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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the scene of a stabbing on London Bridge, in which two people were killed, in London.
Johnson pressured on jail terms after London Bridge attack
1 December 2019, 8:56 AM

The London Bridge attack pushed law and order towards the top of the British political agenda on Saturday, with days to go before a snap election, after police said the assailant had previously been convicted of terrorism offenses but freed early from prison.

Usman Khan, wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, went on the rampage at a conference on criminal rehabilitation beside London Bridge on Friday, killing two people. The 28-year old Briton was wrestled to the ground by bystanders then shot dead by police.

Police said on Saturday that Khan had been convicted in 2012 for his part in an al Qaeda-inspired plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange. He was released in December 2018 subject to conditions.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, criticised the government’s sentencing policies.

“There’s got to be a very full investigation,” said Corbyn who is seeking to depose Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the election on December 12, but trails in opinion polls.

“I think there is also a question about what the probation service were doing… and whether the parole board should have been involved in deciding whether or not he should have been allowed to be released from prison in the first place,” he said.

Earlier, Johnson said the attack was a terrorist act and vowed to end a practice whereby serious offenders can be automatically let out of prison early.

“I have long said that this system simply isn’t working,” he said after visiting the scene of the attack on Saturday.

Those convicted of a serious terrorism offense should face a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years, he said later.

Islamic State said the attack was carried out by one of its fighters and was in response to its calls to target countries that had been part of a coalition fighting the jihadist group, according to its Amaq news agency. The group did not provide any evidence for its assertion.

A man and a woman were killed in the attack, with local media naming one of the victims as Jack Merritt, a course coordinator for Learning Together, a prisoners’ rehabilitation program which held the conference at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Three people remain in hospital with two victims in a stable condition while a third person is suffering from less serious injuries, according to the National Health Service.

ECHOES OF 2017

Police said they were continuing their investigation by searching two addresses in the Staffordshire and Stoke areas of central England, with the country’s top counter-terrorism officer saying they were not looking for any other suspects.

“We have found no evidence to suggest anybody else was involved in this attack,” said Neil Basu. “Our investigative priority at this time is to ensure that there is no related outstanding threat to the public.”

London Bridge was the scene of an attack during the 2017 election when three militants drove a van into pedestrians and then attacked people in the surrounding area, killing eight people and injuring at least 48.

Islamic State said its fighters were responsible for that attack, but the British authorities have cast doubt on those claims. The 2017 attack focused attention on cuts to policing since the ruling Conservatives took power in 2010.

Friday’s attack prompted a pause in election campaigning, but scaled-back activities resumed on Saturday ahead of the election that could decide the fate of Brexit.

Five polls published late on Saturday showed the Conservatives ahead of Labour but with margins ranging from six to 15 points. Pollster BMG said it was possible no party wins a majority in the 650-seat parliament.

On Sunday, Corbyn will condemn foreign interventions such as the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 for stoking hatred, The Observer newspaper reported as security and law and order feature more prominently in the campaign.

US President Donald Trump, who is due to attend a NATO summit in London next week, spoke with Johnson on Saturday and expressed his condolences over the attack, the White House said in a statement.

Britain’s police and politicians were joined on Saturday by Queen Elizabeth in praising those who intervened to thwart the assailant.

“I express my enduring thanks to the police and emergency services, as well as the brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others,” she said.

Warner shines with triple-century as Pakistan crumble
30 November 2019, 4:43 PM

David Warner etched his name into cricket folklore with a majestic triple-century before Australian pace blasted through Pakistan’s batsmen to put the hosts in complete control of the second test at the end of day two on Saturday.

Seamer Mitchell Starc grabbed four wickets as Pakistan staggered to 96 for six at stumps in reply to Australia’s 589 for three declared in the day-night test at Adelaide Oval. Having lost the opener in Brisbane by an innings and five runs, Pakistan will hope rain forecast in coming days might help stave off an ignominious series whitewash.

Babar Azam was on 43, with tailender Yasir Shah on four, the pair facing an improbable rescue mission. Tim Paine’s declaration robbed Warner of the chance to push for Brian Lara’s world record of 400 but the left-handed opener joined exalted company after striding off unbeaten on 335, the 10th highest score in tests.

“At the moment I’m getting a little bit of luck, which is good,” said Warner. “But it’s just being disciplined. As I said yesterday, the last two weeks that I’ve played I’ve been very disciplined and I’m very happy with that.”

TRIPLE FIGURES

Among Australians, only opener Matthew Hayden’s 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003 sits higher in the records.

Facing 418 balls in more than nine hours at the crease, Warner became the seventh Australian to reach triple figures and only the third to score more than 250 twice, joining former captains Don Bradman and Michael Clarke.

The stocky 33-year-old pulled seamer Mohammad Abbas for four to reach the milestone, eclipsing Don Bradman’s unbeaten 299 against South Africa in 1932, the previous highest score at the ground. All this, eight months after completing a year-long suspension for ball-tampering that scandalised a nation and saw the former vice captain banned from leadership roles for life.

Having brought the crowd to their feet with his 200th run earlier in the day, Warner bowed before another standing ovation, after bounding down the pitch roaring and leaping twice in the air.

Warner hammered 154 in the innings and five run win in Brisbane and now has 489 runs for the series. Flaying legspinner Yasir Shah for a run-a-ball, the man nicknamed “Bull” plundered 39 fours and a six from a dispirited Pakistan attack. However, for the second test in succession, he was reprieved by a no-ball from a debutant paceman.

WARNER MAGIC

In Brisbane it was 16-year-old Naseem Shah who overstepped when Warner tickled a catch behind the wicket when on 56.

At Adelaide, 19-year-old Muhammed Musa was similarly culpable when he had Warner caught in the slips when on 226. Warner’s magic test continued in the field when he took a sharp catch at third slip to remove opener Imam-ul-Haq, who was out for two edging Starc.

On a day of tumbling records, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne combined for 361 runs, the highest second-wicket partnership in tests in Australia.

Steve Smith notched his 7,000th run in his knock of 36, becoming the fastest player to reach the milestone in tests. Pakistan’s Shaheen Afridi took all three of Australia’s wickets, including bowling Labuschagne for 162.

Fatal attacks on Congo clinics risk resurgence of Ebola epidemic
30 November 2019, 4:32 PM

International organizations warned on Friday of a potential resurgence of Ebola in Congo after deadly militia attacks on health centers forced aid groups to suspend operations and withdraw staff from the epidemic’s last strongholds.

Mai Mai militia fighters killed four people and injured several others at two Ebola centers on Thursday in the worst yet of violence hampering efforts to tame the outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The world’s second biggest Ebola epidemic on record has killed over 2,200 people since mid-2018, but new infections slowed in recent months.

“Ebola was retreating and now it is likely to resurge,” World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a news briefing in Geneva. WHO has relocated 173 staff while the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF has evacuated 20 staff.

After Thursday’s fatal raids on health centers in Mangina and Byakoto, a screening center was also attacked overnight in the town of Oicha, Congolese health authorities said.

Mai Mai fighters and local residents have attacked health facilities sometimes because they believe Ebola does not exist and in other cases because of resentment that they have not benefited from the influx of donor funding.

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) halted operations in the towns of Mangina, Beni and Butembo.

“We’ve had to put all Ebola activities on hold in high-risk areas,” said Corrie Butler, spokeswoman for the IFRC in Congo, saying the attacks had been in areas with most Ebola cases.

At least 1,500 Red Cross staff and volunteers are involved in Ebola work in east Congo, she said, most in areas where activities are now suspended due to violence.

The World Food Programme (WFP), another U.N. agency which provides food to those around infected people and at risk of Ebola, said its activities had also been interrupted due to insecurity.

Congolese health authorities said they had evacuated 13 staff and other transfers were underway.

The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) charity said activities at its treatment centers in Mambasa and Katwa towns were not suspended but it was monitoring the security situation closely.

Thursday’s attacks followed raids on communities by suspected Islamist rebels believed to have killed at least 100 people in the past month, according to U.N. figures.

At least four people also died this week during protests at the perceived failure of the army and U.N. peacekeepers to protect civilians from the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Flowers are laid down for the victims at the scene of a stabbing on London Bridge, in which two people were killed, in London, Britain, November 30, 2019.
London attacker could prompt recriminalisations
30 November 2019, 2:16 PM

The 28-year-old British man who killed two people in a stabbing spree on London Bridge before police shot him dead had been released from prison after a previous conviction for terrorism offences, prompting recriminations ahead of an election.

Wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, Usman Khan went on the rampage on Friday afternoon at a conference on criminal rehabilitation beside London Bridge. He was wrestled to the ground by bystanders and then shot dead by police.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has called a snap election for December 12 and is due to host NATO leaders including US President Donald Trump next week, said it was a terrorist attack and that Britain would never be cowed.

Khan, whose family is from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, was convicted in 2012 for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange. He was released in December 2018 subject to conditions.

“This individual was known to authorities, having been convicted in 2012 for terrorism offences,” Britain’s top counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, said in a statement. “Clearly, a key line of inquiry now is to establish how he came to carry out this attack.”

Two people – a man and a woman – were killed in the attack. In addition, a man and two women were injured and remain in hospital, Basu said.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which trails the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, criticised the government’s record on crime on Saturday as police continued their investigation.

“There are big questions that need to be answered,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the most senior opposition politician in Britain in a position of power, told Sky News.

“One of the important tools judges had when it came to dealing with dangerous, convicted criminals… was their ability to give an indeterminate sentence to protect the public,” he said. “(That) was taken away from them by this government.”

ELECTION ATTACK

During the 2017 election campaign, London Bridge was the scene of an attack when three militants drove a van into pedestrians and then attacked people in the surrounding area, killing eight people and injuring at least 48.

Islamic State said its fighters were responsible for that attack, but the British authorities have cast doubt on those claims. The 2017 attack focused attention on cuts to policing since the governing Conservatives took power in 2010.

Junior interior minister Brandon Lewis defended an independent decision taken a few weeks ago to lower Britain’s terrorism threat level, but said sentencing rules needed to be reviewed.

“It is right that we do have to look again at the sentencing system around these kinds of violent crimes… We will want to move very swiftly,” he said.

Friday’s attack, just 13 days before an election that could decide the fate of Britain’s exit from the European Union, prompted political leaders to scale back campaigning.

The campaign so far has focused on Brexit and the health service but is likely to include crime over the coming days as Johnson, who praised the bravery of bystanders who tackled the attacker, seeks to limit the fallout from the incident.

“This country will never be cowed, or divided, or intimidated by this sort of attack,” he told reporters in Downing Street late on Friday.

President Hage Geingob of Namibia poses for a photograph before an interview with Reuters in central London.
Namibian leader Geingob takes big lead in presidential election
30 November 2019, 9:07 AM

President Hage Geingob took a commanding lead in Namibia’s presidential election with roughly two-thirds of the votes counted following Wednesday’s vote, official data showed on Friday.

Geingob, Namibia’s third leader since the sparsely populated and mostly arid country freed itself from the shackles of apartheid South Africa in 1990, was seeking a second and final term in the November 27 election.

His SWAPO party is contending with an economy in recession for nearly three years, one of Namibia’s worst droughts and its biggest corruption scandal – all of which conspired to make the vote unexpectedly tough for Geingob.

He faced nine challengers including Panduleni Itula, a dentist-turned-politician who is a SWAPO member but running as an independent. Itula is popular with young people, nearly half of whom are unemployed.

With 62.3% of the vote countered so far, presidential results from 76 out of 121 constituencies showed that Geingob was on track to retain office despite a dwindling support base in urban areas.

Geingob, who was first elected in 2014 with 87% of the vote, has so far garnered 56.9% of the votes counted, followed by Itula with 28.34%, while the leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, was in third position with 5.04%.

In legislative voting for 96 members of parliament, SWAPO has garnered 65.21% of the vote with 53.28% of the ballots counted, while Venaani’s Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has secured 15.73%.

A SWAPO victory could be disputed after a court threw out a case mounted by the opposition against the use of electronic voting machines it fears would be used to cheat.

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