EarthLink – News
Israel says it thwarts imminent Iranian attack from Syria
By JOSEF FEDERMAN | Sat, August 24, 2019 06:11 EDT
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military attacked targets near Damascus late Saturday in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.
The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
Conricus said Israel had monitored the plot for several months and on Thursday prevented Iran from making an “advanced attempt” to execute the same plan. Then, Iran tried again late Saturday to carry out the same attack, he said.
“We were able to thwart this attack with fighter jets,” he said, saying the Iranian attack was believed to be “very imminent.”
He said Israel’s chief of staff was meeting with senior officers and forces were on high alert near the Syrian frontier.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”
“Iran has no immunity anywhere,” he said. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”
Israel has acknowledged carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, most of them aimed at arms shipments believed to be headed from Iran to its Shiite proxy Hezbollah. Direct clashes between Israel and Iranian forces have been rare.
“This was a significant plan with significant capabilities that had been planned for a few months,” Conricus said. “It was not something done on a low level, but rather top down from the Quds Force.”
Syrian state TV announced late Saturday that the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
State TV did not give further details about the Israeli attack.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has repeatedly vowed that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, where Iranian troops have been fighting in support of President Bashar Assad during the country’s eight-year civil war.
In recent days, U.S. officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.
EarthLink – News
Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar
By TOFAYEL AHMAD and JULHAS ALAM | Sun, August 25, 2019 02:01 EDT
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of Rohingya refugees marked the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh on Sunday by rallying, crying and praying as they demanded Myanmar grant them their citizenship and other rights before they agree to return.
Up to 30,000 joined a rally days after Bangladesh with the help of the U.N. refugee agency attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims. None agreed to go back voluntarily, citing fear for their safety and a lack of confidence in Myanmar. The UNHCR said on Thursday that building confidence was essential for repatriation.
Myanmar had scheduled Aug. 22 for the beginning of the process but it failed for a second time after the first attempt last November.
The repatriation deal is based on an understanding that the return has to be “safe, dignified and voluntary.” The refugees also insisted on receiving Myanmar citizenship and other rights, which the Buddhist-majority nation has refused to grant so far. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that her administration will not use force to send them back despite a huge burden on the South Asian country.
More than 1 million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.
In Kutupalong camp on Sunday, some carried placards and banners reading “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day” and “Restore our citizenship.”
They raised their hands at a prayer session and cried, many loudly as an imam led the sermon with an emotional narration of their sufferings. The prayer was held for the victims of the killings, rape and arson attacks by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist militias. Security was tight in the camps despite the Rohingya groups’ pledge that they would protest peacefully.
“Oh Allah, how much blood we have to give to have peace in our life? We have been shedding our blood for decades and now we are here. Please help us, we want to go back,” said the imam.
“We want to tell the world that we want our rights back, we want citizenship, we want our homes and land back,” said Muhib Ullah, one of the organizers of Sunday’s protest. “Myanmar is our country. We are Rohingya.”
Myanmar has consistently denied human rights violations and says military operations in Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya fled from, were justified in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
A U.N.-established investigation last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crackdown on the Rohingya. Myanmar dismissed the allegations.
On Thursday, the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released a new report concluding rapes of Rohingya by Myanmar’s security forces were systemic and demonstrated the intent to commit genocide. The report said the discrimination Myanmar practiced against the Rohingya in peacetime aggravated the sexual violence toward them during times of conflict.
Fortify Rights, a human rights group that has documented abuses in Myanmar, called on the Myanmar government on Saturday to implement recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was appointed by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2016 and led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The commission recommended that the government end enforced segregation of Rakhine Buddhists and Rohinya Muslims, ensure full humanitarian access, tackle Rohingya statelessness and “revisit” the 1982 Citizenship Law and punish perpetrators of abuses.
“Rather than deal with ongoing atrocities, the government tried to hide behind the Advisory Commission,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights.
“The commission responded with concrete recommendations to end violations, and the government should act on them without delay. The government needs to urgently address the realities on the ground.”
On Thursday, the UNHCR in a statement said the agency and the U.N. Development Program had sought effective access in Myanmar.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said that concerted efforts were needed “to really raise the pressure on the Burmese generals. We’re talking about targeted sanctions, we’re talking about an arms embargo.”
Alam reported from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JalamAP
EarthLink – News
N. Korea tests new ‘super-large’ multiple rocket launcher
By HYUNG-JIN KIM | Sun, August 25, 2019 12:24 EDT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Sunday leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a “newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher,” another demonstration of its expanding weapons arsenal apparently aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the U.S.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Saturday’s weapons test was successful and cited Kim as saying the rocket launcher is “indeed a great weapon.”
Kim underscored the need to “continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces,” according to the KCNA.
The “hostile forces” likely referred to the United States and South Korea, whose recently ended regular military drills infuriated North Korea. The North has called the drills an invasion rehearsal and conducted a slew of missile and rocket tests in response.
Some experts said North Korea aims to show off its weapons to try to get an upper hand ahead of a possible restart of nuclear negotiations, which remain largely stalemated since the second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February fell apart due to squabbling over U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea. The two leaders met again at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume talks.
Trump downplayed the latest launch, saying “Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me. … He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens.”
South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday morning and that they flew about 380 kilometers (236 miles) at the maximum altitude of 97 kilometers (60 miles). It was the seventh known weapons test by North Korea in about a month.
North Korea has been pushing to develop powerful multiple rocket launch systems, whose projectiles resemble short-range missiles, some experts said. On Aug. 1, North Korea said it tested a large-caliber multiple rocket guided system, a day after South Korea said the North fired two short-range ballistic missiles.
Most of the North Korean weapons tested in recent weeks have shown short-range flight distances. This suggested North Korea still doesn’t intend to lift its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, which would certainly derail the negotiations with Washington.
The latest North Korean launches came two days after South Korea said it would terminate its intelligence-sharing deal with Japan amid trade disputes between the U.S. allies. Washington expressed its disappointment at the South Korean decision.
In a development that could possibly further complicate ties between Seoul and Tokyo, South Korea’s navy on Sunday began two-day exercises on and around a group of islets controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan. Japan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the islets belong to Japan and called the drills “unacceptable.”
South Korean navy officers said the drills are the first of two regular exercises held every year near the islets called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese. They said the drills involve aircraft landing on the islets and warships maneuvering nearby. Local media said South Korea originally planned the first drills in June, but delayed them in consideration of relations with Japan.
Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.
EarthLink – News
Married only minutes, Texas newlyweds killed in crash
Sat, August 24, 2019 09:22 EDT
ORANGE, Texas (AP) — Harley Morgan was still wearing his dark suit and Rhiannon Boudreaux her wedding dress when the Texas “childhood sweethearts” were killed in a crash with a truck minutes after they were married.
Nineteen-year-old Morgan and 20-year-old Boudreaux were pronounced dead Friday at the scene by the same justice of the peace who had just married them.
“I’m talking five minutes. You may kiss the bride,” said Orange Police Cpt. Keith Longlois. “The family was right behind them. They were all going out to go to wherever they were going to have their reception,” he said.
Longlois said they were “childhood sweethearts” who decided to be married by a popular Orange County Justice of the Peace Joy Dubose-Simonton.
He said the groom was driving when he tried to exit the driveway of the Justice of The Peace building onto a five-lane highway. A truck pulling a trailer carrying a heavy tractor slammed into their vehicle. The force was so great that witnesses said the car flipped multiple times before coming to rest in a ditch.
The driver of the truck was not identified but Longlois said he was cooperating with the investigation and there was no sign of wrongdoing. Drug and alcohol tests would be conducted, he said.
“I had to sit there and watch my two babies die,” the mother of the groom, LaShawna Morgan, told the Beaumont Enterprise ..
EarthLink – News
Son of ex-NFL player accused of murdering parents arrested
The Associated Press | Sat, August 24, 2019 07:53 EDT
LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Authorities say the son of a former NFL lineman wanted on murder charges in Minnesota for the shooting of his parents was arrested Saturday in Mexico.
The Todd County Sheriff’s Office says 22-year-old Dylan John Bennett was arrested on second degree murder charges at a hotel Saturday in Cancun.
Authorities say Bennett had contacted County Sheriff Steve Och earlier in the day to say that he would turn himself in to the FBI. But a sheriff’s office statement said the arrest by Mexican authorities came before the information could be communicated to them.
“The FBI is taking him into custody now and will transport him to Minnesota in the coming days,” the statement said.
The bodies of 63-year-old Barry Bennett and his wife, Carol, were found Wednesday at their home in Long Prairie, a town of about 3,500 people 124 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis. Their deaths were ruled homicide from gunshots.
A criminal complaint says Dylan Bennett’s car was at the scene with an empty box for a 9 mm handgun inside, along with ammunition.
Investigators believe the Bennetts were killed Monday. The complaint said Carol Bennett, who would’ve been 64 on Thursday, was shot multiple times in the back and torso. Barry Bennett, 63, was shot multiple times in the torso and head.
According to the criminal complaint, Barry Bennett told the Todd County Sheriff’s Office in December that Dylan had expressed thoughts about killing his parents while he was in a mental health treatment facility.
The criminal complaint outlines how authorities tracked the family in recent days.
Barry Bennett was seen Monday in Long Prairie at about noon. Earlier Monday, Dylan Bennett was seen driving his car during a bank transaction in which a large sum of cash was withdrawn from the Bennetts’ account, the complaint said.
Carol Bennett’s credit and debit cards were used in Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Her car was found in Columbus, Ohio. Dylan Bennett had a plane ticket for a flight from Columbus to Cancun.
Barry Bennett played 11 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.
The Star Tribune reported Bennett had retired from teaching physical education in Long Prairie. Superintendent Jon Kringen said Bennett rarely talked about his NFL career unless someone asked.