Explosions, gunshots heard at resort in Philippines capital

AFP

Gunfire was reported at a hotel and a casino resort in the Philippine capital on Friday, the operator of the complex said, and the militant Islamic State group (IS) quickly claimed responsibility.

“Resorts World Manila is currently on lockdown following reports of gunfire from unidentified men,” the company said on its Twitter account.

“The company is working closely with the Philippine National Police to ensure that all guests and employees are safe.”

IS said “lone wolf soldiers” from its group carried out the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors terrorist organisations.

Police confirmed there were reports of gunfire at Resorts World, which is across a road from one of the main terminals of the Philippines’ international airport.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities or injuries.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law last week across the southern region of Mindanao to crush what he said was a rising threat of Islamic State there.

He declared martial law shortly after militants went on a rampage through the southern city of Marawi, which is about 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of Manila.

Security forces are still battling the militants in Marawi, and the clashes there have left at least 171 people dead.

Duterte said last week he may need to declare martial law across the rest of the country if the terrorism threat spread.

DAWN.com

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Opposition disputes Turkey vote as EU urges probe

AFP

ANKARA: Turkey’s opposition on Tuesday demanded the annulment of a contentious referendum that approved sweeping constitutional changes boosting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, claiming blatant vote-rigging had swung the result.

The European Union also urged a probe into the poll fraud claims after international observers voiced concerns, but US President Donald Trump showed no such scruples, calling Erdogan to offer his congratulations.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy leader Bulent Tezcan formally requested that the Supreme Election Board (YSK) cancel the result.

The opposition is particularly incensed by a last-minute move by the YSK to accept ballot documents in envelopes without an official stamp. “This is was an election without legitimacy,” Tezcan said after delivering the complaint to YSK headquarters in Ankara, claiming there was an organised campaign to “steal” the people’s will. “There is only one thing to do … and that’s to annul the referendum,” he said.

CHP chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu also said the government and the YSK had “staged a coup against the national will” in a posting on Twitter. He said ‘No’ would have emerged victorious were it not for the YSK’s changes. “We won’t stop until we find justice,” he said.

The joint mission of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said the YSK move on the stamps “removed an important safeguard”. They also said the campaign — which saw the ‘Yes’ camp dominating the airwaves — was conducted on an “unlevel playing field”.

But Erdogan rebuked the OSCE mission, telling the monitors: “know your place”, and saying Turkey had no intention of paying any attention to the report.

EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas also called on the Turkish authorities “to launch transparent investigations into these alleged irregularities found by the observers”.

The final results are due to be published in around 10 days and it is in this period that the YSK will consider the objections. Then the opposition can appeal to the constitutional court.

In a blow to the president’s prestige, the ‘No’ campaign notched up the most votes in Turkey’s three biggest cities: Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Analysts have said the ‘No’ camp’s performance was impressive especially given that the election was held under a state of emergency first imposed after the failed July coup.

“Under the conditions of the emergency and despite the pressures, our country came out and took control of the future,” said CHP leader Kilicdaroglu.

The Hurriyet daily said a major cabinet reshuffle was now in the offing, with changes expected in some 10 cabinet posts.

Meanwhile, parliament agreed to extend the state of emergency — already in place for nine months — for another three months to July 19.

DAWN.com

Kabul suicide bombing kills five

AFP

KABUL: At least five people were killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber on foot struck near the Afghan defense ministry in Kabul, officials said, in an attack that was claimed by Daesh.

Three other people were left wounded in the explosion, which occurred during afternoon rush hour when employees of the ministry were likely to go home.

“Most of the people killed and wounded were civilians, but we don’t know the exact target,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

Daesh claimed the attack through its propaganda agency Amaq. It said the bomber had targeted a checkpoint outside the Afghan presidential palace.

Daesh has made inroads into Afghanistan in recent years.

But the group has been steadily losing territory in the face of heavy pressure from both US airstrikes and ground offensives led by Afghan forces.

Daesh’s strength has now depleted to 600-700 fighters from 3,000 in early 2016, NATO has said, adding that it killed the top 12 IS commanders in Afghanistan last year.

The militants also claimed a deadly assault on Afghanistan’s largest military hospital last month, but survivors who spoke to AFP said the attackers chanted “Long live Taliban” in Pashto.

Afghanistan is also bracing for a fierce Taliban offensive in the spring after the failure of repeated government attempts to launch peace negotiations.

Yahoo accused of mismanaging fund for dissidents in China

AFP

A lawsuit accused Yahoo of breaking a financial promise it made to Chinese dissidents almost a decade ago as penance for helping the Chinese government find and jail other activists.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in a Washington, D.C., federal court by a group of Chinese dissidents, contends that Yahoo mismanaged a $17 million fund set up to provide financial aid to activists.

Embroiled in China

Yahoo created the human rights fund in 2007, days after U.S. legislators roasted the company for providing authorities with information that led to the imprisonment of two Chinese dissidents, Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao.

The complaint alleges that Yahoo allowed Harry Wu, a now-deceased dissident from China, to spend about $13 million of the fund enriching himself and pursuing other projects tied to his interests.

Only $700,000 has been doled out to Chinese dissidents who had been imprisoned for expressing their opinions online, the reason Yahoo bankrolled the fund, according to the lawsuit.

Yahoo declined to comment.

The plaintiffs want Yahoo to replenish the fund and to pay unspecified damages. The suit arrives at a delicate time for Yahoo, which is preparing to sell its online operations to Verizon Communications for $4.5 billion.

Lectured by Congress

The unflattering portrait drawn in the lawsuit represents yet another blotch on Yahoo’s record in China. Yahoo’s role in fingering Wang and Shi subjected the Sunnyvale, California, company to withering criticism that culminated in Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang being grilled during a Congressional hearing.

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, told Yang.

Two days later, Yahoo announced the $17 million fund as part of a settlement that ended lawsuits related to its role in the imprisonment of Wang and Shi. “We are committed to making sure our actions match our values around the world,” Yahoo vowed in a November 2017 statement announcing the fund.

Alleged mismanagement

The new lawsuit argues Yahoo instead used the fund as “window dressing” to help shield the company from further ridicule and resolve other lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Yahoo turned a “blind eye” to Wu’s reckless spending, even though company executives had been warned about the abuses as far back as 2010, according to the complaint.

Among other things, the complaint alleges that Wu paid himself and his wife more than $1 million, spent about $4 million buying real estate in Washington and more than $800,000 on his own legal bills, including a case alleging sexual harassment.

Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps, died last year.

Dawn.com

Player injured in Borussia Dortmund bus blast: club

AFP

DORTMUND: Borussia Dortmund’s team bus was damaged and a player was injured following three explosions near the vehicle while it was on its way to Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to AS Monaco, police said.

The match, a quarter-final first leg, was called off and rescheduled for Wednesday.
“According to what is currently known, the windows of the bus were (entirely or partly) smashed and one person was injured,” Dortmund police said in a said.

The police said the incident happened in Hoechsten, located outside the city.
“It is not yet possible to say exactly what the explosion was or exactly where something exploded,” said the statement.

Dortmund said defender and Spanish international Marc Bartra had been taken to hospital.
“All of our support to @MarcBartra, @BVB and their fans,” Barcelona tweeted in support of their former player.

Police added: “Currently there is no evidence of a threat to the visitors at the stadium.

“Borussia Dortmund said in a statement: “Shortly after the departure of the Borussia Dortmund team bus from the hotel to the stadium there was an incident.

“The bus has been damaged in two places. One person has been injured and is in the hospital. At this point we will inform as soon as we know more.”

Dortmund later said in a tweet that the match would go ahead on Wednesday at 1645 GMT (1845 local time).