Amazon killers acted alone: Brazil police

One of the coffins containing human remains found during the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon forest, is taken to the Federal Police hangar in Brasilia on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2022

Amazon killers acted alone: Brazil police

  • "The investigations... suggest that the perpetrators acted alone," the Federal Police said in a statement
  • The investigations continue and there are indications of the participation of more people

ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil: Brazilian police said Friday the killers of British journalist Dom Phillips and his expert guide Bruno Pereira had acted on their own initiative and not as part of a criminal group — an assertion rejected by Indigenous leaders.
“The investigations... suggest that the perpetrators acted alone, without there being an intellectual author or criminal organization behind the crime,” the Federal Police said in a statement.
“The investigations continue and there are indications of the participation of more people” in the murders, it added.
Veteran correspondent Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing on June 5 in a remote part of the rainforest rife with illegal mining, fishing and logging, as well as drug trafficking.
Ten days later, on Wednesday, a suspect named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira — known as “Pelado” — took police to a place where he said he had buried bodies near the city of Atalaia do Norte, where the pair had been headed by boat.
Human remains unearthed from the site arrived in Brasilia on Thursday evening for identification by experts.
Police have said there was “a 99 percent probability” the remains belong to the missing men.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other leading international newspapers, was working on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon with Pereira as his guide.
Pereira, an expert at Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received multiple threats from loggers and miners with their eye on isolated Indigenous land.
The Univaja association of Indigenous peoples, which had taken part in the search for the missing men, on Friday refuted the police’s conclusion that the killers had acted alone.
“These are not just two killers, but an organized group that planned the crime in detail,” Univaja said in a statement.
It claimed authorities had ignored numerous complaints about the activities of criminal gangs in the area.
Univaja said it had filed a report in April to say that “Pelado” was involved in illegal fishing.
He had previously been accused, it said, of “being the perpetrator of gun attacks in 2018 and 2019 against a base of FUNAI,” the organization Pereira had worked for.
Univaja said that “a powerful criminal organization (had) tried at all costs to cover its tracks during the investigation” of the double murder.
Experts say illegal fishing of endangered species in the Javari Valley takes place under the control of drug traffickers who use the sale of fish to launder drug money.
On Thursday, the UN denounced a “brutal act of violence” as activists blamed the murders on President Jair Bolsonaro for allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon at the cost of environment and law and order.
UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said attacks and threats against activists and Indigenous people in Brazil were “persistent” and urged the government to step up protections.
Investigations continue to look into the motive for the crime.
Police have been unable to find the boat in which Phillips and Pereira were traveling when they were last seen.
Blood found in Oliveira’s boat belonged to a man, investigators said, but not to Phillips.
Analysis had also revealed that entrails found in the river during the search contained “no human DNA,” according to police.
On Monday, Bolsonaro had said that entrails were found floating in the river, in an interview in which he appeared to blame the missing men for undertaking a “reckless” trip in an area where Phillips was “disliked.”
“All signs indicate that if they were killed — and I hope that’s not the case — they’re in the water, and in the water there won’t be much left. I don’t know if there are piranhas in the Javari,” said the far-right president, whose government is accused of dragging its feet in the investigation.


North Korea launches more missiles as US redeploys carrier

Updated 12 sec ago

North Korea launches more missiles as US redeploys carrier

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters Thursday after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s previous launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan.
The latest missile launches suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is determined to continue with weapons tests aimed at boosting his nuclear arsenal in defiance of international sanctions. Many experts say Kim’s goal is to eventually win US recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and the lifting of those sanctions, though the international community has shown no sign of allowing that to happen.
The latest missiles were launched 22 minutes apart from the North’s capital region and landed between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The first missile flew 350 kilometers (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) on an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles).
The flight details were similar to Japanese assessments announced by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, who confirmed that the missiles didn’t reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
He added that the second missile was possibly launched on an “irregular” trajectory. It is a term that has been previously used to describe the flight characteristics of a North Korean weapon modeled after Russia’s Iskander missile, which travels at low altitudes and is designed to be maneuverable in flight to improve its chances of evading missile defenses.
South Korea’s military said it has boosted its surveillance posture and maintains readiness in close coordination with the United States. The US Indo Pacific Command said the launches didn’t pose an immediate threat to United States or its allies, but still highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was expected to hold a telephone call with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol over the North Korean threat later Thursday, said the North’s continued launches were “absolutely intolerable.”
Yoon’s office said his National Security Director Kim Sung-han discussed the launch at an emergency security meeting where members discussed plans to prepare for further North Korean hostilities, including military provocations.
The launches were North Korea’s sixth round of weapons tests in less than two weeks, adding to a record number of missile launches this year that has prompted condemnation from the United States and other countries. South Korean officials the North may up the ante soon by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile or conducting its first nuclear test explosion since 2017 and seventh overall, escalating an old pattern of heightening tensions before trying to wrest outside concessions.
On Tuesday, North Korea staged its most provocative weapons demonstration since 2017, firing an intermediate-range missile over Japan, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
Experts said the weapon was likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.
Other weapons tested earlier included Iskander-like missiles and other ballistic weapons designed to strike key targets in South Korea, including US military bases there.
Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters east of South Korea in what South Korea’s military called an attempt to demonstrate the allies’ “firm will” to counter North’s continued provocations and threats.
The carrier was in the area last week as part of drills between South Korea and the United States and the allies’ other training involving Japan. North Korea considers such US-led drills near the peninsula as an invasion rehearsal and views training involving a US carrier more provocative.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the redeployment of the Reagan strike group poses “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity.” The ministry said it strongly condemns US-led efforts at the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions on the North over its recent missile testing, which it described as a “just counteraction” to joint US-South Korean drills.
After the North’s intermediate-range missile launch, the United States and South Korea also carried out their own live-fire drills that have so far involved land-to-land ballistic missiles and precision-guided bombs dropped from fighter jets.
But one of the tit-for-tat launches nearly caused catastrophe early Wednesday when a malfunctioning South Korean Hyumoo-2 missile flipped shortly after liftoff and crashed into the ground at an air force base in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung. South Korea’s military said no one was hurt and civilian facilities weren’t affected.
After Tuesday’s North Korean launch, the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. But the session Wednesday ended with no consensus, underscoring a divide among the council’s permanent members that has deepened over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Russia and China during the meeting insisted to fellow Security Council members that US-led military exercises in the region had provoked North Korea into acting. The United States and its allies expressed concern that the the council’s inability to reach consensus on North Korea’s record number of missile launches this year was emboldening North Korea and undermining the authority of the United Nations’ most powerful body.
North Korea has fired nearly 40 ballistic missiles over more than 20 different launch events this year, using the stalled diplomacy with the United States and Russia’s war on Ukraine as a window to speed up arms development.


Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

Updated 05 October 2022

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

  • Kadyrov said Putin had "personally" informed him of the decision
  • "The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general," Kadyrov said on Telegram

MOSCOW: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday he was granted a top rank in Russia’s army, just as Moscow’s forces suffer a series of defeats in Ukraine.
The 46-year-old Chechen leader — one of the most outspoken voices in Russia backing Putin’s Ukraine offensive — said it was a “huge honor” for him.
Kadyrov, a former warlord who rules Chechnya with widespread violations of human rights, said Putin had “personally” informed him of the decision.
“The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general,” Kadyrov said on Telegram. “This is a promotion for me.”
The rank of colonel general is the third highest command rank in the Russian military hierarchy.
Kadyrov’s appointment to the rank came as the Ukrainian army pushed back Moscow’s forces in areas that the Kremlin proclaimed to be “Russian forever.”
The Chechen leader said he would do “everything to end the special military operation quickly” — using the Kremlin’s term for its Ukraine campaign.
Chechen units — including Kadyrov’s own militia with a sinister reputation, the “Kadyrovtsi” — are fighting alongside regular Russian forces in Ukraine.
Kadyrov has thrown his full backing behind Putin’s campaign, regularly calling for the most drastic tactics to be used in Ukraine.
This week he called on Moscow to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after Russian troops were forced to retreat from the town of Lyman.
He then said he was sending three of his teenage sons — aged 14,15 and 16 — to the front.


Bus plunges into gorge in northern India, killing at least 25

Updated 05 October 2022

Bus plunges into gorge in northern India, killing at least 25

  • Over 45 to 50 people, all part of a wedding party, were on bus— police 
  • Police say over 110,000 are killed each year in road accidents across India 

NEW DELHI: A bus in northern India plunged into a gorge, leaving at least 25 dead and over a dozen others injured, officials said. Police told the Press Trust of India news agency there were 45 to 50 people on board the bus, all of whom were part of a wedding party, when it fell Tuesday evening into a gorge in Pauri district in Uttarakhand state. State police and the disaster response force worked alongside locals to rescue 21 people Tuesday night at the site of the crash, police chief Ashok Kumar tweeted. Vijay Kumar Jogdande, a senior government officer, said they would be carrying out an investigation into the incident and will conduct postmortem examinations after retrieving the bodies from the site. Officials were seen clearing the area of bushes and trees to help with the rescue operation as they pulled up an injured person. Rescuers also retrieved a dead body using ropes before they were taken away on a stretcher. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all possible assistance will be given to those affected. “In this tragic hour my thoughts are with the bereaved families. I hope those who have been injured recover at the earliest,” he tweeted Wednesday. Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles. More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police.


Ten dead after Indian Himalayas avalanche hits climbers

Updated 05 October 2022

Ten dead after Indian Himalayas avalanche hits climbers

  • Several dozen climbing trainees caught in Tuesday's snowslide near summit of Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II
  • Indian air force and local disaster agency were assisting with rescue efforts before heavy snow and rainfall

New Delhi: Ten people are confirmed dead after an avalanche struck climbers in the Indian Himalayas, police said Wednesday, with 18 other members of the expedition still missing.

Several dozen climbing trainees were caught in Tuesday morning's snowslide near the summit of Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The Indian air force and local disaster agency were assisting with rescue efforts before heavy snow and rainfall forced them to abandon the search overnight.

"Rescue teams have recovered 10 bodies," the Uttarakhand state police force said on Twitter after operations resumed in the morning.

Fourteen people have so far been rescued from the site of the avalanche, around 4,900 metres (16,000 feet) above sea level, and police said five were being treated at a district hospital in Uttarkashi.

Police footage showed several rescued climbers arriving in the town and walking unassisted while escorted by officers.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami confirmed on Twitter that accomplished climber Savita Kanswal, who had summited Everest earlier this year, was among the dead.

Kanswal was an instructor with the expedition and had been feted by the climbing community for summiting the world's highest peak and nearby Makalu in just 16 days -- a women's record.

Dhami said the government would provide immediate financial assistance to those injured in the avalanche along with the families of victims.

State disaster agency spokesperson Ridhim Aggarwal told AFP that the climbers had been stuck in a crevasse after the avalanche hit.

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering said the expedition included 34 of its trainees, seven instructors and a nursing assistant.

Two air force helicopters had been sent to the region to assist with the search, senior disaster management official Devendra Singh Patwal told AFP.

Fatal climbing accidents are common on the treacherous terrain of the Himalayas, home to Everest and several of the world's highest peaks.

In August, the body of a mountaineer was recovered two months after he fell into a crevasse while crossing a glacier in the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh.

And last week, renowned US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson's body was found on the slopes of Nepal's Manaslu peak after she went missing skiing down the world's eighth-highest mountain.

On the day of Nelson's accident, an avalanche hit on the 8,163-metre (26,781-foot) mountain, killing Nepali climber Anup Rai and injuring a dozen others who were later rescued.

Although no substantial research has been done on the impacts of climate change on mountaineering risks in the Himalayas, climbers have reported crevasses widening, running water on previously snowy slopes, and the increasing formation of glacial lakes.


Taliban report mosque blast at government ministry in Kabul

Updated 05 October 2022

Taliban report mosque blast at government ministry in Kabul

  • Explosion takes place inside Interior Ministry’s mosque, no immediate casualties reported
  • Blast follows last week’s attack on education center in Kabul where 52 people were killed 

KABUL, Afghanistan: A blast struck a mosque at a government ministry building in Kabul Wednesday as workers and visitors were praying, a Taliban official said.
The afternoon explosion went off inside the mosque of the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security and law enforcement in the country.
A Taliban-appointed spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said in a tweet: “Unfortunately there was an explosion inside a(n) ancillary mosque where some Interior Ministry workers and visitors were praying. Will share the details later.”
He did not say if the mosque was inside the ministry or near it. There was no immediate information about casualties and no immediate claim of responsibility.
The mosque blast follows last week’s suicide bombing at an education center in Kabul that killed as many as 52 people, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press, more than twice the death toll acknowledged by Taliban officials.
The reason for the lower death toll provided by the Taliban was not immediately clear. In the past, they have at times been slow to confirm casualty figures in the aftermath of attacks.
Taliban security officials initially said 19 people had been killed at the Kaaj Higher Educational Center, then revised the death toll to 25 over the weekend.
However, The Associated Press spoke directly to relatives of 39 of those killed and obtained the names and other information about the remaining 13.