FRANKFURT (AFP) -
German police on Sunday searched the homes of two men suspected of having ties to "a terrorist group" in Syria, federal prosecutors said.
The anti-terror raids took place near the western city of Mainz.
The federal prosecutor's office said the men were "suspected of having taken part in Syria's civil war as members of a foreign terrorist group" but declined to name the jihadist group involved.
"There are no immediate indications that a concrete attack was planned," the prosecutor's office said, adding that it was not yet in a position to say whether police had arrested the men or if any items were seized from their homes.
German weekly Der Spiegel said on its website that one of the two was a 32-year-old "suspected former commander" of the Islamic State group who had fought in Syria and arrived in Germany as a refugee late last year.
Spiegel Online said it had spoken to the man before the raids, and that he had denied any link with IS.
In a similar police operation on Thursday, German officers arrested three Algerians suspected of having ties to the jihadist group. Those arrests followed raids at several sites across Germany, including refugee shelters where some of the suspects lived.
Germany took in some 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, and fears are growing that jihadists have taken advantage of Europe's worst migrant crisis in decades to slip in undetected.
Security has already been tightened after a wave of sexual assaults in the western city of Cologne on New Year's Eve shocked the country. Many of the attacks were blamed on North African migrants.
GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea will pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of the United States and its allies, a top Pyongyang envoy told Reuters on Friday, saying there is now a state of "semi-war" on the divided peninsula.
So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, denounced huge joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises taking place which he said were aimed at "decapitation of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)".
North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February. The South Korean military said on Friday that North Korea had fired a missile into the sea off its east coast.
"If the United States continues, then we have to make the counter-measures also. So we have to develop, and we have to make more deterrence, nuclear deterrence," So, who is also North Korea's envoy to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, said in an interview.
U.S. President Barack Obama joined South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday in vowing to ramp up pressure on North Korea in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests. The three leaders recommitted their countries to each others' defense and warned they could take further steps to counter threats from Pyongyang.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday also called for dialogue to resolve the "predicament" on the Korean peninsula during a meeting with Park in Washington, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
So, asked whether his reclusive country felt pressure from its ally China and other powers, replied: "We are going on our own way. (We are) not having dialogue and discussions on that."
The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in early March expanding U.N. sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"We are going against that resolution also because that is not fair and (not just). At this point, because this is really the war now... We are busy to deal with this semi-war status of the situation on the peninsula now."
Regarding the joint military exercises being conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces, he said: "Now they open (show) their true color, meaning the decapitation of the supreme leadership of DPRK."
So, asked prospects for resuming stalled six-party talks on his country's nuclear program replied: "The de-nuclearisation of the peninsula has gone.
LONDON (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 90 in April, carried out 306 engagements in Britain last year, a tally in The Times newspaper showed Friday.
The queen, who became Britain's longest serving monarch in September after more than 63 years, also conducted 35 engagements abroad, having paid state visits to Germany and Malta.
Last year she carried out a total of 393 engagements.
Her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, carried out 250 engagements in total last year, despite turning 94.
Their eldest son Prince Charles, 67, the heir to the throne, undertook 527 engagements, including 147 abroad.
The engagements include official visits, opening ceremonies, sports, concerts and charity events; receptions, lunches, dinners and banquets; investitures, meetings and audiences.
Charles's eldest son Prince William, 33, carried out 87 engagements in Britain and 35 overseas. William's day job is as an air ambulance helicopter co-pilot.
William's wife Kate, who gave birth to Princess Charlotte in May, carried out 62 engagements, all in Britain.
William's brother Prince Harry, 31, who ended 10 years of army service in June, carried out 49 engagements in Britain and 59 abroad.
Queen Elizabeth's only daughter Princess Anne, 65, racked up the most engagements at 544, although the list should not be seen as a league table of the 15 royals tracked, said its compiler Tim O'Donovan.
He has tallied the figures for the paper every year since 1979, based on engagements listed in the daily Court Circular -- the official record of royal engagements.
"Except for Christmas Day and Easter Day, the Queen never has a day off from the official red boxes which pursue her everywhere," he told The Times.
UK: The home affairs select committee, consisting of a cross-party influential MPs, recommended that sex workers in England and Wales be decriminalised.
The select committee was launched in early 2016 to hold an inquiry into prostitution..
The committee recommended in its interim report last Friday, the Home Office should change current law, with immediate effect to legalise soliciting. The committee also suggested that brothel-keeping rules be modified to enable prostitutes to share premises rather than risk working alone.
Prostitution is legal in the UK. However, other activities relating to it such as brothel-keeping, kerb-crawling and soliciting sex in a public place, are outlawed.
The committee urged the Home Office legislate to erase sex workers' previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from their record. This will remove barriers for them when moving on to find other jobs.
It however stressed that people who are using brothels to control or exploit sex workers should still be prosecuted.
This was the first time within decades that the UK parliament had considered the issue of prostitution.
''It is a polarising subject with strong views on all sides. This interim report will be followed by final recommendations, when we consider other options, including the different approaches adopted by other countries- Keith Vaz, Chairman Home Affairs Select Committee''
The English Collective of Prostitutes, a campaign group pushing to decriminalise prostitution and safeguard sex workers’ rights and welfare, welcomed the report.
''We’re absolutely delighted. The measures will make a massive difference to women in our group who at the moment are living with a massive burden of criminality which really makes it much more dangerous to work.- The English Collective of Prostitutes.''
The Home Office have commented that it would carefully consider the recommendations.
Source credits: The Guardian
Picture credits: The Independent
The United States warned its citizens on Tuesday that this summer’s Euro 2016 soccer tournament and related events across France and Europe will present “potential targets for terrorists.”
The month-long European Championship finals start in Paris on June 10, drawing the best international teams from the continent and hundreds of thousands of fans.
“Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists,” the State Department said.
The warning was contained in an update to its long-standing warning to US travelers to beware extremist attacks on transport and public gatherings in Europe.
“We are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation,” it said.
“The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events.”
The French government has ruled out cancelling the prestigious tournament, which is expected to draw two million fans to cities across the country.
To strengthen security at Euro 2016, France has extended a state of emergency put in place after attacks last November on a concert hall, cafes, police and a football crowd.
Last month, French domestic intelligence chief Patrick Calvar told lawmakers that France is “clearly targeted” by the Islamic State group.
France feared a “new form of attack” in which terrorists would place bombs in areas where big crowds gather, he warned.
The updated State Department travel warning also noted that huge crowds and extra security should be expected in Krakow, Poland, during the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day event between July 26 and 31.
STUTTGART, Germany - Members of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Sunday backed an election manifesto that says Islam is not compatible with the constitution and calls for a ban on minarets and the burqa.
Set up three years ago, the AfD has been buoyed by Europe's migrant crisis, which saw the arrival of more than one million, mostly Muslim migrants, in Germany last year. The party has no lawmakers in the federal parliament in Berlin but has members in half of Germany's 16 regional state assemblies.
Opinion polls give AfD support of up to 14 percent, presenting a serious challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and other established parties ahead of the 2017 federal election. They rule out any coalition with the AfD.
In a raucous debate on the second day of a party congress, many of the 2,000 members cheered calls from the podium for measures against "Islamic symbols of power" and jeered a plea for dialogue with Germany's Muslims.
"Islam is foreign to us and for that reason it cannot invoke the principle of religious freedom to the same degree as Christianity," said Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, an AfD lawmaker from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, to loud applause.
Merkel has said freedom of religion for all is guaranteed by Germany's constitution and has said on many occasions that Islam belongs to Germany.
"ISLAM IS NOT PART OF GERMANY"
Up to 2,000 left-wing demonstrators clashed with police on Saturday as they tried to break up the first full AfD conference. About 500 people were briefly detained and 10 police officers were lightly injured, a police spokesman said.
The chapter of the AfD manifesto concerning Muslims is entitled "Islam is not a part of Germany". The manifesto demands a ban to minarets - the towers of a mosque from where the call to Muslim prayer is made - and the burqa, the all-encompassing body garment worn by some conservative Muslim women.
Germany is home to nearly four million Muslims, about five percent of the total population. Many of the longer established Muslim community in Germany came from Turkey to find work, but those who have arrived over the past year have mostly been fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last month the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims likened the AfD's attitude towards his community to that of Adolf Hitler's Nazis towards the Jews.
Although the AfD aimed to broaden its political agenda during the congress, members hardly debated on domestic issues, such as taxation and social welfare.
The party's leadership has proposed the introduction of an income tax bracket system and the abolition of inheritance taxes, which experts say would benefit high earners.
The head of Germany's DGB confederation of trade unions, Reiner Hoffmann, sharply criticized the AfD's program.
"Their alternatives are nothing but simple, dull and inconsistent," Hoffmann said in a speech at an DGB event in Stuttgart to mark Labour Day.
He said the AfD was not only conducting a hate campaign against refugees, but also aiming for a tax policy that was against the interests of workers. - Reuters
The UN refugee agency says at least 15 asylum-seekers have gone missing in an incident during which their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea, the second such incident in a day.
According to Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who was speaking on Sunday, a boat carrying around 120 people sank early Friday four hours after leaving the eastern coast of Libya for Italy.
Some 15 people went missing, most of them from Africa, Sami added.
Survivors from the incident were being disembarked in Pozzallo, Sicily, according to Sami, who also said that eight people had been taken straight to hospital “due to their serious health conditions.”
The news came a day after the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that 26 people had been rescued from an inflatable boat that was carrying around 110 refugees off Libya in a separate accident on Friday.
The refugees rescued had been reportedly transferred to two coastguard vessels and taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The rest reportedly perished.
Large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa have died over the past months while trying to reach Europe via sea routes.
Over 183,000 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 1,200 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the IOM.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East.
Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of the refugees from their home countries.