Information round to clock

    • Tuesday 22 May
    • Security fears keep kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls at home

      - 13h46

      Hundreds of girls have refused to return to their school in northeast Nigeria because of security fears following a mass kidnapping by Boko Haram jihadists, parents and teachers said on Tuesday.

      Jihadists stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing 111 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

      All but six of the Dapchi girls were returned to the school just over a month later. Five died in captivity while the only Christian among them is still being held.

    • Friday 18 May
    • Pregnancy of southern white rhino at US zoo could save subspecies

      - 11h23

      A southern white rhino at a California zoo has been impregnated through artificial insemination, researchers announced on Thursday, in what could prove a major step in saving a nearly extinct close relative.

      The rhino called Victoria was inseminated in March at the San Diego Zoo and the embryo will continue developing for about 14 months, meaning that the calf would be born in summer 2019.

      “The pregnancy, created through artificial insemination with sperm from a male southern white rhino, is an important milestone in the ongoing work to develop the scientific knowledge required to genetically recover the northern white rhino, a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino,” officials at the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research said in a statement.

      “Only two northern white rhinos currently remain on Earth (unfortunately both are female),” the statement added.

    • Ecuador to withdraw ‘additional security’ at London embassy

      - 11h21

      Ecuador announced Thursday it would withdraw additional security measures at its London embassy after an investigation found it plunged $5 million into a spy operation to protect WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

      The move, ordered by President Lenin Moreno, came after The Guardian newspaper and Focus Ecuador revealed the previous administration of Rafael Correa funded the operation that involved monitoring Assange’s visitors, embassy personnel and the British police.

      In March, Ecuador cut off Assange’s ability to communicate with the outside world after he broke a 2017 promise to not interfere in other countries’ affairs while in the mission.

      Assange, 46, sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

    • Controversial cull strengthened Super Rugby, says Stormers coach

      - 11h20

      Super Rugby’s controversial axing of three teams has left the southern hemisphere league much stronger and more competitive, Western Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said on Friday.

      Fleck refused to comment on speculation that other South African teams would follow the Cheetahs and Southern Kings, both cut last year, to Europe’s PRO14.

      But he said the move to slim Super Rugby from 18 teams to 15, which also involved the acrimonious exit of Australia’s Western Force, had improved the level of competition.

      “With those two South African sides and the one Australian side exiting, it’s made the competition tougher,” said Fleck, ahead of Saturday’s game against Japan’s Sunwolves in Hong Kong.

    • France freezes company assets over Syria chemical weapons

      - 11h10

      France on Friday froze the assets for six months of companies based in Syria, Lebanon and China after they were linked to an alleged chemical weapons programme in Syria.

      The businesses include Sigmatec and the Al Mahrous Group, both based in Damascus; Technolab in Lebanon; and a trading company in Guangzhou in China, according to a list published in the government’s official gazette.

      Two Syrian nationals will also face asset freezes, as well as a person born in Lebanon in 1977 whose nationality was not given.

      The asset freezes were signed by French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire.

      In a statement, Le Maire and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the individuals and businesses were working for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre, widely known by its French initials CERS.

    • Nigeria: Agencies under-remitted $22.7bn to government account

      - 10h49

      The National Economic Council (NEC) has confirmed that the country’s revenue generating agencies under-remitted $22.78 billion to the federation account between 2010 and 2015,Gov. Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State said in Abuja on Thursday after the meeting of the NEC, which was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber of the presidential villa, Abuja.

      He said the affected agencies, which included the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and 15 others were exposed, following the presentation of the report of the technical audit of the agencies to the NEC by KPMG.

      Dankwambo said that NEC’s Ad hoc Committee, which he chaired with members, including the governors of Edo, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and the Finance Minister had recommended the refund of the amounts under-paid.

      According to the governor, NEC has agreed to extend the audit to June 2017.

    • Thursday 17 May
    • Nigerian Army kills 15 Boko Haram fighters, rescues 49 civilians

      - 11h49

      The Nigerian army has said that 15 Boko Haram fighters were killed by the military and 49 women and children were rescued in Borno State.The Deputy Director Public Relations of the Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said on Wednesday that the incidents took place in separate encounters between Boko Haram and the troops in the Southern Lake Chad Basin.

      Nwachukwu said a statement issued in Maiduguri that some of the insurgents were killed in the Lake Chad Island, while others were neutralised in villages in Northern Borno on Tuesday.

      “Troops dislodged the insurgents from their hideout after a fierce battle, killing 11 insurgents in Gomaran village of Southern Lake Chad Basin,” he said.

    • Chinese private firm launches first space rocket

      - 11h47

      A suborbital rocket was launched into space Thursday by a start-up in China’s burgeoning commercial aeronautics industry, as private firms snap at the heels of their dominant American rivals.

      OneSpace, the Beijing-based start-up behind the launch, is one of dozens of Chinese firms jostling for a slice of the global space industry, estimated to be worth about $339 billion by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and currently dominated by US firms SpaceX and Blue Origin.

      Its nine-meter (30-foot) “Chongqing Liangjiang Star” rocket took off from an undisclosed test field in China’s northwest and reached an altitude of 273 kilometres (170 miles) before falling back to Earth, the company said in a statement.

    • Tear gas as French police launch new assault on protest camp

      - 11h47

      More than 1,500 French riot police launched Thursday a second operation to clear anti-capitalist protesters who have been squatting on the site of a planned new airport for a decade.

      An initial operation last month to clear the demonstrators from Notre-Dames-des-Landes in western France prompted days of furious clashes between the two sides in clouds of tear gas.

      The government had vowed to clear the rural camp, which activists bill as a utopian leftist farming community, after scrapping plans for the airport in January.

    • Ghana collaborates with neighbours to fight cross-border crimes

      - 11h45

      Ghana’s Ministry of National Security is currently collaborating with its security counterparts in Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso to fight cross-border crimes.The exercise code-named “Operation Kondanlgou 2018”, is aimed at checking criminal activities and help provide security for the various countries involved in the programme, especially for Ghanaian citizens.

      A Technical Director at the Ministry of National Security, Mr. Ben Dere, who briefed the media in Accra on Wednesday, said the exercise would help to minimse child trafficking, armed robbery and smuggling, which are the major forms of cross-border crimes.

    • Tuesday 15 May
    • Heavy fighting as Taliban attack western Afghan city

      - 14h22

      Afghan aircraft Tuesday bombed Taliban positions in the western city of Farah after the insurgents launched a major attempt to capture the provincial capital, with fearful residents seeking shelter from explosions and gunfire.

      The attack — the first major assault targeting a city since the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive — began around midnight, with the militants capturing one urban district and parts of another, said local provincial council member Jamila Amini.

      “Heavy fighting continues inside the city and aircraft have just started bombarding Taliban positions,” she told AFP Tuesday from inside Farah.

      Afghan officials said police special forces from Kandahar and commandos from Herat had also been deployed.

    • WFP chief urges North Korea to grant more access

      - 14h21

      North Korea needs to allow more access and monitoring for international aid, the head of the UN’s World Food Programme said Tuesday following a four-day visit to the country.

      The WFP is one of the few aid agencies operating in the isolated country, which suffered a famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people — estimates range into the millions — in the mid-1990s.

      But raising money for humanitarian aid in North Korea has become more challenging as Pyongyang has poured resources into its nuclear and missile programmes rather than feeding its people, and been hit with multiple rounds of UN sanctions as a result.

      David Beasley, the WFP chief, said Pyongyang was granting wider access than ever before, with his organisation able to carry out 1,800 site visits last year, but it needed to allow more.

    • Iran, EU meet to try to save nuclear deal

      - 14h19

      Iran’s foreign minister began talks in Brussels Tuesday on the final leg of a global tour rallying diplomatic support for the country’s nuclear deal after the abrupt withdrawal by the United States.

      Mohammad Javad Zarif met the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ahead of talks with counterparts from Britain, France and Germany — the three European signatories to the landmark deal who are scrabbling to preserve it.

      Tehran has warned it is preparing to resume “industrial-scale” uranium enrichment “without any restrictions” unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the US reimposing sanctions.

      The EU insists the deal is working, pointing to repeated UN inspections verifying the Islamic republic’s compliance with its side of the bargain, and Mogherini’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told AFP ahead Zarif’s arrival that “we must do our utmost to preserve it”.

    • Burundi to hold referendum to extend Nkurunziza rule

      - 14h17

      Burundians on Thursday will vote in a referendum on sweeping constitutional reforms that would shore up the power of President Pierre Nkurunziza and enable him to rule until 2034.

      With opponents cowed, beaten, killed or living in exile, there seems little doubt the amendments will pass, enabling the 54-year-old — in power since 2005 — to remain in charge for another 16 years.

      The campaign period, like the preceding three years of unrest triggered by Nkurunziza’s controversial but ultimately successful run for a third term, has been marked by intimidation and abuse, say human rights groups.

    • Ghana fights malarial chemical resistance with new spray

      - 14h16

      Bismark Owusu moves food and bowls from a bedroom and covers clothes and furniture with a large sheet before mixing a mosquito-killing chemical with water in his spray pack.

      He then puts on head-to-toe safety gear, straps the pack to his back and methodically sprays the walls, windows and corners of the room.

      Owusu’s visit to Domeabra, a small community in the Obuasi area of the Ashanti region in central Ghana, is his latest stop in the country’s fight against malaria.

      The death of two of his friends from the disease spurs him on. “Why wouldn’t I help if others are dying? I am here today helping to eradicate this deadly malaria,” he told AFP.

    • Iran, EU meet to try to save nuclear deal

      - 14h13

      Iran’s foreign minister began talks in Brussels Tuesday on the final leg of a global tour rallying diplomatic support for the country’s nuclear deal after the abrupt withdrawal by the United States.

      Mohammad Javad Zarif met the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini ahead of talks with counterparts from Britain, France and Germany — the three European signatories to the landmark deal who are scrabbling to preserve it.

      Tehran has warned it is preparing to resume “industrial-scale” uranium enrichment “without any restrictions” unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite the US reimposing sanctions.

    • Monday 14 May
    • Education key to ending inequality in S/Africa – Ramaphosa

      - 10h02

      Education remains the most effective tool in bridging the chasm of inequality in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said.The president was speaking at the weekend’s graduation ceremony held at the University of Mpumalanga in Mbombela as the first Chancellor of the varsity.

      “It is through education that we can realise the goal of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society,” Ramaphosa said.

      He added: “Our society still bears the scars of its divided past. It is through education that we can give full expression to the rights enshrined in our Constitution.”

      He said from the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle of black South Africans for equal and quality education “was indistinguishable from the struggle for freedom.”

      When other terrains of struggle were shut down, schools and universities in this country became centres of resistance and defiance, he told the graduates.

    • African rookies Kampala desperate to topple giants Ahly

      - 10h01

      Rookies Kampala Capital City Authority of Uganda and record eight-time winners Al Ahly of Egypt will be equally desperate for CAF Champions League matchday 2 points when they clash Tuesday.

      Both clubs began their Group A campaigns disappointingly with Ahly held 0-0 at home by Esperance of Tunisia and Kampala losing 1-0 away to Township Rollers of Botswana.

      “This is a very important match for us and it will not be easy, but we hope to win,” Ahly coach Hossam el Badry told reporters when the African giants arrived in the Ugandan capital.

    • North Korean delegation visits China: reports

      - 09h59

      A North Korean delegation arrived in Beijing on Monday, Japanese media said, as the two allies step up diplomatic contacts ahead of a landmark meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

      Japanese broadcaster NHK showed images of officials leaving the VIP area of the Chinese capital’s airport.

      The broadcaster said later the group had arrived at the Diaoyutai government guest house although the identity of the visitors was not immediately known.

    • Anti-establishment parties close to power-sharing deal in Italy

      - 09h58

      A deeply eurosceptic far-right party and an anti-establishment group that rages against Italy’s ruling elite were on the verge of forming a coalition government in the eurozone’s third largest economy on Monday, dealing a blow to mainstream European political parties across the continent.

      The leaders of the anti-immigrant League party and rebellious Five Star Movement were expected to meet the Italian president to share details of a government programme thrashed out over the weekend after months of grinding negotiations.

      Italy, one of six founding members of what became the European Union, has been in political deadlock since an inconclusive March 4 election, which was dominated by concerns over a struggling economy, the refugee crisis and illegal immigration.

    • Wednesday 09 May
    • UN chief says G5 Sahel force deploying too slowly

      - 10h43

      UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged West African countries to speed up deployment of a regional force fighting jihadists in the Sahel region, warning that insurgents were seeking to strengthen their foothold.

      Guterres said in a report to the Security Council that the G5 Sahel force should receive regular UN funding instead of contributions, reviving a debate with the United States over financial backing for the counter-terror operation.

      With strong support from France, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger last year agreed to set up the 5,000-strong force to operate alongside France’s own Operation Barkhane and the UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

      The Sahel force was projected to be fully up and running in March but that deadline was missed, mainly because of problems with training and equipment, the report said.

      “The security situation in the Sahel continues to deteriorate,” Guterres said, pointing to recent attacks in Ouagadougou, Timbuktu and ongoing raids on local security forces.

      Noting that “terrorist groups are attempting to gain influence and expand their presence,” Guterres said the “operationalization of the joint force is not progressing at the required speed.”


    • US charges former CIA agent with spying for China

      - 10h41

      The US Justice Department announced Tuesday it had indicted a former CIA operative for spying for China, in a case that could be tied to the dramatic collapse of the CIA’s China network eight years ago.

      Three years after he left the CIA in 2007, Jerry Chun Shing Lee took money from Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for information “relating to the national defense of the United States,” the Justice Department said.

      Lee, 53, a naturalized US citizen who was at the time resident in Hong Kong, was given information requests by the Chinese agents and hid the cash payments he received.

      He was arrested in January. According to a warrant made public at the time, FBI agents had discovered in Lee’s luggage, during a court-authorized search in 2012, notebooks with the names, contacts and other details on covert CIA employees and informants.

      In voluntary interviews with FBI agents in 2012, Lee, who spent 14 years at the CIA, admitted preparing a classified document for the Chinese agents.

    • China moves to rope in its tech ‘unicorns’

      - 10h40

      Having lost the likes of Alibaba and Baidu to Wall Street, China is hatching a plan to woo them back and make sure it keeps a new generation of technology titans closer to home as it battles the US for supremacy in the sector.

      New share offerings worth tens of billions of dollars are in the pipeline for 2018, setting it up as a blockbuster year with a number of so-called “unicorns” — tech start-ups valued at least $1 billion — lining up to cash in.

      China dominates the line-up of the world’s biggest unicorns expected to list, including mobile-payments pioneer Ant Financial — valued at an estimated $100 billion — as well as ride-sharing firm Didi Chuxing and online-services platform Meituan-Dianping, both put in the tens of billions.

      Strict rules essentially prevented the first wave from listing in mainland China, with Alibaba and Baidu instead opting for New York and Tencent heading to Hong Kong.

    • Toyota posts record full-year net profit but warns on outlook

      - 10h38

      Japanese car giant Toyota reported a record full-year net profit Wednesday thanks to a weaker yen and US tax cuts, but warned about the outlook for the next 12 months.

      The country’s top carmaker said net profit jumped 36.2 percent to 2.49 trillion yen ($23 billion) in April-March, but for the current year it expects that to fall 15 percent to 2.12 trillion yen.

      It said sales rose 6.5 percent to a record 29.3 trillion yen despite a 0.1 percent decline in vehicle sales by unit.

      Operating profit surged 20.3 percent, “mainly due to the effects of” a cheaper yen and “cost reduction efforts”, it said in a statement.

      Toyota officials have said the profits were also the result of other factors, including US tax cuts.

      “As for the future automotive market, developed countries are expected to remain steady while emerging countries are expected to expand gradually,” it said.

      It said the auto industry was facing a moment of “profound transformation” because of “increasing serious environmental issues and other social challenges, (and) technological innovation such as automated driving”.

    • S/Africa’s Cape Town appoints acting mayor

      - 10h37

      South Africa’s second city, Cape Town, has appointed its deputy executive mayor Ian Neilson to the post of acting executive mayor, replacing Patricia de Lille after nine years in power.Neilson on Tuesday said he was committed to serving the people of Cape Town, following the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) decision to dismiss De Lille from the party.

      This follows her public utterances that she was ready “to walk away from the DA” following political bickering in the party.

      “As acting executive mayor, I hold all the authority of the mayoral seat and I am committed to continuing to serve the residents of Cape Town with uninterrupted service delivery.

      “Having served as the executive deputy mayor for the past nine years, having been a city councillor for 22 years and having been involved in the leadership of numerous administrations, I am fully apprised of the needs of the city and those we serve,” Neilson said.

    • Tuesday 08 May
    • Japan’s Takeda to buy Shire in record $62.5 bn deal

      - 13h13

      Drug giant Takeda on Tuesday said it would buy Irish pharmaceuticals firm Shire in a deal worth $62.5 billion, in the biggest foreign takeover by a Japanese firm.

      The deal, which will create one of the world’s top 10 drugs companies, caps a lengthy courtship by Takeda of its larger rival as it seeks to expand overseas.

      Shire last month said its board would recommend the £46 billion bid “subject to satisfactory resolution of the other terms of the possible offer”.

      And on Tuesday, Takeda announced the boards of the two companies “have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended offer pursuant to which” the Japanese firm will buy Shire.

    • UN condemns deadly attack in Nigeria

      - 13h10

      As the death toll in the attacks on Birnin-Gwari village in Nigeria’s Kaduna State hits 71, the United Nations has strongly condemned the mayhem.The UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, on Tuesday described the attack as horrific.

      The town was attacked by gunmen on Saturday leaving 37 people dead but more bodies have been recovered in the bush, bringing the numbers of deaths to 71.

      The attackers hit local miners on Saturday in the area.

      Guterres, in a statement issued by his Spokesman, Mr. Stephane Dujarric, underscored the need to hold the perpetrators to account.

    • Nigeria, General Electric sign agreement on $45m rail project

      - 13h07

      Nigeria has signed $45 million interim phase agreement with General Electric (GE) for the concession of narrow gauge rail lines in the country.The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said in Abuja on Tuesday that the total money to be invested in the project was $2.7 billion after the whole agreement was concluded.

      According to him, the interim phase include the rehabilitation of the rail lines, the management of the transportation and Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) participation in commercial activities.

      “We came to conclusion on the narrow gauge, the interim phase of the narrow gauge to enable us begin the initial rehabilitation of the rail lines, so that we can commence commercial activities.

    • Monday 07 May
    • Britain to Trump: don’t ditch Iran nuclear deal

      - 11h52

      Britain has appealed to US President Donald Trump not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as a key deadline approaches, saying that while it is not perfect there is no better alternative.

      The call came in an op-ed piece in The New York Times that was signed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, ahead of a meeting with officials from the US administration in Washington on Monday.

      Trump has threatened to withdraw from the agreement when it comes up for renewal on May 12, demanding his country’s European allies “fix the terrible flaws” in it or he will re-impose sanctions on Iran that were eased under the historic accord.

      The nuclear deal was struck in 2015 among Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, then led by Barack Obama.

      Under the pact, sanctions were eased in return for a commitment from Iran not to pursue a nuclear bomb, but Iran says it is not reaping the rewards despite complying with the deal.

    • Second India teen raped, set on fire: police

      - 11h50

      A 17-year-old battled for her life Monday after being raped, doused in kerosene and set on fire, the second such case to shake India as it battles an increase in sexual crimes.

      The teenager was attacked on the same day and in the same eastern state of Jharkhand as a 16-year-old who was raped and burned to death.

      “The girl has suffered 70 percent first-degree burns. There is a chance that she will survive,” Shailendra Barnwal, police superintendent of Pakur district, told AFP.

      Police have arrested a 19-year-old man who lives in the same neighbourhood as the latest victim.

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