Articles by "Asia"

At least 29 people have been killed and over 50 others wounded after a powerful blast hit a bank in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
The Thursday blast targeted the New Kabul Bank branch, where members of Afghan security forces had gathered to collect their pay.
Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the fatalities include members of the police and army, civilians and staff of the bank.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a similar incident last month, at least three people lost their lives and more than 30 others sustained injuries in the eastern city of Gardez, the capital of Paktia Province.
Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since the United States and its allies invaded the country in 2001. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.
During the past 16 years, the Taliban militants have been conducting attacks across the country, killing, wounding, and displacing civilians.
The Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has also more recently managed to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Daesh militants are now launching attacks of their own on Afghan soil.

This US Navy photo shows an F/A-18E Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 20, 2016. (Via AFP)
Australia has resumed aerial missions over Syria two days after it suspended them amid rising tensions between a US-led coalition and the Russian military in the Arab country.
Australia’s Defense Ministry made the announcement on Thursday, saying the suspension had been “a precautionary measure to allow the coalition to assess the operational risk,” adding that, “The suspension has since been lifted.”
Australian Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin said a day earlier that the flights had been temporarily halted while officials examined what he described as a “complex piece of airspace” over Syria.
On June 18, a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Sukhoi SU-22 aircraft, which was conducting an operation against Daesh on the outskirts of Syria’s northern city of Raqqah.
The downing of the Syrian warplane triggered Russia to threaten that it would treat all coalition flights west of the Euphrates River in Syria as potential “targets” and track them with missile systems. Russia also suspended a military hotline that had been set up to avoid accidental military confrontations between Russia and the coalition forces.
Australia suspended its airstrikes as part of the US-led coalition as those tensions mounted.
There are six Australian aircraft serving with the coalition, which has been leading dozens of US allies in Syria since 2014 in a declared mission to hit Daesh.
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be the positions of Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The coalition been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.
Russia has been carrying out an aerial bombardment campaign in Syria on a request from Damascus.

Kashmiri protesters clash with Indian government forces in downtown Srinagar, Kashmir, June 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Indian forces have killed three militants and an anti-government Kashmiri protester in separate incidents in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region, officials say.
According to army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia, Indian troops engaged in a nightlong gun battle with the three gunmen, who had been holed up in a house in the cordoned-off southern Kakpora Village, on Thursday.
The army soldiers reportedly also used explosives to target the house and set it ablaze, as hundreds of residents, in defiance of a security lockdown enforced around the village, gathered in the area and clashed with troops in an unsuccessful bid to help the trapped militants escape.
After security forces recovered the charred bodies of the trio and the news of the development spread in the area, thousands of people convened in Kakpora to say funeral prayers for the three.
Furthermore, thousands of other protesters, who had also heard the news, filled the streets in the neighboring town of Awantipora, where they blocked a major highway linking the volatile Kashmir Valley with India, while shouting “Go India, go back!” and “We want freedom.”
Security forces then engaged in violent clashes with the stone-throwing protesters in Awantipora, killing a man and wounding at least five others.
S. P. Vaid, the director general of police for the territory, confirmed the killing.
The development came just a day after Indian troops shot dead two suspected militants in a gun battle in northern Sopore area of Kashmir.
Tensions are high in the Indian-administrated Kashmir region, where the Muslim-majority population stages regular protests against Indian rule and demands autonomy from New Delhi.
India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks on Indian forces. Pakistan strongly denies the allegations.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. Despite a ceasefire agreement that was reached in November 2003, sporadic skirmishes continue in Kashmir.
New Delhi has deployed some 500,000 soldiers to the disputed region to further boost the security of the borderline and enforce a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrations in its share of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiments are high.

Indian students take part in a yoga session on the International Yoga Day in Chennai, India, June 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Yoga practitioners have taken a relaxing break to bend, twist, and pose for the annual event celebrating the practice, especially in the country where it began.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined 50,000 students and other residents for a mass yoga session in the pouring rain in the northern city of Lucknow. Similar yoga displays were organized in villages, towns, and cities across India.
"Many countries which do not know our language, tradition, or culture are now connecting to India through yoga," Modi said in an address to the crowd.
"Yoga connects body, mind, and soul. It is playing a big role in bringing the world together too," he said after performing various poses.
The United Nations designated International Yoga Day in 2014. In Myanmar, people performed exercises near the Shwedagon pagoda, the landmark Buddhist stupa in Yangon.
The practice began in ancient India, and Modi has described yoga as free health insurance and exhorted people to make it a part of their daily lives.
Modi, dressed in white, instructed the children at the outdoor yoga session at Rama Bai Ambedkar Ground. Occasionally, he paused to correct a child's posture.
"It was a very nice gesture of prime minister to come out of the dry comfort of his waterproof tent and do yoga with us in the open. It was not easy. The yoga mat was wet and slippery and water puddles were all around," the 18-year-old student Neha Prakash said.
In the western city of Ahmedabad, 125,000 led by celebrity yoga guru Baba Ramdev gathered at an open-air ground to try to set a new Guinness World record for the largest session.
Police in New Delhi closed roads to make room for a mass yoga session held amid tight security in the heart of the capital.
Modi, who credits his strict yoga regime for his ability to work long hours on little sleep, has been spearheading an initiative to reclaim the practice as a historic part of Indian culture since his Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he greets yoga practitioners during a mass yoga session to mark the third International Yoga Day at Ramabhai Ambedkar Sabha Sthal, in Lucknow, June 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
He has set up a ministry dedicated to promoting yoga and other traditional practices and persuaded the United Nations to create a dedicated International Yoga Day, a move seen as a triumph of soft power.
Indian scholars believe yoga dates back 5,000 years, based on archaeological evidence of poses found inscribed on stones and references to Yogic teachings in the ancient Hindu scriptures of the Vedas.
On Wednesday the UN headquarters in New York lit up with images of poses, among the events being held across more than 100 countries to mark the third International Yoga Day.
From China's Great Wall to the London Eye, yoga enthusiasts performed 'asanas', or poses, at major landmarks.
Across India, schoolchildren, soldiers, politicians, and bureaucrats bent and twisted their bodies on colorful mats at mass outdoor sessions.
Television footage showed Indian soldiers performing yoga in their military overalls in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, at a height of 5,500 meters.
Vishnudeo Vishwakarma, a retired former Air India employee, said he began every day with a 5 am yoga session.
"If you buy a machine and don't operate it... after one year, the machine will not run. Your body is like that," the 66-year-old told AFP in Delhi. "Your joints and muscles will be stuck up."

Members of the Philippine police special action force ride in an army truck on their way to the frontline in Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao, June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Gunmen have raided and taken hostages at a school in a town in the southern Philippines, according to police and officials.
Early on Wednesday, Chief Inspector Realan Mamon said the militants had entered the school in the town of Pigcawayan and taken a number of students hostage.
According to a police report, some 300 armed men, among them members of at least one group affiliated to Daesh, have entered the school.
“We can confirm that they occupied a school and there were civilians trapped. We are in the process of determining how many were trapped and their identities,” Mamon said.
The military is engaged in a gun battle with the militants.
Pigcawayan is located in the North Cotabato Province and is located some 120 kilometers south of Marawi City, where terrorist groups allied to Daesh have been engaged in clashes with the Philippines' military for over a month.
Pigcawayan Mayor Eliseo Garcesa said officials were still seeking information whether any casualties had occurred.
The developments comes a day after the Philippine military intensified its offensive against the militants in Marawi City.
“We are aiming to clear Marawi by the end of Ramadan,” said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, explaining, however, that that was not a strict deadline.
Philippine troops are fighting for a fifth week to dislodge at least 200 militants holed up in Marawi since last month. As of Tuesday, some 258 militants, 65 security forces and 26 civilians had been killed in the city, according to the military.
An estimated 500 to 1,000 civilians are trapped in the city, some of them are being used as human shields.

A Pakistan army soldier stands guard in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber near the Torkham border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Photo by AP)
Pakistan will soon begin the construction of a fence across its porous border with Afghanistan in order to improve security.
The Pakistani army said in a statement on Tuesday that the first phase of fencing would focus on the northwestern tribal regions of Bajur, Mohmand and Khyber.
The military said new forts and border posts would be built in order to improve surveillance and defense.
Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal region along the border with Afghanistan is regarded by authorities as an area prone to cross-border infiltration.
Pakistan says its recent move to fence the crossings is aimed at curtailing the movement of militants and stopping them from entering the country.
Both countries have long pledged to improve security in the region and go after militant groups based in the rugged and mountainous border areas. But the exact location of the border has long been disputed by Kabul.
The Pakistani military has dismissed Afghanistan's criticism of the fencing plan, saying the activity is being performed well inside the Pakistani territory.
Last year, Pakistan started building a barrier at the main border crossing in the northwestern town of Torkham. The move irked the government in Kabul.
This photo taken on February 9, 2017 shows a Pakistani soldier standing guard at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan at the Torkham Border Post in Pakistan. (Photo by AFP)
The two countries are in a dispute over the demarcation of the border, which is a key battleground in the fight against the Taliban.
Islamabad recognizes the Durand Line, the 1896 British-mandated border between the two neighbors, but Kabul says activity by either side along the line must be approved by both countries.
Successive governments in Afghanistan have never recognized the British-drawn colonial era border line with Pakistan.
An Afghan border police stands guard at the Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan on February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly accuse each other of sheltering their enemy insurgents. Both sides, however, deny such an allegation.
Kabul blames elements inside the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for supporting the Taliban militants, while Islamabad blames the Afghan government for giving refuge to militants on its side of the border. The two sides also accuse one another of not doing enough to stop militants engaging in cross-border raids.
On June 6, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of instigating an “undeclared war of aggression” against his country after a series of deadly bombings in the capital Kabul.
In February, Islamabad decided to close the Torkham and Chaman borders with Afghanistan following a wave of deadly attacks across various parts of Pakistan.
In addition, the Afghan-Pakistani border has been tense in recent months.
Dozens of people have been killed in a series of cross-border clashes between the Pakistani and Afghan forces over the past months.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures while delivering a speech during a visit to an evacuation center for Marawi residents, in Iligan on the southern island of Mindanao, June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologized Tuesday for a military offensive that has left the nation's main Muslim city in ruins, but said it was needed to crush militants linked to the Daesh group.
Duterte also vowed that US-backed air strikes on Marawi would continue, as the conflict entered its fifth week with no sign of an end and its reported death toll climbed towards 370.
"I am very, very, very sorry that this happened to us. I hope that soon you will find it in your heart to forgive my soldiers and government and even me," Duterte said in a speech at an evacuation center near Marawi for people who have fled the fighting.
The fighting has seen Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, turn from a bustling trading center into one resembling war-torn cities in Iraq or Syria.
It began when hundreds of militants waving black Daesh flags rampaged through Marawi on May 23, torching buildings and taking Christian hostages.
Duterte immediately imposed martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, home to 20 million people, saying the assault was the start of a Daesh bid to establish a caliphate there.
The military deployed planes and attack helicopters to blast enemy positions, using American surveillance and intelligence assets, despite the risk to civilians and even their own soldiers.
The bombing has seen entire districts destroyed but the gunmen have remained holed up in pockets of Marawi, sheltering in bomb-proof basements and moving through tunnels, according to the military.
A bomb explodes after being dropped on a hideout occupied by the Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Marawi, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, June 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Hundreds of civilians are still believed to be trapped in the militant-controlled areas, according to local authorities and aid workers.
Duterte said his ground troops would lose the battle if they fought without the air support.
"The military said if we don't use them (bombs), we would be dragged even deeper into this. We will be finished off," he said.
"If we won't use them, our soldiers will all be killed."
A few hours before Duterte spoke, Philippine OV-10 Bronco planes were seen making diving attacks on Marawi, followed by deafening explosions.
Sixty-two soldiers have died in the conflict, including 10 killed in a "friendly fire" bombing, according to authorities.
They have reported three policemen and 26 civilians also dying in the conflict, with 19 residents dying of disease in displacement camps.
The government has reported 258 militants being killed, including a Chechen, a Libyan, Malaysians and other foreigners.

This US Air Force handout photo, taken on August 9, 2015, shows F-16 Fighting Falcons sitting on the tarmac at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they are deployed to support coalition operations in Syria and Iraq. (Via AFP)
Australia has suspended its cooperation with a United States-led coalition in Syria out of apparent concern that the US’s recent downing of a Syrian fighter jet may escalate the situation in the Arab country to its disadvantage.
“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” an ADF spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday.
No reason was given for the suspension, but The Australian newspaper said it was implemented as a precaution after the Syrian jet’s downing.
“ADF personnel are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria and a decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” the spokeswoman added.
There are six Australian aircraft serving with the coalition, which has been leading dozens of US allies in Syria since 2014 in a declared mission to hit Daesh.
On Sunday, a US warplane hit a Syrian Su-22 with a missile.
The US claimed that it had targeted the plane “in collective self-defense of coalition-partnered forces” in Syria’s Tabqa.
A Syrian Sukhoi SU-17 drops bombs over the militant-held parts of the Jobar district, on the eastern outskirts of the capital, Damascus, March 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The pilot of the targeted plane, however, survived the incident by parachuting out of his aircraft in time.
A day later, the Defense Ministry in Russia, an ally of Damascus, threatened to treat coalition aircraft potentially flying in areas west of the Euphrates River, which are controlled by Russia “as air targets.” Russia has been conducting an aerial bombardment campaign against terrorist positions in Syria on a request by Damascus.
The Pentagon responded by saying, “We will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened.”
Moscow also suspended a hotline intended to avoid aerial collisions.
That escalation of tensions between the US and Russia seems to be the reason why Australia has temporarily backed off of aerial missions over Syria.
The US struck a Syrian airfield hosting Russian forces back in April. While Washington had given Moscow an advance notice of the strike, Moscow was angered, saying that the offensive had moved the two sides within inches of direct conflict.
Trail of civilian deaths
Coalition aircraft have, time and again, stricken civilian targets in Syria, as well.
On Tuesday, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported that on Monday night, coalition warplanes had hit Tal al-Shair District in the northeastern province of al-Hasakah, killing 12 members of one family.
Hasakah borders Iraq. The US strike came as the Syrian troops are closing in on Takfiri targets near the common border.
Situation in Dara’a
In a separate development, it was reported that the Syrian air force had resumed its strikes against terrorist positions close to the southwestern city of Dara’a.
The Syrian military had announced a two-day ceasefire in the city in support of national reconciliation efforts meant to secure civilian lives and give an opportunity to foreign-sponsored militants to lay down their arms.

In this photograph, taken on June 16, 2017, Afghan security forces patrol during an operation against Daesh terrorists in the Tora Bora village of Pachir Aw Agam district in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. (By AFP)

Unidentified gunmen have attacked Afghan troops working at the largest US military base in Afghanistan, killing eight.
The attack occurred near the Bagram Airbase in Shah Kah Village on Monday night, also injuring two Afghan forces. The
The incident reportedly took place when a group of troops were on their way to work, Tolo News reported.
The Taliban militant group has claimed responsibility for the assault.
On Sunday, Taliban militants staged a deadly two-phase attack on a police headquarters in Gardez City, the capital of Paktia Province. Two police officers were killed and five others were wounded in that attack.
Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since the United States and its allies invaded the country in 2001. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.
During the past 16 years, the Taliban militants have been conducting attacks across the country, killing, wounding, and displacing civilians.
In addition, the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, which is mainly active in Syria and Iraq, has more recently managed to take recruits from Afghan Taliban defectors. Daesh militants are now launching attacks of their own on Afghan soil.

This May 15, 2017, photo shows crew members onboard a Chinese Navy frigate along the strait near Changi Naval Base in Singapore. (Photo by AFP)
A fleet of Chinese military vessels have embarked on a journey toward the Baltic Sea to participate in joint drills with Russia.
AFP quoting Chinese state media as saying on Monday that three ships, headed by the Changsha destroyer, steamed toward Russia’s coasts at the Baltic Sea to link up with Russian vessels for drills near St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad in late July.
The fleet would include Chinese marines and ship-borne helicopters, according to Xinhua news agency.
China and Russia have been holding military exercises dubbed “Joint Sea” since 2012. The two have taken turns in hosting the drills, which many say are meant to counter the United States’ expanding naval activities in waters surrounding them.
The war games will take place at a sensitive political time, as US President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit NATO ally Poland, a country on the Baltic Sea, on July 5-6 ahead of his participation in the G20 summit in Germany.
Russia has been irked by NATO’s growing inclination to expand eastward while the Western military alliance has also increased its buildup along Russia’s western borders after a conflict erupted in Ukraine three years ago. Trump’s way of handling NATO and his criticism of European partners about their financial contribution to the alliance have raised questions about the extent of US president’s commitment to future NATO missions. Many expect Trump to revise his position during the visit to Poland next month.
Xinhua said this year’s edition of the joint drills with Russia would "improve coordination between the two navies on joint defense operations at sea.”
It added that the main objective was “to consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries.”
Russia joined Chinese ships in previous year’s drills in the South China Sea, a disputed vital trade route where other countries of the region challenge China’s construction of artificial islands.

Members of the Philippine army patrol in a speedboat across a lake near the frontline in Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao, June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have launched a joint maritime operation against Daesh-linked militants holed up in a southern Philippine city.
An ongoing battle between the Daesh-linked Maute group and Philippines’ military in Marawi City in the Philippines has sparked concern in Malaysia and Indonesia that it might force the group members to flee the area and attempt to get into neighboring countries.
The Southeast Asian neighbors’ defense ministers and military chiefs agreed on Monday in the Indonesian city of Tarakan to intensify their efforts in the fight against the Daesh-linked Takfiri extremist militants by launching the “trilateral coordinated maritime patrol.”
The meeting of the three neighbors followed up on an earlier agreement in May 2016 to conduct joint patrols and share intelligence, after a series of kidnaps of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf Takfiri terrorists, who are based mainly on the southernmost Philippine islands and who beheaded several victims after ransoms were not paid.
The three countries agreed on Monday to set up coordinated maritime command centers in Tarakan for Indonesia, Tawau for Malaysia, and Bongao for the Philippines and collect information and arrange patrols from these locations.
They also agreed to establish designated sea lanes for boats and ships in the seas along the countries’ borders to prevent the Daesh-aligned militants in the southern Philippines from fleeing to neighboring countries.
The recent agreement came amid recent clashes in Marawi, which have raised fears that the mainly Middle East-based Daesh militant group is seeking to extend its reach into Southeast Asia.
“The militants might flee the Philippines and be forced to cross the border into Indonesia,” Tarakan Air Force base chief Colonel Didik Krisyanto said on Sunday.
This image, taken on June 18, 2017, shows an Indonesian delegation arriving at Tarakan Air Base in North Kalimantan to take part in a “trilateral coordinated maritime patrol.”
Fighting has been going on for weeks between Philippine government forces and gunmen flying the black flags of Daesh.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Indonesia, as well, Daesh has a confirmed presence and Indonesian officials say the group has created terror sleeper cells in the country.
Radical militants have launched several terrorist attacks in the country over the past years. The latest incident were two bombing attacks at a bus station in eastern Jakarta on May 24, which killed three police officers. The attacks were claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has been suffering increasing losses in Iraq and Syria, losing the territory it had occupied overrun in the two Arab countries.

Motorcyclists ride their vehicles past the Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Four foreign inmates escaped early Monday from a prison on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, police said.
Prison officers became aware of the escape while conducting a morning check of inmates at the Kerobokan penitentiary in Bali's capital, Denpasar, said Putu Ika Prabawa, an officer at Bali's Kuta Utara police station.
Prabawa said the four men were believed to have escaped through a 50-by-70-centimeter hole found in a wall that connects to a 15-meter-long water tunnel heading toward a main street.
He identified the four as Shaun Edward Davidson, 33, of Australia; Dimitar Nikolov Iliev, 43, of Bulgaria; Sayed Mohammed Said, 31, of India; and Tee Koko King bin Tee Kim Sai, 50, of Malaysia.
Davidson was serving a one-year sentence for an immigration offense, while Iliev was serving a seven-year sentence for money laundering and another offense. Said and King were serving 14 and seven years, respectively, for drug offenses.
A local journalist inspects the exit hole of a tunnel dug by escapees by the perimeter wall of the Kerobokan prison in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Prabawa said police have distributed pictures of the inmates who have escaped to police stations across Bali.
Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons that are struggling to cope with poor funding and an influx of people arrested in a war on drugs. Most prisoners have been convicted on drug charges.
Last week, dozens of inmates escaped from an overcrowded prison in western Indonesia after floods caused a wall to collapse.
Last month, more than 440 prisoners escaped from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra Island when they were let out of their cells to take part in Friday Muslim prayers.
In July 2013, about 240 prisoners, including several convicted terrorists, escaped during a deadly riot at a prison in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra Province.

Thai soldiers are investigating the site of a bomb explosion in the southern city of Pattani, Thailand, April 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Six soldiers in Thailand have been killed and four others wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in a southern province.
The explosion occurred as the soldiers were on a routine patrol in the violence-plagued Pattani Province on Monday, according to district police chief Pruk Liangsukwho.
“It is likely the work of violent groups in the area because this area is a red area,” Pruk said. “We are still checking the scene.”
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.
Thailand’s southern provinces have been the scene of bomb attacks and drive-by shootings on an almost daily basis.
Three provinces, namely Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, have faced militancy since 2004. According to Deep South Watch, which monitors the conflict, more than 6,800 people have so far lost their lives in the violence.
Militants fighting for greater autonomy often target perceived collaborators with the Thai government. Muslims and Buddhist civilians have fallen victim to their shooting or bomb attacks.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a ceremony marking the decommissioning of the country’s first nuclear reactor, the Kori-1, in Seoul, South Korea, June 19, 2017.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in says his country will build no more nuclear reactors, as part of his plans to lower the country’s reliance on nuclear power.
Moon said on Monday that his country would move away from nuclear energy and would not seek to extend the life of the existing nuclear plants, either.
He made the remarks while speaking at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country’s first nuclear reactor, the Kori-1.
“We will dump our atomic-centric power supply and open the door to the post-nuclear era,” said the president. “I will scrap all preparations to build new reactors currently underway and will not extend lifespan of current reactors.”
Moon, during his presidential campaign, had vowed to try to eventually shut down all nuclear power plants across the country, although doing so would likely take decades.
He further warned of “unimaginable consequences” in case of a nuclear meltdown since many reactors are located dangerously close to residential areas in the country.
“South Korea is not safe from the risk of earthquake, and a nuclear accident caused by a quake can have such a devastating impact,” Moon added.
That was precisely what happened in Japan in 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown in a nuclear plant and the leakage of radioactive material.
The South Korean president has ordered the temporary closure of several aged thermal power plants. He has also vowed to permanently shut down 10 aged coal power plants during his five-year term.
The plan, which is welcomed by environmental groups, however, has raised concerns among others that it could lead to a rise in electricity prices and power shortages.
South Korea, one of the world’s largest nuclear electricity producers, currently operates 25 nuclear reactors, many of which will see their life spans expire between 2020 and 2030. The reactors generate about 30 percent of the country’s total power supply.

The file photo shows an area outside the United Nations General Assembly Building, New York.
North Korea says the US authorities have "literally mugged" its diplomatic delegation in New York, as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang soar.
"Diplomats of a sovereign state are being robbed of a diplomatic package in the middle of New York where the headquarters of the United Nations is located and that serves as the venue for international meetings including the United Nations General Assembly," the state-run KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday.
He added that the "illegal and heinous act of provocation" occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday as the delegation was returning from a UN conference on the rights of the disabled, officially known as the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“This clearly shows that the US is a felonious and lawless gangster state,” he said, adding that the international community should seriously question the prestige of New York as a place where international meetings are held.
According to the KCNA report on the incident, over 20 officials, who claimed to be with the US Department of Homeland Security and police, "made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the diplomats." It added that the delegation was in possession of valid diplomatic courrier certificate.
The White House and the US State Department had issued no immediate comment on the North's statement.
Pyongyang warned that if the White House failed to give due response to the North's "reasonable and fair demand" on the incident, it would be "totally responsible" for all the consequences.
North Korea's statement came amid the latest tensions between the two archenemies, which occurred following Pyongyang's release of American student Otto Warmbier, whose parents said he was in a coma after being held by the Far East Asian country for the past 17 months.
Over the past weeks, Washington and Pyongyang have also traded a barrage of military threats. Washington says it is concerned by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang, defying successive UN sanctions and international pressure, says it will continue to strengthen its military capability to protect itself from the threat posed by the presence of US forces in the region.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.

Myanmar's navy vessels take part in a search and rescue operation near San Hlan village in Dawei, northern part of Myanmar, June 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
A Myanmar ship has retrieved the black box of a plane that crashed into the Andaman Sea with 122 people on board, the army says, raising hopes of discovering the cause of the tragedy.
The military aircraft plunged into the sea during a routine flight from the southern city of Myeik to Yangon on June 7.
Most of its passengers were the wives and children of servicemen.
Navy vessels and fishing trawlers have so far recovered 92 bodies plus some pieces of plane debris from off the coast of the southern town of Dawei.
Last week a fishing boat snagged a piece of the Shaanxi Y8's tail.
On Sunday Myanmar's army chief said the black box, which consists of a digital flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder, had been brought aboard a military vessel.
Myanmar's military chief senior-general Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a crash donations ceremony for the victims of the crash of Myanmar military transport plane Y8 in Naypyidaw on June 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
"The part of the tail of the Y-8 plane, which included the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder, was successfully put on a ship in the afternoon," the office of the army chief said in a Facebook post, alongside photos of the bright orange recording units.
"After finding that part of the plane, we are now in the process of finding out why the plane crash happened," the statement added.
It did not say how long it might take to decipher the black box data, a process that can take days or even weeks.
There has been no official explanation for the cause of the crash.
The Chinese-made aircraft was less than two years old and had only flown some 800 hours, according to the military.
Experts say black boxes explain the causes of nearly 90 percent of plane crashes.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) arrives to meet Afghan families who fled the conflict at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says there is no military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan that is displacing record numbers of people as the United States mulls sending more troops to the war-torn country.
Guterres made the remarks during an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Wednesday.
Afghanistan is still suffering from insecurity and violence years after the United States and its allies invaded the country in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The military invasion removed the Taliban from power, but militancy continues to this day.
During his visit to a makeshift camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) on the outskirts of Kabul that accommodates families who fled the fighting, Guterres said the Afghan conflict could only be solved by ending the war.
"Obviously, peace is the solution for their problem, and the international community, the neighboring countries, all those that are related to the Afghan crisis, need to come together to understand that this is a war that has no military solution, that we need to have a political solution,” he said.
The crisis for refugees and internally displaced people forced international bodies such as the UN to call for emergency funding.
Afghan children watch the visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (not shown) at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) on the outskirts of Kabul on June 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Referring to the suffering of the displaced people, the UN chief said, "We need to increase the level of humanitarian assistance and we need to create all conditions for them to be able to live in dignity."
The news comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump is planning to deploy thousands more troops to the war-torn country. The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops.
Washington has admitted to its failure in the years-long war in the Asian country.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis acknowledged on Tuesday that the United States was “not winning” in the war in Afghanistan.
Facing tough questions from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, the Pentagon chief admitted that the US forces were not performing well in Afghanistan.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” said Mattis. “We will correct this as soon as possible.”

This general view shows dwellings under mud after a landslide in Rangamati, Bangladesh, June 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
At least 147 people have been killed in Bangladesh and neighboring regions of northeast India after heavy rains triggered a series of landslides and flooded swaths of land over the past two days, officials say.
The densely-populated Bangladesh is battered by storms, floods, and landslides every rainy season. The latest casualties come weeks after Cyclone Mora killed at least seven people and damaged tens of thousands of homes in the country’s southeast.
Landslides hit three hilly districts in Bangladesh’s southeast early on Tuesday, killing 98 people in Rangamati, 32 in Chittagong, and six in Bandarban, said Reaz Ahmed, the head of the department of disaster management.
Many people are still missing and the death toll could rise further as rescuers search for bodies, Ahmed told Reuters. The death toll included four soldiers who were trapped by a landslide after they joined the rescue operation in Rangamati, he said.
Bangladeshi firefighters search for bodies after a landslide in Rangamati, June 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Shah Kamal, the secretary of Bangladesh’s disaster ministry, said there had been no rain on Wednesday and rescue operations were in full swing.
“It is a great relief. Some areas in the district are still cut off but people are being moved through navy boats,” he told Reuters by telephone from Rangamati.
At least 11 people were killed in the Indian states of Mizoram and Assam, which border Bangladesh, as incessant rains flooded major cities.
Mizoram authorities had recovered nine bodies and around seven people were still missing, the state’s urban development and poverty alleviation minister said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said in a statement the country was ready to support Bangladesh with search and rescue efforts if needed.
Two Bangladesh government officials said however that outside help might not be needed.

A view of a refugee camp on Manus Island (file photo)

The Australian government has reached a settlement of around 90 million Australian dollars ($68 million) with more than 1,900 asylum seekers, who had sued Canberra over their treatment at an immigration camp in Papua New Guinea, a minister and lawyers say.
Australia refuses to resettle asylum seekers who arrive by boat and pays the impoverished Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru to keep hundreds of them from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
A trial by 1,905 asylum seekers currently or formerly kept at camp at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea was to begin Wednesday in the Victoria state Supreme Court and was scheduled to take six months. The asylum seekers were seeking damages for alleged physical and psychological injuries they say they suffered as a result of the conditions on Manus Island, as well as for false imprisonment following a Papua New Guinea court ruling that their detention was unconstitutional.
The camps on Manus and Nauru were once detention centers, but asylum seekers are now allowed outside the fences.
Their lawyer David Curtain told the court they reached a settlement with the Australian government and the operators of the male-only Manus Island camp, G4S Australia and Broadspectrum.
The government and operators deny liability as part of the settlement and agreed to pay AU$70 million plus the cost of three years of legal work behind the case, asylum seeker lawyer Rory Walsh said.
Walsh said he did not know how much the government would pay.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he expected the asylum seekers' costs would add another AU$20 million to the government's bill.
"An anticipated six-month legal battle for this case would have cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees alone with an unknown outcome," Dutton said in a statement. "In such circumstances, a settlement was considered a prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers."
Asylum seeker lawyer Andrew Baker said the money would be distributed according to how long asylum seekers had spent on Manus and what they had endured.

In this file photo, men shave, brush their teeth and prepare for the day at a refugee camp on the Island of Nauru. (Photo by AP)

"This settlement is an important step toward recognizing the extremely hostile conditions the detainees endured at Manus Island," Baker said.
He said "no amount of money will be able to fully recognize the terrible conditions these detainees have had to endure."
Baker said Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati was killed and another 69 asylum seekers injured during a riot in the Manus camp in 2014 involving staff, police and Manus locals. Another two asylum seekers had died from medical complications and at least one of those would have survived with appropriate and timely treatment, Baker said.
The United States is considering resettling up to 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru under a deal struck between Australia and President Barack Obama's administration.
The Manus camp was scheduled to close by October, Baker said.

The undated photo shows a number of cellphones seized in Thailand.
Three Chinese men arrested in Thailand have acknowledged that they were operating a "click farm," using hundreds of cellphones and several hundred thousand SIM cards to run up "likes" and views on WeChat, a Chinese social media mobile application, Thai police said Tuesday.
Immigration Police Capt. Itthikorn Atthanark said the men explained they were paid according to how many likes and views they generated, each earning 100,000-150,000 baht ($2,950-$4,400) per month. Click farms are hired to inflate an online site's viewership for prestige and profit.
Some politicians boast of how many followers they have on social media, while clicks can generate ad revenue.
WeChat is China's most prominent online social media platform, incorporating a text-messaging service as well as marketing for online stores.
Police seized 476 cellphones and around 347,200 SIM cards during the arrests Sunday at a house in Sa Kaeo province, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of Bangkok. The men, identified as Wang Dong, Niu Bang and Ni Wenjin, were charged with working without a permit and importing the phones without paying taxes.
Thai police arrest three Chinese men for illegal activities at a "click farm" by using 347,000 cell phones, June 11, 2017.
Itthikorn said the arrests followed a police stakeout at the Sa Kaeo house after receiving reports of suspicious activity. He said a police search Monday at another residence believed to be engaged in the same activity came up empty-handed, though police believe others connected with the business are still at large.
It is still unclear how the men obtained such as large number of SIM cards, which came from Thailand's three biggest cellphone service providers.


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