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FILE PHOTO - A protester stands in front of a banner depicting former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO – A protester stands in front of a banner depicting former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

April 20, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s public prosecutor has begun investigating ousted President Omar al-Bashir on charges of money laundering and the possession of large sums of money without legal grounds, a judicial source told Reuters on Saturday.

Bashir, who was ousted on April 11, was moved to a high-security prison in Khartoum from the presidential residence, family sources said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Ambulances transporting injured German tourists involved in a bus accident, arrive at a German Air Force medical airplane at Cristiano Ronaldo Airport in Funchal, on the island of Madeira
Ambulances transporting injured German tourists involved in a bus accident, arrive at a German Air Force medical airplane at Cristiano Ronaldo Airport in Funchal, on the island of Madeira, Portugal April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

April 20, 2019

CANICO, Portugal (Reuters) – An air force medical plane from Germany landed on the Portuguese island of Madeira on Saturday to take home the injured survivors of a bus crash that killed 29 German tourists earlier this week.

The bus veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico on Wednesday. The Portuguese driver and tour guide were among the 27 people hurt in the accident, which prosecutors are investigating.

Eleven of the injured Germans have already been discharged from hospital and 12 will be flown home on the medical plane on Saturday. Another was transferred to Germany on Friday and one will stay in hospital in Funchal, Madeira’s capital, a hospital spokesman said.

The driver and tour guide will also remain under observation in hospital, the spokesman added.

Images taken by Reuters photographers on Saturday showed some of the injured being carried inside the plane on stretchers.

The company that owned the bus said it was cooperating with authorities investigating the crash, which killed 17 women and 12 men. Many of them were pensioners, German newspaper Bild reported.

Autopsies and post-mortem examinations have been concluded, Portugal’s Justice Ministry said in a statement and authorities are waiting for data including fingerprints and dental records in order to confirm the victims’ identities.

(Reporting by Rafael Marchante and Miguel Pereira in Canico and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Editing by Helen Popper)

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Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the opening of the Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum in Riyadh
Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the opening of the Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 18, 2019. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS

April 20, 2019

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will host senior parliamentary officials from arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran on Saturday as Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi seeks to bolster his country’s nascent role as a mediator in the region.

Delegations including the heads of parliament from Turkey, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan will also attend the one-day conference in the Iraqi capital to discuss regional security, diplomacy and economic issues.

Abdul Mahdi recently returned from visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia, both oil-super-powers that have long been vying for dominance in the Middle East. It is unusual for Saudi and Iranian officials to attend the same events.

The premier has said Iraq will maintain strong ties with Iran, but also with the United States and regional neighbors, many of which, like Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran a foe.

Abdul Mahdi met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to Riyadh, his first official trip to the kingdom since taking office six months ago.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been at loggerheads since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but they have recently undertaken a diplomatic push to improve ties.

Abdul Mahdi’s visit to Riyadh came 10 days after he visited Iran. During his trip to Tehran, he met President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Many of Iraq’s leaders, from its Shi’ite majority, have close ties with Iran, the main Shi’ite power in the Middle East.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Raya Jalabi; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Helen Popper)

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Men carry injured people outside the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Kabul
Men carry injured people outside the building of Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Kabul, Afghanistan April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

April 20, 2019

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain

KABUL (Reuters) – An explosion hit the center of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday and unidentified attackers appeared to have entered a multi-storey building housing the communications ministry where they were battling security forces, officials said.

Gunfire could be clearly heard by witnesses in the city center, but the area around the site was cordoned off by security forces.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi confirmed there had been gunfire around the ministry of communications and information technology but provided no further details.

The attack followed several months of relative calm in Kabul, which coincided with talks between U.S. and Taliban officials aimed at opening the way for formal peace negotiations to end more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

One security official, who declined to be identified by name, said the initial blast appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomb at the entry to the ministry. There was no confirmation from Afghan police, and no militant group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

A witness quoted by the Tolo News television channel said attackers appeared to be fighting security forces on the first floor of the ministry headquarters.

The explosion, in one of the main commercial areas of the city, was also close to the heavily fortified Serena Hotel, one of the very few Kabul hotels still used by foreign visitors.

The attack, just days after a planned meeting between Taliban officials and Afghan politicians and civil society representatives in Qatar was canceled, underlined the hurdles facing efforts to reach a peace settlement.

While heavy fighting has carried on across Afghanistan and Taliban militants have announced their now customary spring offensive, there had been no large-scale attacks on civilian targets in Kabul in recent weeks.

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Rupam Jain, James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie and Kenneth Maxwell)

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Floating home is pictured in the Andaman Sea, off Phuket island
A floating home, lived in by an American man and his Thai partner, is pictured in the Andaman Sea, off Phuket island in Thailand, April 13, 2019. Picture taken April 13, 2019. Royal Thai Navy/Handout via REUTERS

April 20, 2019

By Panu Wongcha-um

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai navy on Saturday boarded the floating cabin of a fugitive U.S. bitcoin trader and his Thai girlfriend, both prominent members of the “seasteading” movement who possibly face the death sentence for setting up their offshore home.

Thai authorities have revoked the visa of American citizen Chad Elwartowski and have charged him and his partner, Supranee Thepdet, with violating Thai sovereignty by raising a small cabin on top of a weighted spar 14 nautical miles off the west-coast of Thai island of Phuket.

The cabin has been promoted as “the world’s first seastead” by the group Ocean Builders, part of a movement in tech and libertarian circles to build floating communities beyond the bounds of nations as a way to explore alternative societies and governments.

“I was free for a moment. Probably the freest person in the world,” Elwartowski posted on his Facebook on April 13, days before the Thai navy raided his floating home.

Elwartowski, 46, and Supranee, whose Facebook page describes her as a “Bitcoin expert, Trader, Chef, seastead Pioneer”, apparently fled after a surveillance plane flew over the cabin the previous day.

The Royal Thai Navy task force had planned on Saturday to seize the structure and tow it back to shore for use as evidence, but by the afternoon it was still studying how to move it without destroying it, the navy said.

In a video posted last month detailing the raising of the floating home, Elwartowski said 20 more similar houses would be up for sale to form a community.

Elwartowski and Ocean Builders say the spar was in international waters and beyond Thailand’s jurisdiction. Thai authorities say the structure is in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone and therefore a violation of its sovereignty.

A Thai navy task force was sent out on Saturday to tow in the structure which will be handed over to Phuket’s police to be kept as an exhibit for the legal action, the navy said in an official statement.

“EXCITED VOLUNTEERS”

The navy said they have evidence that the floating home was built in a private boatyard in Phuket and said the couple wanted to establish a “permanent settlement at sea beyond the sovereignty of nations by using a legal loophole”.

It said the action “reveals the intention of disobeying the laws of Thailand as a littoral state and could lead to a creation of a new state within Thailand’s territorial waters… undermining Thailand’s national security as well as economic and social interests of maritime nations.”

In an email reply to Reuters, Elwartowski referred all questions to the Seasteading Institute and pointed to online statements from the Ocean Builders website.

Elwartowski and Supranee are members of Ocean Builders, which has denied allegations that they were planning to set up an independent state or “micro nation”, according to its online statement.

The group said that the pair, both active bitcoin investors, did not build, invest in or design the floating home themselves but were “volunteers excited about the prospect of living free”, documenting their lives as “pioneer seasteaders” off the coast of Phuket.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok told Reuters that Elwartowski had engaged a lawyer and was being provided with appropriate assistance.

According to Ocean Builders, the concept of “seasteading” has been discussed for years but the cabin Elwartowski and Supranee lived on was the first attempt at living in what it described as international waters.

Other groups, such as the Seasteading Institute, which was originally backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, have sought to build floating cities with the cooperation of host nations.

(Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa and Panu Wongcha-um. Editing by Kay Johnson and Nick Macfie)

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National Security Advisor Bolton listens as U.S. President Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg at White House in Washington
National Security Advisor John Bolton adjusts his glasses as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 2, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

April 20, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has criticized U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s “nonsense” call for Pyongyang to show that it’s serious about giving up its nuclear weapons, the second time it has criticized a leading U.S. official in less than a week.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is open to a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but Bolton told Bloomberg News on Wednesday there first needed to be “a real indication from North Korea that they’ve made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons”.

“Bolton, national security adviser of the White House, in an interview with Bloomberg, showed above himself by saying such a nonsense,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told reporters when asked about his recent comments, the Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday.

“Bolton’s remarks make me wonder whether they sprang out of incomprehension of the intentions of the top leaders of the DPRK and the U.S. or whether he was just trying to talk with a certain sense of humor for his part, with its own deviation,” she said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

“All things considered, his word has no charm in it and he looks dim-sighted to me.”

The North Korean vice minister also warned that there would be no good if the United States continued “to throw away such remarks devoid of discretion and reason”.

North Korea said on Thursday it no longer wanted to deal with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and that he should be replaced in talks by someone more mature, hours after it announced its first weapons test since nuclear talks broke down.

(Reporting by Joori Roh, Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Journalist McKee poses for a portrait outside the Sunflower Pub in Belfast
Journalist Lyra McKee poses for a portrait outside the Sunflower Pub on Union Street in Belfast, Northern Ireland May 19, 2017. Jess Lowe Photography/Handout via REUTERS

April 20, 2019

BELFAST (Reuters) – Two men have been arrested in connection with the shooting dead of journalist Lyra McKee during a riot in Londonderry, the Police Service of Northern Ireland announced on Saturday.

“Major Investigation Team detectives have arrested two men, aged 18 and 19 under the Terrorism Act, in connection with the murder,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland said in a statement.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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People react next to police officers guarding a crime scene where unidentified assailants opened fire at a bar in Minatitlan
People react next to police officers guarding a crime scene where unidentified assailants opened fire at a bar in Minatitlan, in Veracruz state, Mexico, April 19, 2019. Picture taken April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Angel Hernandez

April 20, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Gunmen shot dead 13 people at a bar in the city of Minatitlan in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz, authorities said on Friday, in one of the worst slayings to hit Mexico since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office.

The unidentified assailants opened fire on Friday night after coming to look for a man at a bar in the southeast of Minatitlan, a spokesman for the government of Veracruz said.

Seven men, five women and a child died in the shooting, which occurred close to Minatitlan’s oil refinery, one of six run by state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Four other people were injured, the state government said in a statement.

The motive for the killings was unclear, the spokesman said.

The man the gunmen were seeking was identified as the owner of a bar in the city, the state government said. The attack took place during a family celebration.

It was not immediately clear if the man owned the bar where the attack occurred, nor whether he was present at the time.

Hugo Gutierrez, the head of public security in the state, said on Twitter that an operation had been launched to capture the people responsible for the killings.

The oil-rich state of Veracruz has been convulsed by gang violence and political corruption scandals for several years.

Lopez Obrador took office in December vowing to reduce violence in Mexico, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since the end of 2006 in brutal turf wars between drug cartels and their clashes with security forces.

After reaching record levels in 2018, murder rates have stayed high, surpassing previous-year levels in the first three months of the new government, official government data shows.

The president was due to visit Veracruz on Sunday, according to an official schedule published before the attack took place.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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FILE PHOTO - Australian Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten laughs during remarks at his election night party in Melbourne
FILE PHOTO – Australian Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten laughs during remarks at his election night party in Melbourne, July 2, 2016 on Australia’s federal election day. REUTERS/Jason Reed

April 20, 2019

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten gave himself 100 days to make sure that low-paid workers get more money for working overtime if he wins next month’s election.

Labor party leader Shorten, a former union organizer, said on Saturday he would reverse the decision by a tribunal to cut overtime pay in several low-paying industries within 100 days of the May 18 poll.

“Do we really want to go down the American path of workplace relations where a worker … to make ends meet has to rely on tips and charity and the coins and dollar notes left on the table after the guest has gone?” Shorten told supporters in Melbourne.

“That is not the Australian way.”

In 2017, the Fair Work Commission ruled that reductions in the so-called penalty rates for weekends, public holidays and late night or morning shifts in retail, hospitality, fast-food and pharmacy would be phased in gradually by 2020.

The commission, an independent tribunal that sets the minimum wage, ruled that the cuts would vary, depending on the industry.

Opinion polls have had Shorten’s center-left Labor party well ahead for years and show that the coalition of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberals and the rural-focused National party is headed for a resounding defeat.

A recent poll showed that support for Australia’s once-influential far-right One Nation party plummeted after a series of scandals, paving way for Morrison and Shorten to intensify their fight for the right-wing voter.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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A female soldier of the PLA Navy stand stands guard at a news conference in Qingdao
A female soldier of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy stands guard at a news conference ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, in Qingdao, China, April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

April 20, 2019

By Ben Blanchard

QINGDAO, China (Reuters) – China will show off new warships including nuclear submarines and destroyers at a parade next week marking 70 years since its navy’s founding, a senior commander said on Saturday, as Beijing flexes its increasingly well-equipped military muscle.

President Xi Jinping is overseeing a sweeping plan to refurbish the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by developing everything from stealth jets to aircraft carriers as China ramps up its presence in the South China Sea and around self-ruled Taiwan.

The navy has been a key beneficiary of the modernization plan as China looks to project power far from the country’s shores and protect its trading routes and citizens overseas.

Last month, Beijing unveiled a target of 7.5 percent rise in defense spending for this year, a slower rate than last year but still outpacing China’s economic growth target.

Deputy naval commander Qiu Yanpeng told reporters in the eastern city of Qingdao that Tuesday’s naval parade – likely to be overseen by Xi himself, though China has not confirmed that – will feature 32 vessels and 39 aircraft.

“The PLA Navy ship and aircraft to be revealed are the Liaoning aircraft carrier, new types of nuclear submarines, new types of destroyers, as well as fighter aircraft,” Qiu said, without giving details. “Some ships will be revealed for the first time.”

The Liaoning, the country’s first carrier, was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

It’s not clear if China’s second carrier, an as-yet unnamed ship developed and built purely in China, will also take part, but in the past few days state media has run stories praising recent sea trials.

Around a dozen foreign navies are also taking part. While Qiu did not give an exact number, China has announced the parade would include ships from Russia, Singapore, India, Thailand and Vietnam – which frequently complains of Chinese military activity in the disputed South China Sea.

China’s last naval battles were with the Vietnamese in the South China Sea, in 1974 and 1988, though these were relatively minor skirmishes.

Chinese navy ships have also participated in international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia’s coast since late 2008.

STRONG NAVY ‘ESSENTIAL’

Qiu reiterated China’s frequent stance that its armed forces are not a threat to anyone and that no matter what happens it will never “pursue hegemony”.

“It is fair to say that the PLA Navy has not brought war or turbulence to any place,” Qiu said.

But China has been scared by its past and needs good defenses at sea, he added.

“A strong navy is essential for building a strong maritime country,” Qiu said. “From 1840 to 1949, China was invaded by foreign powers from the sea more than 470 times, which caused untold suffering and deep wounds to the Chinese nation.”

China has frequently had to rebuff concerns about its military intentions, especially as military spending continues to scale new heights.

Beijing says it has nothing to hide, and has invited foreign media to cover next week’s naval parade and related activities, including a keynote speech by navy chief Shen Jinlong, who is close to Xi.

Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA’s Naval Research Academy, told reporters after Qiu had spoken that inviting foreign navies to take part in the parade was a sign of China’s openness and self-confidence, noting China had also done this for the 60th anniversary in 2009.

“New nuclear submarines and new warships will be shown – this further goes to show that China’s navy is open and transparent,” said Zhang.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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