english news

Atlanta spa shootings: Georgia man pleads guilty

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A Georgia man charged with shooting dead eight people in three Atlanta-area spas in March has pleaded guilty to murdering four of the victims. Robert Aaron Long made the plea as part of an agreement with state prosecutors. They have recommended a sentence of four life terms without parole. However, they are seeking the death penalty for Long, 22, if he is convicted on the other four counts. Six of the victims of the attack on 16 March were women of Asian descent. Mr Long has said his attack was not racially motivated.Police say Mr Long shot and killed four people – three women and a man – at Young’s Asian Massage near Woodstock, in Cherokee County. The police say he then drove to Atlanta, in Fulton County, where he shot dead three women at the Gold Spa and another woman at the Aromatherapy Spa. Mr Long pleaded guilty to murdering four people during his court appearance on Tuesday in Canton, Cherokee County.(BBC)…[+]

Sweden charges man over 1988 Iran prison massacre

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Prosecutors in Sweden have charged an Iranian with war crimes over the mass execution of prisoners in 1988. The suspect was not named but has been widely identified as Hamid Nouri, 60. In 1988, Iran was at war with Iraq. Iran’s supreme leader ordered the mass execution of prisoners linked to an armed opposition group allied to Iraq. The suspect was working in a prison near the Iranian capital Tehran, prosecutors say. His lawyer told news agencies he denied the charges. Human rights groups have long campaigned for justice over the executions across Iran, in which an estimated 5,000 people were killed. Prosecutors were able to invoke the principle of “universal jurisdiction” for serious crimes to bring the case. The killings have come under renewed focus following Ebrahim Raisi’s election as president of Iran last month.(BBC)…[+]

Capitol riot: Policeman tells 6 January hearing he feared he would die

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A police officer who defended the US Capitol during a riot by Donald Trump supporters on 6 January has said he feared he would be crushed by the mob. “This is how I’m going to die,” a tearful Aquilino Gonell told a Congressional committee as an inquiry opened into the Washington DC attack. Another officer, Harry Dunn, who is black, said he was racially abused. At least 535 rioters have been arrested since the attack that left five dead, including one police officer. Prosecutors have so far secured only a few convictions. The assault led to the political impeachment and acquittal of Republican Mr Trump, who was accused by lawmakers of inciting the riot – a claim he has repeatedly denied. The inquiry in the House Select committee is being conducted almost entirely by Democrats, after most Republicans boycotted the proceedings. However, two Republicans – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – have broken ranks to join the investigation. “If those responsible are not held accountable… this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic,” Ms Cheney said as the hearing began on Tuesday. The nine-member select committee was formed after Republicans objected to an independent commission such as the one that investigated the 11 September 2001 attacks.(BBC)…[+]

Assam-Mizoram clash: Why are Indian policemen firing at each other?

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At least five policemen in India have died after police from two states fired at each other. The unusual incident happened along the border between Assam and Mizoram states in north-eastern India. Officials from both sides, including chief ministers, have accused each other of provoking violence. The firing incident follows months of simmering tensions over a long-running border dispute between the two states. Assam shares a 164km (about 101 miles) border with Mizoram, and both states contest its demarcation. The two sides have often sparred over it, sometimes violently. But this was the first time police in the states had fired at each other in a direct confrontation. The officers killed in the attack were from Assam. The federal government has been trying to mediate a truce between the states since 1994 but has failed to achieve a breakthrough.(BBC)…[+]

Sri Lanka: World’s largest star sapphire cluster found in backyard

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Sri Lankan authorities say the world’s largest star sapphire cluster has been found in a backyard – by accident. A gem trader said the stone was found by workmen digging a well in his home in the gem-rich Ratnapura area. Experts say the stone, which is pale blue in colour, has an estimated value of up to $100 million in the international market. The cluster weighs around 510 kilograms or 2.5 million carats and has been named the “Serendipity Sapphire”. “The person who was digging the well alerted us about some rare stones. Later we stumbled upon this huge specimen,” Mr Gamage, the owner of the stone, told the BBC. He did not want to give his full name or location for security reasons.(BBC)…[+]

Vatican’s Cardinal Becciu on trial in $412m fraud case

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A Roman Catholic cardinal who was once a close ally of Pope Francis has gone on trial in the Vatican, accused of misusing Church funds in a ruinous London property venture. Cardinal Angelo Becciu, 73, is the most senior cleric in modern times to face trial for alleged financial crimes. He is charged with spending €350m (£299m; $412m) of church money on a botched deal to buy a property in Chelsea that incurred huge losses. He denies wrongdoing. Cardinal Becciu was sacked by the Pope in September, as reports of financial misdeeds emerged. A two-year investigation exposed how the Vatican lost millions of euros, including donations from worshippers, after buying a former Harrods warehouse in Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, in 2014. The cardinal was formerly in charge of donations at the secretariat which handles Vatican funds.(BBC)…[+]

Nigerian outrage at brazen bandit attacks

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Nigerians refer to them as bandits – a word that does not quite do justice to what are in fact networks of sophisticated criminals who operate across large swathes of northern-western and central Nigeria. Gangs on motorbikes terrorise the region, stealing animals, kidnapping for ransom, killing anyone who dares confront them and taxing farmers – it’s a huge money-making operation. Over the last four years the security forces have not been able to get a handle on the situation, which millions of Nigerians feel is out of control. Last week President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Dutsinma-to-Tsaskiya road in his home state of Katsina but few people dare travel on it after countless attacks.(BBC)…[+]

Unesco adds Madrid’s Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park to heritage list

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One of Europe’s most famous streets, the tree-lined Paseo del Prado in the Spanish capital Madrid, has been added to the Unesco World Heritage list – along with the adjoining Retiro Park. The UN’s cultural organisation said it was in recognition of the key roles both had played in the city’s history. Paseo del Prado is home to several prestigious buildings, among them the Prado Museum. Unesco described the locations as a landscape of arts and sciences. It said the Paseo featured several prominent structures including squares with historic marble sculptures and fountains such as the Plaza de Cibeles, which it described as “an iconic symbol of the city”.(BBC)…[+]

Afghanistan: Record civilian casualties in 2021, UN reports

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Afghan civilians were killed or injured at record levels in the first half of this year as violence escalated, the UN says. A new report says Afghanistan recorded more than 1,600 civilian deaths so far in 2021. That’s a 47% rise compared with this time last year. And the UN warns the number of deaths could rise still further. Government forces have been fighting Taliban insurgents, who now control large parts of the country. Most international forces have withdrawn after a mission lasting nearly 20 years. Casualties in May and June rose to their highest for this period since the UN began recording the numbers in 2009. According to the UN report, anti-government forces were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties. Pro-government forces accounted for 25%, and 11% are blamed on crossfire. Of all casualties, 32% were children. Peace talks between the two sides are moving slowly. Deborah Lyons, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan, urged both sides to “take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory”. “The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed,” she said in the UN release.(BBC)…[+]

Indonesia: Covid-positive man boards flight disguised as wife

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A Covid-positive Indonesian man who disguised himself as his wife to board a domestic flight was caught mid-air. The man, who has only been identified by his initials, DW, wore a full-face veil known as a niqab to board. He was also carrying his wife’s passport and her negative Covid test result. He may never have been caught if he had not changed into his regular clothes midway through the flight, causing a stewardess to raise the alarm. Most airlines have restricted travel during the Eidh al-Adha holiday which began on 19 July. Police told reporters that the man was detained after the plane landed and was tested immediately. Upon discovering he was positive for the virus, he was ordered to self-isolate at home.(BBC)…[+]