decisions from our partners to enable us to stop the Russian terrorists and Russian military aviation right where they are.”
Syniehubov said rescue work was proceeding. Other civilian targets had also been hit and public transport halted.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov said there had been four strikes.
Kharkiv lies about 30 km (20 miles) from the border with Russia. The city of about 1.3 million people has frequently been targeted in Russian attacks during nearly 28 months of war.
Russia has relied increasingly on the use of the bombs, relatively inexpensive, dropped from a distance and involving fewer risks for its forces.