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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated US President-elect Donald Trump, rather than President Barack Obama, in his annual New Year’s greetings statement to foreign heads of state and government.
However, Putin did convey his seasonal greetings to Obama, his family and the American people in a separate statement earlier on Friday, while responding to the latest wave of US sanctions against Russia.
In his annual greetings statement, Putin expressed hope that after Trump is sworn in as US President on January 20, the two countries, “acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, will be able to take real steps to restore the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in various areas and take their interaction in the international arena to a whole new level.
“Major global and regional challenges that our countries have confronted in recent years clearly confirm that Russia-US relations are an important factor in ensuring stability and security in the modern world,” reads Putin’s direct message to Trump, released by the Kremlin on Friday.
In his annual greetings statement, Putin also congratulated Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
Scene of New Year's day terror attack, Bosforo Hotel, Istanbul
Terrorism is doubtless one of civilization's worst enemies and today the whole world except a few rogue nations which former US President George Bush labeled as the axes of evil live in absolute dread. Today we are up against a wild world constantly berserk with an arsenal of guns and other powerfully dangerous explosives, turbulence, violence, and uncertainty that put lives the world over on the line. In fact, there is no denying the fact that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
This writer is often appalled in no small measure at the horror often left behind by the death merchants as they strike and send unsuspecting members of the public to untimely graves.
Only about one week ago a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany. Many deaths were recorded in that horrendous attack that sent shock waves around the world. Shortly after the harrowing incident, the dreaded Islamic State militants went on air and claimed responsibility to the consternation of a grief-stricken and beleaguered world.
Again, beastly screaming 'Don't forget Aleppo!' a Turkish policeman pulled the trigger on a diplomat and down went the Russian Ambassador to Turkey which attracted international condemnation. This was another highly inexcusable act of terror by a state agent who derailed in his statutory responsibility for protecting lives and property.
In Nigeria, for instance, state agents have consistently been found breaking the rules of engagement in dealing with civil unrests. Many gun-toting policemen have unleashed acts of terror on unarmed civilians. One of such is the sensational extra-judicial killing of unarmed pro-Biafra agitators in the country's southeast peopled by the Igbos, one of the three major tribes that make up the federation of Nigeria. Recently Amnesty International released a shocking video footage where no fewer than 150 unarmed pro-Biafra agitators were killed in cold blood by Nigerian troops. It was a horrible sight. This was another reign of terror all things considered!
Last night on New Year eve, terror struck again in Istanbul, Turkey, and no fewer than thirty-nine people lost their lives while fifty-nine sustained mortal injuries when some gunmen opened fire on a crowd.
In a similar vein, today January 1, 2017, in the city of Florence, Italy a certain anti-bomb crack squad officer lost one of his hands after a suspicious package he was examining left outside a shuttered bookshop exploded with links to a group of extreme right activists, CasaPound, to be precise reportedly caught the attention of a passing police patrol.
Into what dangers would these lead the world as everyone now has to sleep with one eye open? This question often agitates the mind of this writer as he remains dismayed by the above-mentioned recent events and troubled by their international ramifications. There is no denying the fact that he stands united against terror which he has consistently crusaded against in many formal presentations and discourses.
There appears to be no end to this scourge as attacks have continued by these death merchants this time with an undiminished intensity which haunts the world with absolute dread.
In Nigeria, for instance, over 12,000 people have been killed by Islamist insurgents in terror-related attacks. The counter-terrorism operation is still on to this day although the government in the West African state appears to be winning the war with only a pocket of resistance as the terror group, Boko haram, has been reportedly degraded and dislodged from their forest bastion of Sambisa in the country's desert northeast.
The world, as it stands, shakes today with terror amid threats to blow up the world in a Jihadist insurgency, it has become absolutely necessary for world governments to come together, join forces irrespective of their creed, belief, and religion to read terrorists the Riot Act. Although this appears difficult but it is not impossible.
For starters, as the writer condemns terrorism, he also urges world governments to stand united in combating threats to international peace and security as most of these terrorist attacks are committed by non-natives calling to mind the recent attacks in Berlin, Nice, Brussels and Bosforo Hotel in Istanbul. The historic 9/11 attacks on New York, USA was planned and executed by foreigners and in Nigeria also, we have heard of cross-border attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on communities in neighboring countries.
While combating threats caused by terrorist acts, one would, therefore, suggest that those who sponsor terror, aid and abet, instigate or provide terrorists with safe havens are denounced because only about two days ago a Boko Haram terrorist was reportedly caught in a lawmaker's house in one of Nigeria's desert cities in the northeast, the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency. I insist with all the emphasis at my command, we must condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever and for whatever purpose in order to remove the threat of untimely death that hangs over our heads like the ancient sword of Damocles.
Without money, one can not achieve anything. It has again, become highly imperative to block terrorists' access to finance and other resources. This is one of the major weapons which if effectively put in check will make potential terrorist 'fly an ordinary pitch'', if one may borrow a hackneyed quotation from Shakespeare.
All hands must also be on deck by enhancing efforts for accessing and sharing intelligence information not only to disrupt but to prevent terrorists' activities, the Nigeria intelligent agency - the Department of State services (DSS) - reportedly foiled an ill-conceived plan to carry out a terror attack in the US recently. Months ago, Italy's intelligence agency also provided Norway with an intelligence information that equally foiled a planned attack. The mastermind of Berlin Christmas terrorist attack was tracked down and killed in Milan, Italy during a crossfire with the police. No country has the monopoly of knowledge, hence this requires the cooperation of all countries.
On the global scene, to combat this lingering menace to make the world safe for us all, the world needs to ensure that an effective and comprehensive approach to reducing long-term threat of violent extremism is adopted, promote initiatives under the auspices of the United Nations, inter alia on Alliance of Civilization initiative for this would pave a way for understanding among civilizations.
All in all, Nigeria has benefited immensely from intelligence and information sharing with her West African neighbors which also stood toe-to-toe with the Boko Haram insurgents. These countries namely Chad, Cameroon and Republic of Niger have also suffered attacks on their territories which have resulted in a monumental loss of human lives and property in their respective domains.
It is, therefore, the writer's candid advice that global ratification and effective implementation of all relevant conventions on counter-terrorism operations be religiously adopted in order to battle potential terrorists to a standstill. All I crave, I dare say, is a world without weapons and violence.
*Iyoha John Darlington, a social activist, political analyst and public commentator on national and global issues wrote from Turin, Italy.
. Iyoha John Darlington
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.