Deadly earthquake topples buildings in southern Japan

At least nine people have died and more than 250 are injured after a powerful earthquake hit southern Japan, toppling buildings and cutting power supplies.

Officials say more people could be trapped under collapsed buildings.

Thousands fled their homes and many people spent the night in the open in the town of Mashiki, near Kumamoto city on the island of Kyushu.

Troops have been sent to the scene but rescue operations are being disrupted by aftershocks, officials said.

In pictures: Mashiki evacuees huddled in the streets

No tsunami warning was issued after the magnitude 6.4 quake struck at 21:26 on Thursday (12:26 GMT) east of Kumamoto.

Nuclear reactors on the island are not reported to have been affected.

The two Sendai nuclear reactors on Kyushu were operating as normal while the three Genkai nuclear reactors still in operation were already closed for routine inspection.

The quake struck at a depth of 10km (six miles) and was followed by aftershocks measuring 5.7 about 40 minutes later and 6.4 just after midnight local time.

But Japan's seismology office recorded the shaking at some places to be as intense as the huge magnitude nine earthquake that hit the country in 2011.

That triggered a tsunami in a double disaster that left more than 18,000 people dead or missing and led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

"The shaking was so violent I couldn't stand still," Hironobu Kosaki, a local police official, told the Associated Press news agency.

Initial reports said two people had died but the toll rose to nine as rescue teams worked through the night.

Yasuhiro Soshino, of the Japanese Red Cross Kumamoto Hospital, told BBC World News on Friday morning that they had received 254 injured people including 15 severe cases.

"Red Cross medical teams in other areas are also gathering at our Red Cross hospital," he said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 19 houses had collapsed and officials were still assessing the extent of the damage.

About 16,000 homes were left without electricity and 38,000 without gas, reports say.

At least two deaths occurred in Mashiki, where the shaking was most severe. The town lies 15km (nine miles) east of Kumamoto.

One victim died after being pulled from the rubble and another was killed in a fire, Kumamoto prefecture disaster management official Takayuki Matsushita was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Mashiki residents said houses and walls had collapsed and the water supply had been cut off.

An official in the nearby city of Uki said houses there had also collapsed as well as part of the city hall's ceiling.

The BBC's Japan Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says the quake took place at a time when most people were at home.

Some train services were suspended as a precautionary measure.

Japan is regularly struck by earthquakes but stringent building codes mean that damage usually does not occur.



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Nigeria Chibok girls 'shown alive' in Boko Haram video

A video released by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram appears to prove that some of the schoolgirls kidnapped two years ago from the town of Chibok are still alive.

The video, sent to the Nigerian government, shows 15 girls in black robes identifying themselves as pupils abducted from the secondary school.

Some of those filmed have been identified by their parents.

It is the first footage of the girls to be seen since May 2014.

The kidnapping of the 276 girls triggered the global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, involving US first lady Michelle Obama and a host of celebrities.

But despite their efforts, most of the girls are still missing.

Meanwhile, hundreds of parents are due to hold a march in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to demand the government does more to find their daughters.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Abuja says they blame the previous government for doing nothing when the abduction took place and now the current administration for failing to devote enough resources to the search.

Boko Haram militants attacked the government boarding school in Borno state on 14 April 2014, seizing the girls who had gone there to take exams.

Shortly afterwards they released a video of them and demanded a prisoner exchange.

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls had converted to Islam and he threatened to force them into marriage with his fighters or sell them into slavery.

As the months passed, about 57 students managed to escape but at least 219 are still missing.

The latest video, apparently filmed on Christmas Day 2015, shows the girls pleading with the Nigerian government to co-operate with militants on their release.

They said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families.

Two mothers, Rifkatu Ayuba and Mary Ishaya, said they recognised their daughters in the video while a third mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls, Reuters reported.

They were shown the video at a screening organised by local officials in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.

"They were definitely our daughters... all we want is for the government to bring back our girls," said Mrs Galang.

Amnesty International says about 2,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014. Many are used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers.

Although the militants are still launching attacks, the Nigerian army has made progress in its fight against them over the past year, our correspondent adds.

It has retaken towns and villages controlled by Boko Haram and has also freed hundreds of women and children held captive.

  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS's "West African province"
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory last year

'Boko Haram took my children'

Town divided by Boko Haram legacy

On patrol against Boko Haram

Who are Boko Haram?



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Russian warplanes 'aggressively' pass US missile destroyer

Two Russian planes flew close to a US guided missile destroyer almost a dozen times, American officials have said.

The Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes, in international waters in the Baltic Sea, had no visible weaponry and the ship took no action.

One official called the events on Monday and Tuesday "one of the most aggressive acts in recent memory".

The commander of the missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, described the flights as a "simulated attack".

The passes were "unsafe, potentially provocative" and "could have caused an accident," officials said in a release.

At one point the jets were so close, about 30ft (9m), that they created wakes in the water around the ship.

The actions may have violated a 1970s agreement meant to prevent dangerous incidents at sea, but it is not clear whether the US is going to protest.

A Russian helicopter taking pictures also passed by the ship seven times.

The Donald Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an Allied military helicopter when the jets made their passes, according to a statement from the United States European Command.

Flight operations were suspended until the jets left the area.

The next day, a Russian KA-27 helicopter did circles at low altitude around the ship, followed by more jet passes.

The aircraft did not respond to safety warnings in English or Russian.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the Baltic Sea, 12 April 2016

The jets were so close they created wakes in the water near the ship

These close encounters of a military kind between the US and its allies and Russia have escalated significantly over the past two years, ever since Russia's annexation of Crimea and the substantial break down of relations between East and West.

They take various forms. They can be violations of national airspace; narrowly avoided mid-air collisions, close encounters at sea and simulated attack runs.

The incidents have taken place over a wide area - in and around the Baltic states; in the Baltic sea; the Black Sea and even close to Stockholm, when the Swedish authorities believed a Russian submarine had violated its territorial waters in 2014.

They are regarded by defence analysts as a flexing of muscle - a reminder that Russia has military might and cannot be pushed around.

But the frequency of such situations means many fear that a full on confrontation - be-it deliberate or accidental - is just a matter of time between the world's two great military powers.

"We have deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight manoeuvres," the statement read. "These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death."

US officials are reviewing the incident.

A similar incident occurred last June, when Russian warplanes made close passes over a US destroyer in the Black Sea.

Russian media had reported at the time that the USS Ross was acting "aggressively" but the Department of Defense refuted that.



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US health experts confirm that Zika causes birth defects

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects, including microcephaly.

Hundreds of babies were born in Brazil last year with microcephaly, a syndrome where children are born with unusually small heads.

The defects coincided with a spike in Zika infections, leading experts to suspect the mosquito-borne virus.

Research has now affirmed those experts' suspicions, the CDC said.

"This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly," said Dr Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC.

Map showing the countries that have had confirmed cases of the Zika virus

Microcephaly: Why it is not the end of the world

What you need to know Key questions answered about the virus and its spread

Travel advice Countries affected and what you should do

The mosquito behind spread of virus What we know about the insect

Abortion dilemma Laws and practices in Catholic Latin America

On Monday, US health officials warned the Zika outbreak could have more of an effect on the United States and called for additional funding to combat the virus.

"Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought," said Dr Anne Schuchat of the CDC.

Zika virus was first diagnosed in 1947 in Uganda, but symptoms have typically been mild, including rash, joint pain and fever.

The current outbreak started in 2015 in Brazil and the symptoms have been much more severe. Nearly 200 babies have died as result of the virus.

Researchers are interesting learning why some cases of the virus result in birth defects while others do not.

Some women who were infected with Zika while pregnant gave birth to apparently healthy children.

This file photo shows an Aedes Aegypti mosquito photographed on human skin in a laboratory of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia.

The Zika virus can be transmitted via mosquito

There have been 346 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States, according to the CDC, all associated with travel.

CDC officials said the findings do not change the agency's earlier guidance to pregnant women.

The CDC has discouraged pregnant women from travelling to places where the Zika virus is spreading, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr Frieden said intensive research was under way to find out much more about the mosquito-borne virus and to develop a vaccine for it, although he warned that that could still be years away.

This is the first time that mosquito bites have caused birth defects, Dr Frieden said. The virus can be transmitted by sexual contact as well.




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Plane turned around for couple to visit dying grandson

A pilot allowed an elderly couple to get off a plane moments before take-off so they could visit their dying grandson in hospital.

They had boarded the Abu Dhabi-bound aircraft at Manchester Airport when they received a text message about their relative's condition.

The flight, which had been taxiing towards the runway, returned to the gate so the couple could rush to their grandson's bedside.

He died later on the same night.

The couple's travel agent Becky Stephenson said the 30 March incident was "very unusual".

"I've been in the travel business for 25 years and never heard of this happening," she said.

Airline praised

Ms Stephenson, who is based in Bradford, praised the Etihad Airways pilot and said she had not heard of an airline going "above and beyond with their customer service" in such a way.

"I'm just really grateful that my customers could get back to see him," she said:

"My customers were so grateful that staff were very helpful and they were taken care of."

"The flight still went ahead after the couple got off," Ms Stephenson added.

"Etihad have said they can use the ticket again on a different date.

"But my customers are not thinking of when they're flying back out again."


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North Carolina governor wants to change 'anti-gay' law

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has said he wants to make changes to a controversial new state law condemned by business groups, activists and celebrities as anti-gay.

The law invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people.

It also requires people to use public toilets that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The state's anti-discrimination rules should be strengthened, McCrory said.

However he said the restrictions on access to public toilets should remain.

Major companies such as Bank of America and Apple have criticised the law and others vowed to curtail their businesses in the state because of it.

The fallout included:

  • Pay Pal dropped plans to open an operations centre in the state that would have employed about 400 people
  • Deutsche Bank stopped plans to add 250 jobs to the state
  • Rock singer Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro
  • A TV production for the streaming service Hulu relocated to Canada
  • Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau said five groups have cancelled conventions with 16 others considering

Mr McCrory acknowledged receiving a large amount of "feedback" about the law over the past few weeks.

"Based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state's commitment to privacy and equality," he said.

Under Mr McCrory's suggested changes, gay, lesbian and transgender people would be able to sue in state court over discrimination. That change would require the approval of the legislature.

Using an executive order, Mr McCrory will expand the equal employment policy for state employees to include sexual orientation and gender.

He also affirmed that private businesses are able to set their own policies regarding public toilets.

Gay rights activists said Mr McCrory's actions to did not go far enough and called for a full repeal of the law.

The state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is challenging the law in court, said the governor was making "a poor effort to save face".

North Carolina is one of a number of states in the southern US that have recently considered or enacted legislation that many deem anti-gay.

Last June, a US Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal nationwide. In response, conservatives have sought to enact protections for religious people who believe marriage should only be between a man and woman.

Last year, Indiana made changes to a "religious freedom" law after business groups and others threatened to boycott the state. The updated law included language that prohibited discrimination of any kind.

This week, Mississippi passed a religious freedom law. That measure, however, specifically allows people to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds.

Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill in March after pressure from prominent firms including Coca-Cola and the Walt Disney Co.


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The city that allows women to sell sex

A suburb in Leeds is the first place in the UK where it is permitted for women to sell sex between specified hours. The "managed approach" was introduced to try to control the trade. The Victoria Derbyshire programme spent a night there to find out how it is working.

Chelsea, whose name has been changed, 29, has been a sex worker for five years. She's addicted to crack cocaine and earns roughly £150 a night - which she spends on drugs and gifts for her children. They do not live with her and she would hate for them to know what she does.

In the evenings she puts on her make-up and gets the bus to Holbeck, a mainly industrial area to the south-east of Leeds city centre.

During the day it is bustling, but on a cold March night it is quiet with lots of small, dark areas for sex workers to operate.

Chelsea knows her work is dangerous. "You don't know what type of man you're getting next. They may look all right but they could be nasty. You take a gamble with yourself. It's life or death," she says.

It is not actually illegal to sell sex in the UK, but it is illegal to solicit - offering sex in a public place.

But in this specified network of roads, street prostitutes can sell their services from 19.00 to 07.00 BST, without being stopped by police.

Traditionally, workers operated across the whole of Holbeck - this scheme has moved them from residential streets to places where businesses operate in the day but not at night.

managed area

The 'managed area' in Holbeck

What are the rules of the managed area?

  • Working on streets outside the agreed area or times will not be tolerated
  • Litter including condoms/wrapping/syringes should not be left
  • People should respect business and other properties
  • Crime, public disorder and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated
  • No drug use is allowed

Source: Safer Leeds Partnership

Chelsea points out a cul-de-sac where men pull up if they want business and the railway bridge that marks the end of the managed area. She says most of the people driving past are punters as they stare at her as she walks down the main road.

"I charge a lot. I tell them if they pay for steak they get steak, if they pay for mince they get mince," she says.

Around 40 women work here regularly - a mixture of migrant and British sex workers - who must be over 18.

Chelsea says street work has "changed a lot" since the area was introduced last October after a year-long pilot. Police check their welfare instead of arresting them.

"I used to get a lot of cautions. It's better like this. We are all in agreement. They're giving you a time, you have to stick to it. If you go over you've only got yourself to blame," she says.

But this approach is more than just a physical zone. The police, council and charities also support the sex workers and try to keep them safe.

Emily, a caseworker from the charity Basis, visits regularly to check if there is anything the women are concerned about and offers hot drinks and condoms.

"If we have a managed area, we know where people are. It's policed properly with marked vehicles and a liaison officer. There's extra street cleaning. It's a whole approach," she explains.

Woman killed

Chelsea was attacked two years ago on a nearby back street - badly beaten and raped while she was pregnant.

"What I suffered was bad, I was close to dying at one point. He was a vicious man. He's serving a 10-year prison sentence," she says.

But a woman has been killed since the zone was established. In December, Daria Pionko, 21, from Poland, was found injured and later died in hospital.

A 24-year-old man has been charged with her murder.

Emily admits it is not completely safe, but says it is safer, with the key being an improved relationship with the police.

The percentage of crime victims willing to report their incidents has increased from 26% to 51%, according to National Ugly Mugs - a sex worker support organisation which runs database sharing information on potentially dangerous clients.

"What happened as a result of the managed area - the trust now between girls and police - girls coming forward, punters coming forward," she said.

Safer Leeds - the police and council partnership - says the previous approach of police enforcement had not worked, so the zone was an attempt to reduce a long-standing nuisance. It says it has led to fewer complaints in residential areas and a significant increase in women accessing support services.

'Offensive debris'

But some people want it to close and it is under review this month.

Greg Adams, owner of an office supplies company, says while he cannot disagree with a scheme that supports the vulnerable, he feels the problem has been forced on to the businesses.

"It's just every time you drive to the end of the road you see street prostitutes plying for trade - it's very obvious - they eye you up.

"It's not that offensive, but what is offensive is the debris from nefarious activities. Used condoms, drugs paraphernalia. In the first month, two items of soiled undergarments on the street, in my yard used condoms. It's all shocking," he says.

At the end of her night's work we meet Chelsea again - she has earned £150 from three men in an hour: "Doesn't take me long to make money. Sexy girl like me. Who can resist?" she says.

The next morning it is clear it has been a busy night, they leave behind litter - beer cans, condom wrappers - you can see why people coming back to work are not happy.

It is a difficult balance - women like Chelsea would still be on these streets with or without the permission of the authorities. But the impact some feel the managed approach has had on this area's reputation may force its closure.


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Canadian Attawapiskat First Nation suicide emergency

An indigenous community in northern Canada has declared a state of emergency after 11 people attempted to take their own lives in one day.

The Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario saw 28 suicide attempts in March and more than 100 since last September, Canadian media said, with one person reported to have died.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the news "heartbreaking".

Canada's 1.4 million indigenous people have high levels of poverty.

Their life expectancy is also below the Canadian average.

Bruce Shisheesh, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation community, said 11 people attempted to take their own lives on Saturday, prompting him to declare a state of emergency.

He tweeted that the regional Weeneebayko Health Authority was flying in a crisis team, mental health nurses and social workers, and that he was waiting for Ontario's minister of health to deliver more emergency workers to the area.

The First Nations government was sending a crisis response unit to the community following the declaration on Saturday, Canadian media said.

Attawapiskat First Nation

  • isolated First Nation tribe in Kenora District, northern Ontario, Canada
  • population around 2,000 on the reserve
  • former chief Theresa Spence had a hunger strike in 2013 to protest over the Canadian government not providing enough money, education and health care for the tribe
  • had a state of emergency in 2011, the third in three years, due to low temperatures and insufficient housing
  • in 2013 accused Stephen Harper's Conservative government of being right-wing and racist

The Health Canada federal agency said in a statement it had sent two mental health counsellors as part of that unit.

Charlie Angus, the local MP, said: "This is a systemic crisis affecting the communities."

"There's just not been a serious response from any level of government until now," he said.

"We'll continue to work to improve living conditions for all Indigenous peoples," Prime Minister Trudeau said.

Another Canadian aboriginal community in the western province of Manitoba appealed for federal aid last month, citing six suicides in two months and 140 suicide attempts in two weeks.

Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are among the top causes of death for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, according to studies from Health Canada.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde called for a national strategy to combat indigenous suicide last month.

"Immediate support to communities is essential & a #FirstNations driven national strategy on mental health," he tweeted on Monday.


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US Navy officer charged with spying for China and Taiwan

A US Navy officer has been charged with espionage, accused of passing military secrets to China and Taiwan, according to US military officials.

The Associated Press news agency named him as Lt Cdr Edward Lin, a US citizen who was born in Taiwan.

He is being held in Navy brig in Virginia awaiting a court-martial.

Officials believe he passed information to a Chinese girlfriend, the New York Times reported. Lt Cdr Lin is also charged with lying about his travels.

United States Naval Institute (USNI) News first reported the charges against Lt Cdr Lin. The website said that Lin worked as a signals intelligence specialist on the Navy's EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance planes.

He joined the Navy as an enlisted sailor in 1999 and became a US citizen in 2008.

"I always dreamt about coming to America, the 'promised land," Lt Cdr Lin said when he became citizen. "I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland."


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Zika virus 'scarier than thought' says US

The Zika virus is "scarier" than first thought and its impact on the US could be greater than predicted, public health officials have admitted.

A wider range of birth defects has been linked to the virus, said Dr Anne Schuchat of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And the mosquitoes that carry the virus could travel to more US states than previously thought, she said.

The current Zika outbreak began almost a year ago in Brazil.

It has been linked to thousands of birth defects in the Americas.

"Most of what we've learned is not reassuring," said Dr Schuchat at White House briefing on Monday.

"Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought."

Earlier this year, US President Obama asked the US Congress for $1.8bn (£1.25bn) in emergency funding to combat the virus.

In the meantime it has been using money totalling $589m left over from the Ebola virus fund.

Map of Zika cases

Microcephaly: Why it is not the end of the world

What you need to know Key questions answered about the virus and its spread

Travel advice Countries affected and what you should do

The mosquito behind spread of virus What we know about the insect

Abortion dilemma Laws and practices in Catholic Latin America

That was a temporary stopgap and inadequate to get the job done, said Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

The US now needs more money to fight the mosquitoes and to fund better research into vaccines and treatments, he said.

"When the president asked for $1.9 billion, we needed $1.9 billion."

He said there had been recent discoveries about how destructive Zika appeared to be to foetal brains.

Passengers walk by a signboard about Zika virus at the passenger terminal of Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

The rapid spread of the Zika virus has spurred travel warnings across the globe

There were also reports of rare neurologic problems in adults, he said.

The CDC announced that Puerto Rico is to receive $3.9m in emergency Zika funding as the number of cases there doubles every week.

In February, the first US case of locally transmitted Zika was reported in Dallas, Texas - spread through sexual contact, not a mosquito bite.



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North Korea 'tests long-range missile engine'

North Korea says it has successfully tested an engine designed for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The new type of engine would "guarantee" the ability to launch a nuclear strike on the US mainland, the KCNA news agency said.

The test was conducted at the country's long-range missile launch site near its west coast.

It is the latest in a series of tests and launches carried out by the isolated nation.

Can South Korea defend itself?

Dealing with the North: Carrots or sticks?

How advanced is North Korea's nuclear programme?

Leader Kim Jong-un supervised the test, state media reported, during which "the engine spewed out huge flames with a deafening boom".

The country would now be able to "keep any cesspool of evils in the earth including the US mainland within our striking range," Mr Kim was quoted as saying.

In March, North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.

However, experts cast doubt on the claims.

March also saw North Korea threaten "indiscriminate" nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea as they held big joint military drills, which the north sees as a rehearsal for an eventual invasion.

Meanwhile, the US has imposed new sanctions on North Korea following a nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February, which was widely seen as a test of banned missile technology.

The US has also held talks with South Korea aimed at deploying a US missile defence system to the Korean peninsula, a move strongly opposed by North Korea, Russia and China.

Beijing says the Thaad anti-missile system compromises its security and would undermine its nuclear deterrent.


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Two dead in US Air Force base shooting

A shooting at a US Air Force base in Texas has left at least two people dead, police say.

Officials have told US media that an airman shot his commander in an apparent murder-suicide.

Police responded to reports of a shooting at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland around 09:00 local time (15:00 BST), a spokesman said.

Two bodies were found in a room at the base, and authorities believe the gunman is one of the dead.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Office said they continued to search the buildings after finding the people who were killed.

"There are no indications that this was a terrorist attack," an Air Force statement said.

Joint Base San-Antonio Lackland is the military's largest joint base, where airmen do basic training.

Lackland Air Force Base


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Paris attacks: Key suspect Abrini arrested in Brussels

The key remaining suspect in November's Paris terror attacks, Mohamed Abrini, has been arrested in Belgium, prosecutors have confirmed.

Belgian media say Abrini is also likely to be the "man in the hat" seen on CCTV before bomb blasts in the Brussels airport departure hall on 22 March.

Five arrests were made on Friday. One suspect, Osama K, will be investigated over the bomb attack on the metro that followed the airport bombing.

The two attacks left 32 people dead.

The gun and bomb attacks in Paris on 13 November killed 130 people.

New footage

Amateur footage said to be of Abrini's arrest shows a man being bundled into a car in Place Albert in the Anderlecht district of Brussels.

Abrini had not been directly linked to the Brussels attacks until today.

Belgian investigators confirmed at a press conference that Abrini was among those detained. Two more suspects were arrested with him.

They said the fourth arrested man, named as Osama K, was being investigated for helping suicide bomber Khalid el-Bakraoui at the Maelbeek metro station.

The prosecutor's office said he had been filmed in Brussels buying sports bags used to hide the airport and metro station bombs.

The authorities had on Thursday released new video footage of the so-called "man in the hat", appealing for the public's help in finding him.

The individual in the footage was seen beside the two suicide bombers at Brussels airport. He left the airport shortly before the blasts.

At the press conference, the investigators said they were trying to determine whether the "man in the hat" was Abrini.

Childhood friends

Abrini, 31, a Belgian national of Moroccan origin, is believed to have been filmed at a petrol station with Salah Abdeslam, another arrested Paris attacks suspect, two days before the attacks there.

Abrini and brothers Salah and Brahim Abdeslam were all childhood friends from Brussels.

Abrini is believed to have driven twice with the brothers from Belgium to Paris and back on 10 and 11 November.

Salah Abdeslam was detained in Brussels in March, days before militants launched attacks in the Belgian capital.

Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up at the Comptoir Voltaire restaurant after a shooting spree.



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Pope Francis to make key marriage pronouncement

Pope Francis is to make public the conclusions of his two Synods on the family in a document eagerly awaited by 1.3 billion Roman Catholics.

It will detail the pope's views about family life, marriage, contraception and bringing up children.

Many hope it will open the way for the church to offer communion to the divorced and civilly remarried, something conservatives have resisted.

The document is the culmination of three years' work by the Pope.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt says that what is known as an Apostolic Exhortation is a wide-ranging document of more than 200 pages entitled The Joy of Love.

Pope's reforms polarise the Vatican

Interpreting pope's contraception hint

The Pope sent a questionnaire to families across the world asking them about their hopes and their fears.

Then he brought bishops and cardinals together for two Synods in Rome, at which he encouraged them to debate and even to disagree over issues that divide the church in many countries.

Those range from offering communion for the divorced and remarried, contraception and the treatment of Catholics who are gay.

Our correspondent says the lengthy document will show exactly where Pope Francis stands - with some already describing it as a Papal bombshell - as he steps into the minefield of Catholic teaching on the family.

While conservatives do not want him to change doctrine, liberals hope he will tell the church to show a more merciful attitude to those whose families do not conform to the current Catholic ideal.

Some in the church have called for measures which allow a priest or a bishop to decide privately, on a case-by-case basis, if a Catholic who has divorced and remarried can be fully readmitted and receive communion.

While progressives such as the influential Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany support this policy, conservatives maintain it would devalue the principle established by Jesus of marriage being indissoluble.

At the conclusion of the Synod last year, Francis castigated church leaders who he accused of burying their heads in the sand over the issue, arguing that their adherence to rigid doctrine was over-riding their concern for the suffering of families.

The papal document is also expected to call for better marriage preparation while repeating the Synod's view that homosexual unions cannot be on a par with heterosexual marriage.


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Migrant crisis: Deportations resume from Greece to Turkey

A second group of migrants is being sent back from Greece to Turkey as part of an EU deal to reduce the numbers reaching Europe.

Three protesters dived into the water to try to stop a ferry carrying 45 Pakistani men as it left Lesbos but were fished out by coastguards.

Other protesters tried to enter the gates of the port, Mytilene.

Some 200 mainly Pakistanis were deported on Monday but the process stalled as asylum applications surged.

Under the EU deal with Turkey, migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece since 20 March are expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

And for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is due to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

Water and breakfast

Each person being deported is accompanied by a guard from the EU's border agency, Frontex.

A Frontex spokesperson said there had been no trouble bringing the migrants from a camp to the port.

"There were escorts with each returnee plus a back-up team," Ewa Moncure told reporters. "Also, in addition, on board the ferry there was a doctor and translators.

"Now on the way to Turkey, migrants will be given water and breakfast. They all had return decisions. Nobody indicated to our escorts last-minute that they would like to apply for international protection."

Greek customs officials told the BBC that 140 people would be travelling on two boats on Friday, with the second carrying 95 from other islands.

Of those being returned to Turkey on Friday, the non-Syrians will be taken to deportation centres while any Syrians will be taken to refugee camps to take the place of Syrian refugees who will be directly resettled in the EU.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned his country will only implement the deal if the EU sticks to its side of the bargain:

  • A further €3bn (£2.4bn; $3.4bn)
  • Galvanising Turkey's EU accession process
  • Granting Turks visa-free travel to the EU's Schengen area by the end of June

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has taken in the bulk of the asylum seekers so far, said on a visit to France she was "very happy" with progress in resolving the migrant crisis.

'Shame on you'

The small group of protesters in Mytilene chanted "EU - shame on you".

One million migrants and refugees have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece since early last year.

The returns arrangement has alarmed rights groups, who say Turkey is not a safe country for migrants.

Citizens of Pakistan make up the fourth-biggest group of undocumented migrants arriving in Greece this year, after Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis.

Migrant arrivals to Greece


in 2016, up to 4 April

  • 37% of 2016 arrivals are children

  • 53% arrive on Lesbos

  • 366 died on Turkey-Greece route

  • 853,650 arrivals in 2015

Read more

Panama papers: Iceland names PM replacement

Iceland's ruling coalition has named Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson as the new PM, with early elections to be held in the autumn.

Mr Johannsson, 53, is agriculture and fisheries minister and deputy leader of the Progressive Party (PP).

The move comes after PM and PP chairman Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson stepped down in the wake of the leaked Panama Papers.

The leaks, from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, showed Mr Gunnlaugsson owned an offshore firm with his wife.

It was not declared when he became an MP. Mr Gunnlaugsson says he sold his shares to his wife and denies any wrongdoing. But he is accused of concealing millions of dollars' worth of family assets.

Protester prepares to throw egg - 6th April

At the scene: Paul Adams, BBC News, Reykjavik

With protesters keeping up a steady drumbeat of pots and pans outside parliament, for the third day in a row, members of Iceland's political parties held lengthy discussions inside.

The demonstrators sensed a deal was in the offing, and hurled eggs and fruit at the building as a mark of disgust. For many of them, nothing less than the resignation of the entire government would do.

But eventually came word that the two coalition parties, the Progressives and Independents, had reached agreement.

Opposition parties don't like the deal and some are vowing to go ahead with a vote of no confidence. The government has a comfortable majority and it seems the crisis may be over, for now.

But polls suggest the Progressive Party has lost much of its support and that the tiny Pirate Party, founded just over three years ago, stands to make significant gains. Unless this government's fortunes change, it could be out of power in a few months' time.

Mr Gunnlaugsson is one of dozens of high-profile global figures mentioned in the 11.5 million leaked financial and legal records, which were first published on Sunday.

Pressure on Mr Gunnlaugsson to step down had been building since then, with thousands of people protesting outside the parliament building in the capital Reykjavik on Monday and opposition parties tabling a confidence motion.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Gunnlaugsson had asked President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson to dissolve parliament and call an early election, although the president said he would need to talk to parties.

Screengrab taken from video showing Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson walking down stairs after a meeting in parliament (5 April 2016)

Iceland's prime minister stepped down ahead of a confidence vote in parliament

But later on Wednesday, Mr Johansson said: "We expect to have elections this autumn," adding that in the meantime the government had work to do.

"We will continue to lead a good government and keep up the good work we have worked on for the last three years and get finished with all those good works we have started on," he said.

Pirate Party leader Birgitta Jonsdottir also told reporters in parliament that early elections would be held in the autumn.

Mr Gunnlaugsson has put out a statement insisting he has not in fact resigned and that Mr Johannsson will take over the post "for an unspecified amount of time".

The documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca show that Mr Gunnlaugsson and his wife bought the company Wintris in 2007.

He did not declare an interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009. He sold his 50% of Wintris to his wife, Anna Sigurlaug Palsdottir, for $1 (£0.70) eight months later.

Mr Gunnlaugsson maintains no rules were broken and his wife did not benefit financially.

In his statement, Mr Gunnlaugsson said he had no wish to stand in the way of further government work, such as reform of the financial system.

Panama Papers - tax havens of the rich and powerful exposed

  • Eleven million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have been passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. BBC Panorama is among 107 media organisations - including UK newspaper the Guardian - in 76 countries which have been analysing the documents. The BBC does not know the identity of the source
  • They show how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax
  • Mossack Fonseca says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and never been accused or charged with criminal wrong-doing
  • Tricks of the trade: How assets are hidden and taxes evaded
  • Panama Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #PanamaPapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag "Panama Papers"
  • Watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)


Read more

Fake US university exposes 'pay-to-stay' immigration fraud

Twenty-one people have been arrested after US authorities set up a fake university to expose immigration fraud.

Officials said the accused knew that the University of Northern New Jersey did not exist, but they were unaware it was a ruse run by immigration agents.

The defendants acted as brokers for more than 1,000 foreigners who sought to maintain student and work visas, prosecutors said.

Most foreign nationals involved in the scheme came from China and India.

Immigration authorities will deal with the nationals affected, but they will not be prosecuted, officials said.

"This was just another stop on the 'pay-to-stay' tour," Paul Fishman, US attorney for New Jersey, told the Associated Press.

Federal agents set up a fake website and posed as administrators who dealt with suspects.

The agents' recorded conversations with the defendants showed that the practice of paying to extend visas had been going on for years, prosecutors said.


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Whatsapp adds end-to-end encryption

Instant messaging service Whatsapp has announced it will encrypt all its users' communications from Tuesday.

With end-to-end encryption, messages are scrambled as they leave the sender's device and can only be decrypted by the recipient's device.

It renders messages unreadable if they are intercepted, for example by criminals or law enforcement.

Whatsapp, which has a billion users worldwide, said file transfers and voice calls would be encrypted too.

The Facebook-owned company said protecting private communication was one of its "core beliefs".

Encryption was thrown under the spotlight after the FBI asked Apple to help it access data on an iPhone used by California gunman Syed Farook.

Whatsapp said: "The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us."

Users with the latest version of the app were notified about the change when sending messages on Tuesday. The setting is enabled by default.

Amnesty International called the move a "huge victory" for free speech.

"Whatsapp's roll out of the Signal Protocol, providing end to end encryption for its one billion users worldwide, is a major boost for people's ability to express themselves and communicate without fear," the organisation said in a statement.

"This is a huge victory for privacy and free speech, especially for activists and journalists who depend on strong and trustworthy communications to carry out their work without putting their lives at greater risk."

Whatsapp encryption

Whatsapp's decision was also welcomed by security professionals.

"Wire-tappers lament, law-abiding citizens rejoice, for WhatsApp's latest update is a victory for communications privacy," said Lee Munson, a security researcher for Comparitech.

"With the ability to access data removed even from the company behind the app, only ill-informed law enforcement agencies are likely to mutter 'terrorists' as the masses enjoy the encrypted text messages, photos, video and phone calls they've been demanding ever since Edward Snowden blew the lid on government surveillance."

The move is likely to irk law enforcement agencies, particularly the US Department of Justice which has recently expressed concern over "unreachable" information contained in devices. The DoJ did not respond to the BBC's request for comment on Tuesday.

Other messaging apps with end-to-end encryption include Telegram, which is known to be used by the so-called Islamic State to share information.


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Two aeroplanes collide at Jakarta airport

Two planes collided at an airport in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, resulting in a wing bursting into flames.

A Batik Air passenger plane was taking off when its wing clipped the tail of a TransNusa aircraft being towed across the runway.

Authorities said there were no injuries in the Monday night incident, and all passengers were evacuated safely.

Indonesia has had a dismal air safety record amid a boom in air travel, particularly with budget carriers.

Mangled parts

The incident took place at the largely-domestic Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta, causing the temporary closure of the airport.

The damaged wing of the Batik Air aeroplane

The Batik Air plane (pictured) and the TransNusa aircraft both suffered damage

The Batik Air plane was carrying 49 passengers and crew, reported AFP news agency.

A spokesman for budget carrier Lion Air Group, which owns Batik Air, told the wire news agency that the pilot had aborted the takeoff after the collision, and passengers and crew were safe.

Transport ministry officials said the collision had mangled parts of both aircraft. A video posted online shows flames erupting from the Batik Air plane wing.

In 2013, a Lion Air plane overshot the runway at Bali's Denpasar airport and crashed into the sea, in an incident that hospitalised at least 22 people.

That same year another Lion Air plane skidded off a runway on the island of Sulawesi after it crashed into a cow.

In 2014, an Indonesian subsidiary of AirAsia flying from Surabaya to Singapore crashed into the sea, killing all 162 onboard.


Read more

Vitamin D 'heals damaged hearts'

Vitamin D supplements may help people with diseased hearts, a study suggests.

A trial on 163 heart failure patients found supplements of the vitamin, which is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight, improved their hearts' ability to pump blood around the body.

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals team, who presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, described the results as "stunning".

The British Heart Foundation called for longer trials to assess the pills.

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones and teeth and may have important health benefits throughout the body but many people are deficient.

No safe way to suntan - warning

The average age of people in the study was 70 and like many people that age they had low levels of vitamin D even in summer.

"They do spend less time outside, but the skin's ability to manufacture vitamin D also gets less effective [with age] and we don't really understand why that is," said consultant cardiologist Dr Klaus Witte.

Patients were given either a 100 microgram vitamin D tablet or a sugar pill placebo each day for a year.

And researchers measured the impact on heart failure - a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump blood properly.

The key measure was the ejection fraction, the amount of blood pumped out of the chambers of the heart with each beat.

In a healthy adult the figure is between 60% and 70%, but only a quarter of the blood in the heart was being successfully pumped out in the heart failure patients.

But in those taking the vitamin pills, the ejection fraction increased from 26% to 34%.

Dr Witte told the BBC News website: "It's quite a big deal, that's as big as you'd expect from other more expensive treatments that we use, it's a stunning effect.

"It's as cheap as chips, has no side effects and a stunning improvement on people already on optimal medical therapy, it is the first time anyone has shown something like this in the last 15 years."

The study also showed the patients hearts became smaller - a suggestion they are becoming more powerful and efficient. 

In the UK, people over 65 are advised to take 10 microgram supplements of the vitamin.

However, Dr Witte does not think high-dose vitamin D should be routine prescribed just yet.

He told the BBC: "We're a little bit off that yet, not because I don't believe it, but data have shown improvements in heart function, they may show improvements in symptoms and we now need a large study."

It is also not clear exactly how vitamin D is improving heart function, but it is thought every cell in the body responds to the vitamin.

Most vitamin D comes from sunlight, although it is also found in oily fish, eggs and is added to some foods such as breakfast cereals.

Prof Peter Weissberg, from the British Heart Foundation, cautioned that the patients seemed no better at exercise.

And added: "A much bigger study over a longer period of time is now needed to determine whether these changes in cardiac function can translate into fewer symptoms and longer lives for heart failure patients."


Read more

Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca 'helped firms subject to sanctions'

The Panama legal firm at the heart of a massive data leak kept clients who were subject to international sanctions, documents show.

Mossack Fonseca worked with 33 individuals or companies who have been placed under sanctions by the US Treasury, including companies based in Iran, Zimbabwe and North Korea.

One had links to North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

The information comes from the leak of 11m of the company's internal files.

Mossack Fonseca registers companies as offshore entities operated under its own name. This meant the identities of the real owners were hard to trace because they were kept out of public documents.

Owners from Pyongyang

Some of the businesses were registered before international sanctions were imposed. But in several cases Mossack Fonseca continued to act as a proxy for them after they were blacklisted.

DCB Finance was established in 2006, with its owners and directors based in North Korea's capital Pyongyang. It was later put under sanctions by the US Treasury for raising funds for the North Korean regime and being linked to a bank helping to fund the regime's nuclear weapons programme.

The leaked files reveal the owners of DCB Finance were a North Korean official, Kim Chol Sam and Nigel Cowie, a British banker who was also CEO of the sanctioned Daedong Credit Bank.

Mossack Fonseca appears to have overlooked that the owners and directors of the company were based in Pyongyang until it was contacted by the British Virgin Islands (BVI) authorities in 2010, inquiring about another company Mossack Fonseca had set up with directors in North Korea.

Mossack Fonseca resigned as agents for DCB Finance in September 2010.

Panama Papers - read more from BBC News

In 2013 the BVI authorities contacted Mossack Fonseca again, asking what checks they had carried out before opening DCB Finance in 2006.

An email from Mossack Fonseca's compliance department on 9 August 2013 says: "We have not yet addressed the reason we maintained a relationship with DCB Finance when we knew or ought to have known from incorporation in 2006, that the country, North Korea was on the black list."

It adds: "We should have identified from the onset that this was a high risk company."

Mr Cowie was not placed under sanctions. He has said that DCB Finance was established for legitimate business purposes and that he was "unaware, whether directly or indirectly, of any transactions being made with any sanctioned organisation or for any sanctioned purpose, during my entire tenure".

Assad's cousin

Another case involves Rami Makhlouf, who is the cousin of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and has reported wealth of $5bn.

In 2008 the US Treasury imposed sanctions on him because it deemed him to be a "regime insider" and someone who "manipulated the Syrian judicial system and used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate his business rivals".

Mossack Fonseca continued to front six businesses - including one company called Drex Technologies - for Mr Makhlouf after the restrictions were put in place.

The files also show the Swiss branch of HSBC provided financial services for the firm.

In 2010, two years after the sanctions were imposed, HSBC wrote to Mossack Fonseca saying it believed Drex Technologies was a company of "good standing".

An internal email from Mossack Fonseca's compliance department also suggests HSBC staff dealing with Drex Technologies knew who Rami Makhlouf was.

The email, dated 17 February 2011, says: "We have contacted HSBC who stated that they are very aware of the fact that Mr Makhlouf is the cousin of the President of Syria.

"The HSBC compliance department of the bank not only in Geneva but also in their headquarters in London know about Mr Makhlouf and confirm that they are comfortable with him."

HSBC said: "We work closely with the authorities to fight financial crime and implement sanctions. Our policy is clear that offshore accounts can only remain open either where clients have been thoroughly vetted where authorities ask us to maintain an account for the purposes of monitoring activity, or where an account has been frozen based on sanctions obligations."

War fuel

Mossack Fonseca cut all its links with Rami Makhlouf in September 2011, nine months after it was first recommended.

But the leaked documents reveal the firm also provided business services to another company that was registered on a US sanctions list in 2014.

The company is called Pangates International Corporation Limited. The US Treasury Department believes it supplied aviation fuel to the Syrian government to fly military aircraft during the current civil war. The files show Mossack Fonseca first incorporated the petroleum firm in 1999.

Nine months after the sanctions came into effect, it was still handling the paperwork for Pangates International Corporation and certified it was a company in the Seychelles of good standing.

It was not until August 2015 that Mossack Fonseca acknowledged the company was on a blacklist and reported it to financial regulators in the Seychelles.

Mossack Fonseca said: "We have never knowingly allowed the use of our companies by individuals having any relationship with North Korea or Syria. We have our own procedures in place to identify such individuals, to the extent it is reasonably possible."

Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela told the BBC his country was willing to contribute to any investigation in any country relating to the documents.

"We are an open country," he said.

Panama Papers - tax havens of the rich and powerful exposed

  • Eleven million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have been passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. BBC Panorama and UK newspaper The Guardian are among 107 media organisations in 76 countries which have been analysing the documents. The BBC does not know the identity of the source
  • They show how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax
  • Mossack Fonseca says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and never been accused or charged with criminal wrong-doing
  • Tricks of the trade: How assets are hidden and taxes evaded
  • Panama Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #PanamaPapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag "Panama Papers"


Read more

Kenya's William Ruto due to hear war crimes case ruling

Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto is due to find out whether a crimes against humanity case against him will be thrown out by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Ruto denies murder, deportation and persecution charges during violence that followed the 2007 elections in which about 1,200 people were killed.

His lawyers want the case to be terminated due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Ruto is one of the most senior politicians to be tried by the ICC.

The prosecution case against him has been dogged by repeated setbacks.

In February judges at the ICC barred the use of recanted testimony, meaning that prior recorded witness statements could not be used by prosecutors.

Several key witnesses in the case have changed their statements, which prosecutors said was due to intimidation and bribery.

Mr Ruto's lawyers say he should be acquitted because so many key prosecution witnesses have either dropped or changed their original statements.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has acknowledged that the loss of witnesses has weakened the case against the deputy president - but she has argued there still remains enough evidence to proceed with the trial.

A spokesman for the ICC has told the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague there are a number of possible scenarios.

The judges could clear Mr Ruto of all the charges, they may ask the prosecution to consider changing the charges or they could reject the defence team's arguments and allow the trial to continue.

In 2014, the prosecutor dropped similar charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, alleging that witnesses had been intimidated to make them change their testimony.

The future of the case now appears to depend on whether the prosecution has proved that it has sufficient evidence to offset a no-case-to-answer move from Mr Ruto's lawyers.

The use of prior testimony falls under Rule 68 of the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC.

But William Ruto's defence team argued this was unfair because changes to the rule were brought in after the case against him and his fellow defendant, the journalist Joshua arap Sang, had started.

Presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski ruled that prior-recorded testimony was delivered without an opportunity for the accused to cross-examine the witnesses.

Mr Sang, who is accused of using his radio show to organise attacks in the election aftermath, said at the time that the decision was "one step to our freedom".

Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were on opposite sides of the 2007 election, but formed an alliance that won the 2013 election.


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Native American chief Joe Medicine Crow dies aged 102

The historian, World War Two veteran and chief of Montana's Crow tribe Joe Medicine Crow has died aged 102. President Obama awarded Joe Medicine Crow the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

His grandfather was a scout for US military commander George Custer, who lost his life in the Battle of Little Big Horn fighting Native Americans.

Medicine Crow earned the title of war chief in his tribe through stealing horses and other exploits during World War Two.

He later worked as his tribe's historian, lecturing into his nineties.

"When you spoke with Joe Medicine Crow, it was impossible not to be inspired," Montana senator Jon Tester tweeted.

War bravery

Medicine Crow was raised on the Crow Reservation in the state of Montana where he spent much of his life.

He was the first of his tribe to get a master's degree in 1939, later helping catalogue his people's history through oral testimony.

To become a war chief he successfully performed four daring deeds, including wrestling a weapon from an enemy warrior - in his case a Nazi soldier.

"I never got a scratch," he said decades on, the Billings Gazette reported.

In 2009. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"His contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans are matched only by his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country," the White House said at the time.

Read more

Panama Papers: Putin associates linked to 'money laundering'

A suspected money laundering ring involving close associates of Vladimir Putin has been uncovered in a leak of confidential documents.

The billion-dollar operation was run by Bank Rossiya, which is subject to US and EU sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Evidence seen by BBC Panorama reveals for the first time how the bank operates.

Documents show how money has been channelled through offshore companies.

They suggest Sonnette Overseas, International Media Overseas, Sunbarn and Sandalwood Continental have profited from fake share transactions, bogus consulting deals, uncommercial loans and the purchase of under-priced assets.

The documents show that International Media Overseas and Sonnette Overseas were officially owned by one of the Russian president's closest friends.

Panama Papers - tax havens of the rich and powerful exposed

  • Eleven million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have been passed to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. BBC Panorama is among 107 media organisations - including UK newspaper the Guardian - in 78 countries which have been analysing the documents. The BBC doesn't know the identity of the source
  • They show how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax
  • Mossack Fonseca says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and never been accused or charged with criminal wrong-doing
  • Tricks of the trade: How assets are hidden and taxes evaded
  • Panama Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #PanamaPapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag "Panama Papers"
  • Watch Panorama at 19:30 on BBC One on Monday, 4 April, or catch up later on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

Concert cellist Sergei Roldugin has known Vladimir Putin since they were teenagers and is godfather to the president's daughter Maria.

On paper, Mr Roldugin has personally made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the suspicious deals.

But documents from Mr Roldugin's companies state that: "The company is a corporate screen established principally to protect the identity and confidentiality of the ultimate beneficial owner of the company."

Sergei Roldugin

Sergei Roldugin owns a number of offshore companies

The cellist has previously told reporters that he is not a businessman. His involvement in the complex offshore deals will raise suspicion that he is simply acting as a front for someone else.

Suspicious activity

In one example, documents show that Sandalwood Continental bought an asset for just $1 (70p) and sold it three months later for $133m (£93m).

Sandalwood was also given $800m (£562m) of loans by a Russian state bank. There is no evidence in the documents of Sandalwood providing security for the loans or making repayments.

Tom Keatinge - who runs the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies - says the transactions appear to be evidence of money laundering.

"There's nothing that I have seen which would make me say anything other than 'Stop, we need to investigate very closely what's going on here.' Whether it's loans being written off with no apparent compensation, other than the dollar, or whether it's loans being assigned through multiple pairs of hands for no obvious reason."

The documents show that one of the Roldugin companies, International Media Overseas, borrowed $6m (£4.2m) in 2007. Three months later the loan was written off for just $1, so the cellist's company had been given $6m.

In another suspicious deal in 2011, International Media Overseas bought all the rights - including interest and repayments - to a $200m (£140m) loan.

International Media Overseas paid just a single dollar, even though the interest payments alone were worth $8m (£5.6m) a year to Mr Roldugin's company.

Andrew Mitchell QC, one of the UK's leading experts on money laundering, says the deals are highly suspicious: "There can't be a commercial basis for transferring $200m and the rights to $8m a year for a dollar."


Read more

Khalid al-Barnawi: Nigeria Islamist group head 'arrested'

The leader of al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group Ansaru has been arrested in Nigeria, authorities there say.

A military spokesman said Khalid al-Barnawi was captured in Lokoja, capital of the central state of Kogi.

The US had placed a $5m (£3.5m) bounty on his head after branding him one of three Nigerian "specially designated global terrorists" in 2012.

Ansaru is a splinter group of Nigeria's largest jihadist group, Boko Haram, known for kidnapping foreigners.

Ideologically aligned to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, it is also accused of killing a number of Westerners.

Ansaru said it carried out an attack on a maximum security prison in the Nigerian capital Abuja in 2012, freeing dozens of inmates.

"Security agents made a breakthrough on Friday in the fight against terrorism by arresting Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru terrorist group in Lokoja," military spokesman Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said.

"He is among those on top of the list of our wanted terrorists."


Read more

Panama Papers: Mossack Fonseca leak reveals elite's tax havens

A huge leak of confidential documents has revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.

Eleven million documents were leaked from one of the world's most secretive companies, Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax.

The company says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and has never been charged with criminal wrong-doing.

The documents show links to 72 current or former heads of state in the data, including dictators accused of looting their own countries.

Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), said the documents covered the day-to-day business at Mossack Fonseca over the past 40 years.

"I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents," he said.

Panama Papers - tax havens of the rich and powerful exposed

  • Eleven million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have been passed to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. BBC Panorama is among 107 media organisations - including UK newspaper the Guardian - in 78 countries which have been analysing the documents. The BBC doesn't know the identity of the source
  • They show how the company has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax
  • Mossack Fonseca says it has operated beyond reproach for 40 years and never been accused or charged with criminal wrong-doing
  • Tricks of the trade: How assets are hidden and taxes evaded
  • Panama Papers: Full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #PanamaPapers; in the BBC News app, follow the tag "Panama Papers"
  • Watch Panorama at 19:30 on BBC One on Monday, 4 April, or catch up later on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

The data contains secret offshore companies linked to the families and associates of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

Russian connection

It also reveals a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring that was run by a Russian bank and involved close associates of President Putin.

The operation was run by Bank Rossiya, which is subject to US and EU sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The documents reveal for the first time how the bank operates.

Money has been channelled through offshore companies, two of which were officially owned by one of the Russian president's closest friends.

Concert cellist Sergei Roldugin has known Vladimir Putin since they were teenagers and is godfather to the president's daughter Maria.

On paper, Mr Roldugin has personally made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from suspicious deals.

But documents from Mr Roldugin's companies state that: "The company is a corporate screen established principally to protect the identity and confidentiality of the ultimate beneficial owner of the company."

Read more: Putin associates linked to 'money laundering'

Iceland connection

Mossack Fonseca data also shows how Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson had an undeclared interest in his country's bailed-out banks.

Mr Gunnlaugsson has been accused of hiding millions of dollars of investments in his country's banks behind a secretive offshore company.

Leaked documents show that Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson and his wife bought offshore company Wintris in 2007.

He did not declare an interest in the company when entering parliament in 2009. He sold his 50% of Wintris to his wife for $1 (70p), eight months later.

Mr Gunnlaugsson is now facing calls for his resignation. He says he has not broken any rules, and his wife did not benefit financially from his decisions.

The offshore company was used to invest millions of dollars of inherited money, according to a document signed by Mr Gunnlaugsson's wife Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir in 2015.

Read more: Iceland PM's investments questioned

'Beyond reproach'

In addition, Mossack Fonseca supplied a front man who pretended to own $1.8m, so the real owner could get the cash from the bank without revealing their identity.

Mossack Fonseca says it has always complied with international protocols to ensure the companies they incorporate are not used for tax evasion, money-laundering, terrorist finance or other illicit purposes.

The company says it conducts thorough due diligence and regrets any misuse of its services.

"For 40 years Mossack Fonseca has operated beyond reproach in our home country and in other jurisdictions where we have operations. Our firm has never been accused or charged in connection with criminal wrongdoing.

"If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always cooperate fully with them."

Mossack Fonseca says offshore companies are available worldwide and are used for a variety of legitimate purposes.

See more at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


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BNI frees man accused of leaking pictures of NDC branded cars

The Bureau of National Investigations has released the Managing Director of a quarry company, Marbles and Granites, who allegedly circulated photos of Mahindra vehicles, branded in National Democratic Congress (NDC) colours.

Sources close to the situation told Citi News that Dr. Edmund Ayo Ani was released on Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Ani was picked up by the Police on Friday with two others and handed over to the BNI for their involvement in the circulation of photos of vehicles which were allegedly procured for the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), but were being re-branded to aid the NDC’s campaign ahead of the November elections.

Initial reports had indicated that the MD of Marbles and Granites Company, Dr. Edmund Ayo Ani, and two others, were picked up by the BNI on Friday, while they were at work.

But sources within the National Security clarified that the Police rather caused the arrest, following a complaint lodged by the National Security Advisor, Alhaji Baba Kamara.

According to the National Security Adviser, Alhaji Baba Kamara, who owns the land in which the cars were allegedly being sprayed, it was wrong for someone to take photos of his premises and circulate them.

Citi News understands that the Police later handed over the MD and the two to the BNI for further investigations.

It is unclear whether the two who were arrested together with Dr. Ani have also been released.


The Bureau of National Investigations has released the Managing Director of a quarry company, Marbles and Granites, who allegedly circulated photos of Mahindra vehicles, branded in National Democratic Congress (NDC) colours.

Sources close to the situation told Citi News that Dr. Edmund Ayo Ani was released on Sunday afternoon.

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Nuclear terrorist attack would 'change our world', says Obama

The threat from terrorists trying to launch a nuclear attack that would "change our world" is real, President Barack Obama has said.

The world has taken "concrete" steps to prevent nuclear terrorism, he told the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

But the so-called Islamic State (IS) obtaining a nuclear weapon is "one of the greatest threats to global security," he added.

More than 50 nations were represented at the summit.

World leaders convening in Washington for the summit expressed concern about North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and Russia's lack of attendance.

Mr Obama expressed concern that Russia has been building up its military at the expense of nuclear arms reductions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to attend the summit, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan cancelled his trip after the deadly bombing in Lahore. Both countries are nuclear-armed.

As the summit closed, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to fight proliferation.

Mr Obama cited progress in making large parts of the world free of nuclear materials. South America had already achieved this, and Central Europe and South East Asia were expected to do so later this year.

"Together, we have removed the world's most deadly materials from nuclear facilities around the world," he said.

Despite these gains, Mr Obama said the Indian subcontinent and the Korean peninsula were areas where more could be done to combat proliferation.

Mr Obama said the world cannot be "complacent" and must build on its progress in slowing the stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

IS has already used chemical weapons in Syria.

"There is no doubt that if these mad men ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible," he said.

"The single most effective defence against nuclear terrorism is fully securing this material so it doesn't fall into the wrong hands in the first place."

Could Islamic State make a 'dirty bomb'?

Mr Obama hailed his own nuclear agreement with Iran, which has been criticised by Republicans and other groups for the sanctions relief it provides. He called it a "substantial success".

"This is a success of diplomacy that hopefully we will be able to copy in the future," he said.

Mr Obama said Iran has so far followed the letter of the agreement. He urged patience as the country becomes re-integrated into the global economy.

"So long as Iran is carrying out its end of the bargain, we think it's important for the world community to carry out our end," he said.

At the summit, Mr Obama was asked about recent comments by presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

The Republican front-runner had floated the idea that Japan and South Korea should have nuclear weapons, a dramatic departure from decades of US foreign policy.

"The person who made the statement doesn't know much about foreign policy, nuclear policy, the Korean peninsula or the world generally," Mr Obama said.


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Greyhound shooting: Police officer killed at Virginia bus station

A gunman shot and killed a state trooper inside a Greyhound bus station in the US state of Virginia.

Several Virginia state troopers were conducting a training exercise at the station when the gunman approached the trooper and shot him in the chest.

Other troopers, who were in uniform at the time, then fired back and killed the gunman.

Two bystanders were hurt in the shooting and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The Virginia State Police did not identify the gunman.

Najee Wilson, 18, of New Jersey was waiting for a bus when he heard gunshots.

"We heard a lot of people screaming," Mr Wilson told the Associated Press. "It definitely was a scary experience."

The Greyhound station in Richmond is just west of the city's downtown area.

Greyhound issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, saying the Richmond bus station would be closed "until further notice".

Police officers from multiple agencies flooded the area after the shooting. The gunman's weapon was recovered, police said.

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said law enforcement officers have become targets.

"It's unfortunate these are the days we're living in, where folks want to harm law enforcement," Mr Durham said.


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North Korea nuclear tests: US and China to co-operate

China and the United States will work together to try and prevent further missile tests by North Korea, US President Barack Obama says.

In recent weeks, North Korea has carried out a hydrogen bomb test and repeatedly test-fired missiles.

Mr Obama met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in Washington on Thursday.

But hours later, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the North appeared to have test-fired another missile.

The latest test saw what appeared to be a ballistic missile land off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, Yonhap reported.

Mr Obama said he and Mr Xi were seeking to agree "how we can discourage action like nuclear missile tests that escalate tensions and violate international obligations".

Mr Xi, quoted by China's state news agency Xinhua, said it was critical all parties "fully and strictly" implemented newly-agreed sanctions. China is North Korea's closest ally and largest trading partner.

Zheng Zeguang, China's assistant foreign minister, said the presidents had a "candid and in-depth exchange of views on a variety of issues...and reached an important consensus". He called the meeting "positive, constructive and fruitful".

North Korea's nuclear test on 6 January and a satellite launch on 7 February were violations of existing UN sanctions.

Since then, the UN and Washington passed further sanctions on Pyongyang. The UN steps were drafted with support by China and reportedly came after two months of negotiations between Beijing and Washington.

Previous UN sanctions imposed after North Korean tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 did little to dispel its nuclear ambitions.

Much of the burden of making sure the sanctions are implemented is falling on China.

Under the new measures, any North Korean ships arriving in China must be inspected for contraband and imports halted if there is proof profits from those exchanges go towards the North's nuclear programme.

Washington has long pushed for Beijing to put more pressure on North Korea. A White House statement in February said China's "unique influence over the North Korean regime" gave it the chance to do so.

A map of previous North Korean nuclear tests

China's foreign ministry last week said it was keen to push for wider talks on North Korea, involving a number of regional powers, during the meeting with Mr Obama. There was no confirmation whether new talks were agreed on Thursday.

Mr Obama also vowed to closely work on the same issue with its allies South Korea and Japan after meeting their leaders on Thursday.

"We are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations," he said.


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India Kolkata flyover collapse: Dozens remain trapped

Rescuers have worked through the night to reach dozens of people believed to be trapped under a collapsed flyover in the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta).

The bypass was under construction in the Girish Park area when it collapsed suddenly on Thursday night.

At least 23 people were killed and scores were injured.

The 2km-long (1.2 mile) flyover had been under construction since 2009 and missed several deadlines for completion.

Scene of flyover collapse

Volunteers initially used bare hands to try to reach people trapped under the rubble

The cause of the disaster was not immediately clear, but safety issues such as lack of inspections and the use of substandard materials have plagued construction projects in India.

The company in charge of the construction, IVRCL, said it would co-operate with investigators. However one of its senior officials said in a news conference that the collapse had been "an act of god" as the company had a good safety record.

India's collapsing building problem

The flyover was in one of Kolkata's most densely populated neighbourhoods, with narrow lanes, and shops and houses built close together, making it difficult to get heavy equipment to the scene.

The BBC's Rahul Tandon in Kolkata described chaotic scenes on Thursday night, with officials trying to clear the area in case the structure collapsed further.

CCTV footage posted on social media appears to show the moment a 100-metre section of the structure collapses, hitting passers-by, auto rickshaws and nearby buildings.

Witnesses said other cars, buses and lorries were also hit. People are said to have been living in makeshift homes under the flyover.

Emergency teams are using sniffer dogs, concrete cutters, drilling machines and sensors to detect life, a rescue official told AFP news agency.

A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDRF), Anurag Gupta, told AFP that soldiers and NDRF personnel were at the scene alongside hundreds of police and local officials.

The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has said the authorities will take "stringent action" against those responsible for the disaster.

A recurring tragedy

Collapsed building in Chennai in June 2014

  • August 2015: At least 11 people die after a building collapses near India's western city of Mumbai
  • July 2015: Five killed after a four-storey building collapses in Delhi
  • April 2013: 74 people die after a high-rise residential building in Mumbai collapses
  • June 2014: At least 10 people killed when a three-storey building in Delhi collapses
  • June 2014: At least 60 people killed when a building collapses in a Chennai suburb
  • November 2010: 69 killed and more than 80 injured in a collapse in Delhi
  • September 2009: Chimney of a power plant in Chhattisgarh caves in, killing 40 people

Other building collapses in India


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Hull set for City of Culture mass nude photograph

Hull has been chosen as the latest place to stage a mass nude gathering, all in the name of art.

Internationally-renowned photographer Spencer Tunick is to create a new work there to celebrate its year as UK City of Culture.

The gathering is to be photographed in the East Yorkshire port on 9 July, with the resulting work unveiled in 2017.

Organisers hope hundreds of people will strip to become part of the work, entitled Sea Of Hull.

Participants are to be covered in cosmetic body make-up, before assembling to form the multiple colours of the sea and create abstract shapes for the camera.

New York-based Tunick has created more than 90 similar human installations worldwide, including at the Sydney Opera House, Place des Arts in Montreal, Mexico City and Munich in Germany.

His work in the UK has used places including Gateshead and Folkestone as backdrops.

The photographer at work in Mexico City

Tunick hopes people will help create "a sea of humanity flooding the urban landscape".

"I'm very interested in the history of the city and its place as a seafaring centre and its relationship to a rich maritime past," Tunick said of Hull.

"It intrigues me that in some places where there are major streets or parks today, previously there was water."

He said he hoped he would create "a sea of humanity flooding the urban landscape" and the body paint would help many people to overcome their inhibitions to posing naked.

Kirsten Simister, of Hull's Ferens Art Gallery, said: "It's an opportunity to involve people directly in an amazing live performance that will temporarily transform the city."


Tunick's UK work has included photographing mass events in Gateshead and Folkestone

The artist is to also create a second installation on 10 July inviting a select group of participants to take part in another event in North Lincolnshire.

Anyone over 18 can take part.





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US to increase military presence in eastern Europe

The US is boosting its troop presence in eastern Europe in response to an "aggressive Russia", the military says.

An extra armoured brigade is being deployed, meaning a total of three will be there on a continuous basis.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent says it is the most significant US reinforcement of Nato since tensions flared over Russian action in Ukraine.

Last month the Pentagon announced plans to quadruple its budget for European defence in 2017.

The additional presence will increase US ability to conduct military exercises in the region.

The plan demonstrates "our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our Nato allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in eastern Europe and elsewhere", said Gen Philip Breedlove, the senior US commander in Europe.

"Our allies and partners will see more capability. They will see a more frequent presence of an armoured brigade with more modernised equipment in their countries," he added.

'Division's worth of stuff'

Each brigade will rotate through the region for nine months before being replaced.

There are about 4,200 soldiers in a brigade, bringing with them military vehicles and other equipment.

"There will be a division's worth of stuff to fight if something happens," Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work told the Wall Street Journal.

Relations between Russia and the West have plummeted since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014.

The intervention sparked fears that Russia was considering other incursions into neighbouring countries.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Reuters on Wednesday the situation in Ukraine had "gone backwards over the last few months, with more and more violations of the ceasefire".

Russia has accused Nato of using the situation in Ukraine as an excuse to move closer to Russian borders.

"Stories are being spread that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltic states, into Sofia or into Budapest. No-one intends to do that," Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Some analysts suggested the US military could be planning for the post-Obama era.

The frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for the presidential election, Donald Trump, has strongly attacked the economic cost of US foreign policy.

US military presence in Europe

EUCOM - the US European Command - aims to support "enduring stability and peace" on the continent


US service personnel are permanently based in Europe

  • 25,000 of these are army soldiers

  • 4,200 more under new plan

  • 21 US bases across Europe

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'Drastic' Antarctic melt could double global sea-level rise

Global sea levels could rise by more than double the current best estimate, according to a new analysis of climate change in Antarctica.

The modelling assessment says that Antarctic melting alone could contribute more than a metre to sea level by the end of this century.

By 2500, according to the study, the same source could cause levels across the world to rise by 13m.

The authors say that rapid cuts in carbon emissions could limit this risk.

Competing ideas

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that, without any restrictions on carbon emissions, the seas around the world likely rise by up to 98cm by 2100.

However, the IPCC estimates contained a minimum contribution from Antarctica.

Other analyses since then have projected bigger increases, with a recent study suggesting that the oceans were rising faster than at any time in the past 2,800 years and by 2100 they could be up to 1.31m higher.

The exact level of Antarctica's impact on these projections has been vigorously debated. Late last year, a research paper suggested that projections of a contribution of a metre or more were not plausible.

But this new study argues that by 2100 the world could see 1.14m of sea-level rise from Antarctica alone.

Additions to the model

The scientists say that their model is able to provide a more accurate prediction because it incorporates the impacts of some physical processes for the first time.

While other models have focussed on the impact of warmer waters melting the ice shelves from below, this new study also includes the effect of surface melt-water and rain trickling down from above and fracturing supporting ice, hastening its slide to the sea.

The model also calculates the impact of the disintegration of floating ice shelves. If this happens, it will reveal walls of ice so tall that they cannot support their own weight.

The scientists involved expect that these extra factors will kick in over the coming decades, as warming from the atmosphere (not just from warmer waters below) becomes the dominant driver of ice loss.

ice melt

The collapse of ice cliffs could be a significant factor in the new projection

"One reason that other models didn't include the atmospheric warming is because it hasn't started to happen just yet," said co-author Dr David Pollard from Penn State University, US.

"In Antarctica, around the edges at sea level, it's just beginning to get up to the melt point in summer.

"With that warming, the flanks of Antarctica will start to melt drastically in about 50 to 100 years - and then it will start to kick in according to our model."

The authors believe that they have demonstrated the accuracy of the new model by correctly replicating sea-level rise in warm periods, millions of years into the past.

"Recently, we looked at the long-standing problem posed by geological evidence that suggests sea level rose dramatically in the past, possibly up to 10 to 20 metres around 3 million years ago, in the Pliocene," said Dr Pollard.

"Existing models couldn't simulate enough ice-sheet melting to explain that."

'Right questions'

If the world continues to emit "business as usual" levels of carbon dioxide over the coming decades, the scientists argue that sea-level rise will be double what has already been estimated for the coming 100 years.

"If these processes do kick in and they end up being as important as we think that they could be, then they really do have a big impact," said Prof Robert DeConto from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

"West Antarctica is responding very soon in these simulations and that ends up having a big impact on North America in particular."

Other researchers have praised the development of the new model for including impacts such as surface melt water and ice-cliff collapse, but they are uncertain about the conclusions.

"I have no doubt that on a century to millennia timescale, warming will make these processes significant in Antarctica, as well as Greenland, and drive a very significant Antarctic contribution to sea-level rise," commented Prof David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey.

"The big question for me is, how soon could this all begin, and could it be early enough to drive substantially higher sea levels by 2100? I'm not sure, but these guys are definitely asking the right questions."

The authors believe that there is "good news" in their report. If global emissions of carbon are curtailed significantly then the extra factors that substantially boost Antarctic melting will be avoided.

Seas will continue to rise, but not at the runaway rates suggested by this paper, which has been published in the journal Nature.



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Governor of Georgia vetoes 'religious freedom' bill

The governor of the US state of Georgia has vetoed a "religious freedom" bill after facing pressure from business interests.

The bill would have allowed faith-based organisations to refuse service to gay and transgender people.

Disney, the National Football League, Coca-Cola and others threatened to pull business out of the state.

The veto comes as other US states enacted similar laws that limit gay rights.

"I believe it is a matter of character for our state," Governor Nathan Deal said.

"I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia."

Protesters hold up signs as the dome of the Capitol stands in the background during a rally against a contentious

Republicans lawmakers said the bill would protect religious people who believe serving gay and transgender people violates their beliefs.

The bill also would have protected clergy not wishing to perform gay marriages, and people who would not attend weddings based on religious beliefs.

If passed, opponents said it would have legalised discrimination and flattened ordinances passed to protect gay and transgender people.

Mr Deal said his decision was "about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state; it is full of loving, kind and generous people."

Disney said it would not shoot films in Georgia if the bill became law.

"Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law," a Disney spokesman told Variety last week.

Warner Bros and cable network AMC released a similar statement last week. AMC produces the hit show The Walking Dead, which is filmed in the state.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank denounced the bill, and the National Football League said passing the bill would have hurt Atlanta's chances of hosting the Super Bowl.

"The message to Governor Nathan Deal was loud and clear: this deplorable legislation was bad for his constituents, bad for business and bad for Georgia's future," said Chad Griffin, president the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group. "Discrimination and intolerance have no place in the 21st century,"

Republican State Senator Josh McKoon said he was "disappointed" and thought Mr Deal was someone "the faith community could rely on".

After the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage last year, many conservative states drew up laws in an attempt to protect the religious community.

Last week, North Carolina's legislature passed a sweeping bill that bars its cities and counties from having their own anti-discrimination rules.

Legislators pushed for the bill after Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use restrooms according to gender identity.

Lawmakers in several other US states have proposed similar legislation - sometimes referred to as "bathroom bills".

The North Carolina law has also drawn criticism from the business community with Charlotte-based Bank of America, Apple and other large companies expressing concern about the law.

On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the governor of North Carolina over the new law.

Two transgender men along with the two civil rights groups filed the lawsuit, asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional.


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UAE fire: Huge blaze hits Ajman residential tower

A large fire has hit a residential tower in the United Arab Emirates, police say, in the third such incident in a little more than a year.

The fire struck the tower in the emirate of Ajman, north of Dubai, the region's police said on Twitter.

Reports in the UAE say there were no casualties, and that everyone was evacuated from the tower in al-Sawan.

On New Year's Eve, a large fire engulfed the luxury 63-storey Address Hotel in central Dubai.

The latest fire struck late on Monday in the Ajman One complex, a development of 12 towers with some 3,000 apartments.

Videos posted by Ajman Police on Twitter show flames engulfing most of one side of the tower, reaching several storeys high.

An earlier video shows a large amount of burning debris falling to the ground. The UAE Minister of Interior, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, visited the scene.

The 2.7bn dirham (£515m; $735m) project had been due to open in 2009, but was completed years later.

In the New Year's Eve hotel blaze, which burned for more than 20 hours, police say 16 people were injured. Planned fireworks at the nearby Burj Khalifa went ahead despite the fire breaking out shortly before.

Police said cladding used on the outside of the building did not meet safety standards.

The blaze was caused by a short circuit in a spotlight, investigators said.

In February 2015, a large fire badly damaged the Torch skyscraper in Dubai, one of the tallest residential towers in the world.


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Brussels attacks: Belgium releases terror murder suspect

A man known as Faycal C, the only person arrested and charged with involvement in the Brussels attacks, has been released for lack of evidence.

Belgian media said the man had been suspected of being the mystery third man in CCTV footage of the bombers.

But a judge found there was no evidence to justify holding him, the prosecutor's office said.

Last Tuesday's attacks on the airport and the city's metro system killed 35 people and injured more than 300.

The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Of the 35 victims, seven have still to be identified, the country's crisis centre said on Monday (in French).

At least 12 of the victims are foreign nationals from the US, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and China, it said earlier.

The death toll does not include three attackers, two of whom blew themselves up at the airport and one in the metro.

EU institutions based in Brussels will reopen on Tuesday, following the Easter break, "with important additional security measures in place", European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva said in a tweet.

Belgium terror arrests

A man referred to officially as Facyal C was released on 28 March after being arrested on 24 March in Brussels and charged with "participation in the activities of a terrorist group, terrorist murders and attempted terrorist murders".

Others detained on suspicion of terrorist activity include

  • Salah Abdeslam - arrested on 18 March in the Molenbeek district of Brussels. Key suspect in the Paris attacks last November. Charged with "terrorist murder"
  • 'Amine Choukri' - arrested on 18 March with Abdeslam, real name not yet known. Also used the alias Monir Ahmed Alaaj. Documented by German police near Ulm in a car with Abdeslam last October. Charged with "terrorist murder" over the Paris attacks
  • Rabah N - arrested on 25 March and charged with participating in terrorist activities in relation to a foiled plot to attack Paris
  • Abderamane A - shot in the leg and arrested on 25 March at a tram stop in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels. Charged in relation to the foiled plot to attack Paris. Jailed for seven years in France in 2005 and banned from entering France for life aiding in the assassination of Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Massoud in 2001.
  • Aboubakar A - arrested on 24 March in a car in Brussels, charged with participating in terrorist activities
  • Yassine A, Mohamed B and Aboubaker O - arrested during raids on 27 March and charged with belonging to a terrorist group

'Not substantiated'

In a statement, the Belgian federal prosecutor's office said: "The clues that led to the arrest of Faycal C were not substantiated by the ongoing inquiry.

"As a result, the subject has been released by the examining magistrate."

He had been charged only two days before with "taking part in a terrorist group, terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder".

Belgian media say the charges remain, even though he has been released.

Belgian public TV and Le Soir daily identified the freed man as Faycal Cheffou, a freelance journalist.

Airport worker Geoffroy Lemaitre, who was injured in the bombing, talks to fellow airport workers prior to the start of an ecumenical service for the victims of the Brussels bomb attacks at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels, 28 March

An injured airport worker caries a single candle as she walks in the procession during an ecumenical service for the victims of the Brussels bomb attacks at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels, 28 March

Injured airport workers attended a religious service in Brussels on Monday. The service was held at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula

CCTV footage released by Belgian police on Monday shows the two airport bombers alongside a third man, who is wearing light-coloured clothing and a dark hat. Each is pushing a loaded luggage trolley.

Twin blasts struck the main terminal of Zaventem Airport, in the north-east of the city. A third, even bigger, bomb was abandoned, prosecutors said at the time. It exploded after the security forces had secured the scene and nobody was hurt, they added.

The man in the hat is believed to have fled the scene.

Tuesday's other attack targeted the Maelbeek metro station in the city centre, close to several EU institutions.

Brussels was the second large-scale attack on an EU capital city claimed by IS, after gunmen and bombers killed 130 people in Paris on 13 November.

IS, an extreme Sunni Muslim group known for its ruthless tactics, has seized large tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq in recent years, attracting hundreds of young Europeans to its ranks, many of them Belgians.


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US Capitol shooting: Police shoot armed man at visitor centre

Police shot an armed man as he tried to enter the US Capitol building's visitor centre in Washington, officials said.

A female bystander suffered minor injuries when police fired at the suspect.

Officials said the suspect was known to Capitol police and ABC News reported that the man had disrupted a House session last year.

The massive complex was placed on lockdown, but the security precaution has since been lifted.

US media identified the suspect as 66-year-old Larry Dawson of Tennessee.

In October, he was arrested for interrupting a Congressional session, yelling "prophet of god".

Washington's city police called the shooting an "isolated" incident, saying there is "no active threat" to the public.

Officials originally said a police officer had been hurt, but Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said no officers were shot.

"There is no reason to believe this is anything more than a criminal act," Mr Verderosa said.

He said the suspect's vehicle was found on Capitol grounds and the weapon was recovered.

The gunman was undergoing surgery at a hospital and his condition was unknown, Mr Verderosa said.

US Congress is on recess for the Easter holiday, but some members of Congress and staff members were on site.

To enter the US Capitol or any Senate or House office buildings, visitors must go through a metal detector and weapons are not permitted.

Mr Verderosa said the suspect pulled out his gun just before being screened by those metal detectors.

Diane Bilo, a woman from Ohio, told the Washington Post her husband heard the shot.

"My husband said he heard a shot followed by a full clip," she said. Multiple members of Congress have posted to social media, reporting that their staff were safe.

In 1998, an attacker shot and killed two police officers at the Capitol. The visitor centre was built as a way to strengthen security after the shooting.

Many tourists are in Washington for the annual Cherry Blossom festival - about 1.5 million people visit the city during the four weeks of the festival.

The White House was also put on lockdown temporarily due to a separate incident.


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FBI-Apple case: Investigators break into dead San Bernardino gunman's iPhone

The FBI has managed to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman without Apple's help, ending a court case, the US justice department says.

Apple had been resisting a court order issued last month requiring the firm to write new software to allow officials to access Rizwan Farook's phone.

But officials on Monday said that it had been accessed independently and asked for the order to be withdrawn.

Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino in December.

They were later shot dead by police. US officials said Mr Farook's wide, Tashfeen Malik, pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State on social media on the day of the shooting.

Is this the Israeli firm that hacked the phone?

UN human rights chief backs Apple

Apple boss hits back at FBI conduct

Last week, prosecutors said "an outside party" had demonstrated a possible way of unlocking the iPhone without the need to seek Apple's help.

A court hearing with Apple was postponed at the request of the justice department, while it investigated new ways of accessing the phone.

At the time, Apple said it did not know how to gain access, and said it hoped that the government would share with them any vulnerabilities of the iPhone that might come to light.

On Monday a statement by Eileen Decker, the top federal prosecutor in California, said investigators had received the help of "a third party", but did not specify who that was.

Investigators had "a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting", she said.

"It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with co-operation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails," the statement added.

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

A court case that had the US technology industry united against the FBI has, for the time being, gone away.

Now this debate moves into more uncertain times. The US government has knowledge of a security vulnerability that in theory weakens Apple devices around the world.

To protect its reputation, Apple will rush to find and fix that flaw. Assuming it can do that, this row is back to square one.

Read more from Dave

An Israeli newspaper last week reported that data forensics experts at cybersecurity firm Cellebrite, which has its headquarters in Israel, are involved in the case.

Cellebrite told the BBC that it works with the FBI but would not say more.

Its website, however, states that one of its tools can extract and decode data from the iPhone 5C, the model in question, among other locked handsets.

The court order had led to a vigorous debate over privacy, with Apple saying allowing officials access to users' data would set a "dangerous precedent".

The company received support from other tech giants including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

And earlier this month, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, warned enforcing the order risked opening a "Pandora's box".

FBI director James Comey said it was the "hardest question" he had tackled in his job.

However, he said, law enforcement saved lives, rescued children and prevented terror attacks using search warrants that gave it access to information on mobile phones.


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Top US Navy officer jailed over massive bribery scandal

A high-ranking US Navy captain has been sentenced to nearly four years in jail for passing classified information to a Malaysian defence contractor.

Daniel Dusek provided the information in exchange for luxury hotel stays and the services of prostitutes.

Dusek was also ordered to pay a $70,000 (£50,000) fine and $30,000 in restitution to the navy.

He is the highest-ranking officer to be charged in one of the US military's worst bribery scandals.

Sentencing Dusek in San Diego, California to 46 months in prison, Judge Janis Sammartino said: "It is truly unimaginable to the court that someone in your position with the United States Navy would sell out based on what was provided to you - hotel rooms, entertainment and the services of prostitutes."

Dusek, 49, who pleaded guilty in January 2015 to conspiracy to commit bribery, told the court he would never forgive himself for his actions.

The former captain was among several current and former naval officers charged in the scandal that involved tens of millions of dollars in bribes. At one point, Dusek served as deputy director of operations for the US 7th Fleet.

The man at the centre of the scandal, contractor Leonard Francis, plead guilty in the case last year, admitting that his Singapore-based port services company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA), plied Dusek and others with meals, alcohol, luxury hotel stays and other gifts to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where GDMA operated.

In one instance, Dusek arranged for an aircraft carrier - the USS Abraham Lincoln - to stop at Port Klang, Malaysia, a port terminal owned by Francis. The 2010 port visit cost the United States about $1.6 million, officials said.

"Captain Dusek's betrayal is the most distressing because the navy placed so much trust, power and authority in his hands," said US Attorney Laura Duffy.

"This is a fitting sentence for a man who was so valuable that his conspirators labelled him their 'golden asset'," she added.


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Brussels attacks: Belgian police arrest six suspects

Belgian police have arrested six people in Brussels as a major investigation continues into attacks that claimed 31 lives in the city on Tuesday.

The arrests were made in the Schaerbeek district. There is no word yet on the identities of the suspects or their possible connection to the attacks.

Separately, in France, a suspect who was plotting an attack has been arrested near Paris, officials said.

The Brussels bombings have been linked to last November's Paris attacks.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed the attacks in both Paris and Brussels.

More about the attacks

Why have jihadists targeted Belgium?

Why Brussels warning signs were missed

From Paris to Brussels: Why the attacks are linked

What we know so far

Victims and survivors

The arrests in Schaerbeek were made late on Thursday, and followed house-to-house searches in the area.

Also on Thursday evening, French police launched an anti-terror operation in Argenteuil, north-west of Paris, following the arrest hours earlier of a man suspected of planning an attack.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the suspected militant, of French origin, was in an "advanced stage" of a plot, adding that no connection had been made to either the Brussels or the Paris attacks.

Last November, 130 people died after militants opened fire and detonated bombs in a number of locations in the French capital.

Earlier on Thursday, Belgium admitted that it had made "errors" relating to one of the Brussels attackers.

Turkey has said it arrested and deported Brahim el-Bakraoui last June, warning Belgium he was a "foreign fighter" - but was "ignored". The Dutch authorities had also been alerted, Ankara said.

The Belgian interior and justice ministers said they had offered to resign over this but added that the prime minister refused to let them.

Brahim el-Bakraoui is one of three men - pictured in the middle on a CCTV image of them - who carried out the bombings at Zaventem airport that killed 11 people.

Turkey police photo of Brahim el-Bakraoui taken in July 2015

Brahim el-Bakraoui was arrested in Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border

Unconfirmed reports say another of the Brussels airport attackers was the wanted jihadist Najim Laachraoui, whose DNA was found on explosives linked to the attacks in Paris.

The third suspected airport attacker has not yet been identified and is on the run.

Bakraoui's brother, Khalid, struck at Maelbeek metro station, where 20 people died.

There are reports of a second suspect being sought for that attack. One source told AFP news agency that a man with a large bag had been seen beside Khalid el-Bakraoui on surveillance footage at the metro station.

Meanwhile, VRT reported that investigators were working on the assumption that the cell had been planning a far bigger attack, involving Paris-style shootings as well as suicide bombings.

Links have also emerged with Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam was arrested and wounded in a police raid on a flat in the Forest area of Brussels last Friday - four days before the attacks in the Belgian capital.

Investigators say Khalid el-Bakraoui used a false name to rent the same flat.

On Thursday, Abdeslam's lawyer said he had changed his mind and would not fight extradition from Belgium to France.

Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national born in Belgium, did not have prior knowledge of the Brussels bombings and had stopped co-operating with police following the attacks, his lawyer Sven Mary said.

A court hearing on Thursday on the detention of Abdeslam and two other suspects has been postponed until 7 April.

The director of the EU's police agency, Europol, has told the BBC the network of jihadists in Europe is "more extensive than perhaps we first feared".

Robert Wainwright said there were concerns about "a community of 5,000 suspects that have been radicalised in Europe, that have travelled to Syria and Iraq for conflict experience, some of whom - not all - have since come back to Europe".

Connections between Paris and Brussels attacks



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North Carolina revokes transgender and gay protections

The US state of North Carolina has enacted a law that bars its cities and counties from having their own anti-discrimination rules.

Legislators pushed for the bill after Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use restrooms according to gender identity.

A Republican-controlled General Assembly voted on Wednesday to invalidate the ordinance.

The governor, who signed the bill, called it a matter of "basic privacy".

Governor Patrick McCrory said in a release that "the basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings" was violated by "government overreach and intrusion" by Charlotte's city council.

Lawmakers several other US states have proposed similar legislation - sometimes referred to as "bathroom bills".

A Houston anti-discrimination ordinance that offered protections for gay and transgender people was overturned by voters in November.

Democrats in North Carolina's Senate walked off their chamber floor in protest as the bill was being debated. It later passed 82-26.

Republican leaders booked the one-day session for $42,000 (£30,000) because the ordinance was set to take place on 1 April.

Local governments cannot prohibit discrimination in public places based on gender identity and sexual preference under the new law.

"We choose not to participate in this farce," said Dan Blue, a Democratic state senator.

Transgender people in North Carolina must use restrooms that match the gender listed on their on their birth certificate

Transgender people in North Carolina must use restrooms that match the gender listed on their on their birth certificate

North Carolina Republicans said they felt it was necessary to intervene to protect women and children from Charlotte's "radical" action, arguing that men could enter women's restrooms by calling themselves transgender.

"It's common sense, biological men should not be in women's showers, locker rooms and bathrooms,'' said Republican representative Dean Arp.

Gay rights advocates said the law places a stigma on the transgender community and spreads dubious claims about increased risk of sexual assault. The law will deny the LGBT community basic protections, the groups said.

"McCrory's reckless decision to sign this appalling legislation into law is a direct attack on the rights, well-being and dignity of hundreds of thousands of LGBT North Carolinians and visitors to the state,'' Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Civil liberties groups pledged to push for repeal and were weighing legal options."

The law requires public schools, government agencies and college campuses bathrooms and locker rooms marked by gender. Transgender people in North Carolina now must use restrooms that match the gender listed on their on their birth certificate .


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Ghana's US Embassy To Issue Travel Certificates Instead of Visas

The Ghana Embassy in the United States has directed individuals wishing to travel to the West African country to apply for Travel Certificates instead of Visas as they work to resolve the passport-printing crisis that has bedeviled the outfit.

The embassy has been unable to print passports for a long while causing massive discomfort to Ghanaians and other travelers seeking to come to the oil producing country. Starr News sources say most travelers, especially Ghanaians seeking to go home for the Easter festivities have been left stranded.

The embassy has not yet disclosed the reasons for the failure to print passports.

However in a notice posted at its premises, the embassy said it is working round the clock to fix the challenge which has existed since last year.

Below are details of the notice

The embassy of Ghana hereby informs that due to technical challenges the issuance of Ghana passport is temporary on hold.

Whiles we work tirelessly to resolve this challenge, the embassy takes this opportunity to express our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

You may have to apply for travel certificate in writing. Now this comes with its own issues.

1.Not all airlines accept travel certificates
2.You can only use it for a one way trip to Ghana only
3.You will have to make your own arrangement to get a passport once you get to Ghana
4.The fee for travel certificate is $50

Source: starr FM

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MH370 search: Mozambique debris 'almost certainly' from missing plane

Australia's transport minister says two plane parts found in Mozambique "almost certainly" came from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The two pieces of debris were found separately by members of the public and were flown to Australia for analysis.

Darren Chester said the finds were "consistent with drift modelling" of how debris from the missing plane may have been carried by ocean currents.

MH370 vanished in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

It was flying from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is widely believed to have gone down in the Indian Ocean after veering off course.

The fate of the plane, its passengers and crew remains one of aviation's biggest unsolved mysteries.

The only confirmed piece of debris found so far has been a section of wing called a flaperon, which was found on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

'Search continues'

One of the parts retrieved in Mozambique was found on a sandbank by an amateur US investigator in late February and the other in December by a South African tourist.

Plane part found in Mozambique in February

Mr Chester said the investigation team had finished examining the debris and found both were "consistent with panels from a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft".

"The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370," he said in a statement.

He said it showed that the vast deep-sea search for the plane in the southern Indian Ocean, being led by Australia, was focusing on the right place.


The search, also involving experts from China and Malaysia, is scanning the sea floor, much of it previously unmapped, in the hope of locating the wreckage.

Mr Chester said it would continue for now, with 25,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) of ocean still be to searched.

"We are focused on completing this task and remain hopeful the aircraft will be found."

But the three countries have said that barring significant new evidence, they will end the operation once the area has been fully searched. The search is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Map showing the last-known movements of flight MH370


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Moon used to spin 'on different axis'

The Moon used to spin on a different axis and show a slightly different face to the Earth, a new study suggests.

Using data collected by Nasa's Lunar Prospector mission in the late 1990s, scientists spotted two hydrogen-rich regions near the Moon's poles, probably indicating the presence of water ice.

The icy patches are opposite each other - the line between them passes through the middle of the Moon - so it appears that this used to be its spin axis.

The work appears in the journal Nature.

It describes a gradual wobble, or "true polar wander", adding up to about a six-degree shift altogether.

A likely explanation for this shift, which the researchers suggest took place over several billion years, is volcanic activity in a region called the Procellarum.

This swathe of territory includes most of the Moon's dark patches that are visible from the Earth. Volcanoes and associated geological activity would have made it warmer and lighter than the rest of the Moon.

According to Matt Siegler, from the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, and his colleagues, that drop in density produced enough wobble to explain the two "palaeopoles" they detected in the Lunar Prospector data.

"The Procellarum region was most geologically active early in lunar history, which implies that polar wander initiated billions of years ago," they write.

illustration of the location of the ancient poles

The presumed icy patches are opposite each other, nearby the present lunar poles

Dr Siegler and his colleagues discovered the hydrogen-rich patches in data from the Lunar Prospector's neutron spectrometer: measuring the neutrons bounced off the Moon's surface by incoming cosmic rays.

That hydrogen signal is taken to indicate the presence of water ice, which can - and does - exist in permanently shaded craters at the Moon's poles.

Precisely why it has persisted in these regions, which have now drifted away from the poles and into sunlight, is a mystery.

The researchers suggest it may have been buried by asteroid impacts, but this will require further investigation.

Previous studies have suggested that the Moon may have wobbled around to an even greater extent - perhaps as much as 35 degrees.

The lead author of one of those earlier papers, Ian Garrick-Bethell from the University of California Santa Cruz, wrote in a comment piece for Nature: "A key goal will be to reconcile these many stories of the changing orientation of the Moon, and to determine what density changes drove it to wander."



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Brussels attacks: Scores remain critical after bombings

Scores of people remain in intensive care following suicide Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels that left 31 people dead, Belgium's health minister says.

Maggie de Block said that of about 300 wounded people, 61 were still in a critical condition, and suggested that the death toll could rise further.

Earlier, prosecutors confirmed they had identified two of the four attackers as brothers Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui.

Two other attackers have yet to be named. One died, another is on the run.

Brahim el-Bakraoui blew himself up in the attack at Zaventem airport that killed 11 people while Khalid struck at Maelbeek metro, where 20 people died, prosecutors said.

Unconfirmed reports say another of the attackers was the wanted jihadist Najim Laachraoui, who is thought to have links with last year's attacks in Paris.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind the attacks.

EU interior and justice ministers are due to hold a crisis meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss their response to the bombings.

More about the attacks

What we know so far

Why was Brussels attacked?

Victims and survivors

Ms de Block said in a statement (in French) that the injured were from 40 nationalities, and 150 were still being treated in hospitals across Belgium.

Many are suffering from burns or wounds normally seen on a battlefield, such as shrapnel injuries. The death toll, the statement said, was still "provisional".

Ms de Block added that four patients were in a coma and had not yet been identified, which was delaying the process of naming victims.

Belgium's king and queen visited the airport on Wednesday and also met some of those injured in the attacks. A minute's silence was held at midday.

Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said Brahim el-Bakraoui had been identified as the middle of three suspects caught in a CCTV image at the airport.

CCTV grab of suspects

The airport CCTV image. The man on the left has not been officially identified and is believed to have died. Brahim el-Bakraoui is in the middle and was also killed. The man on the right has not been identified and is on the run

The man on the left is believed to have died at the airport. The man on the right, wearing the hat, is thought to have fled the scene.

Mr Van Leeuw said the man in the hat had left a bag containing "the biggest bomb", which later partially exploded after police had evacuated the terminal, injuring no-one.

Reports in Belgian and French media suggest the man on the left is Najim Laachraoui, but this is not confirmed. Analysts say Laachraoui is believed to be a key bomb maker, and French media say he played a key role in the terror attacks in Paris.

Mr Van Leeuw said a taxi driver had told police he had picked up the three men from an address in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels.

The apartment was raided later on Tuesday and bomb-making materials, including 15kg (33lb) of high explosive, were found.

A note from Brahim el-Bakraoui was found in a nearby rubbish bin. In it, he wrote: "I'm in a hurry (...) they're looking for me everywhere. I'm not safe any more. If I give myself up they'll put me in a cell."

Mr Van Leeuw said the brothers, who were Belgian nationals, were known to police and had criminal records. They were identified by DNA records.

Broadcaster RTBF quoted a police source saying that Khalid el-Bakraoui had used a false name to rent a flat in the Forest area of Brussels where police killed a gunman in a shootout last week.

It was during that raid that detectives found a fingerprint of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the Paris terror attacks of 13 November.

He was arrested in a raid in Brussels last Friday.

Turkey said on Wednesday that Brahim was detained by Turkish officials on the border with Syria in June 2015 and deported to the Netherlands.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Belgium had "ignored our warning that this person is a foreign fighter".

Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said he was aware that the suspect had been deported from Turkey but denied that he had been flagged as a possible terrorist.

Belgium has raised its terrorism alert to the highest level, and its international airport will remain closed on Thursday.

Map of Brussels attacks


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Brussels explosions: Why has Belgium's capital been attacked?

These are the darkest days Belgium has known since World War Two, according to one Belgian politician.

The attacks, claimed by jihadist group Islamic State (IS), murdered people at Brussels international airport and in a metro train in the heart of the Belgian capital.

And the targets were among the most sensitive in Europe. Brussels is home to the EU, Nato, international agencies and companies, as well as Belgium's own government.

Why has Brussels been attacked?

Not only is Brussels a high-profile target for Islamists, Belgium has struggled with Islamist groups for years and hundreds of its citizens have been lured into fighting for IS in Syria and Iraq.

Several cities have housed Islamist cells, but the most active have been in Brussels and in the south-western suburb of Molenbeek in particular - an area with a high ethnic Moroccan population.

Several of the bombers and gunmen who targeted Paris last November, killing 130 people, had been living in Molenbeek. The main suspect not to die in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, returned to Belgium the day afterwards and managed to evade police until 18 March. He and an accomplice were captured alive, again in Molenbeek.

Many Belgians were expecting a response from jihadists. "I had certainly expected something else would take place, but not that it would happen on this scale," says Belgian jihadism expert Pieter Van Ostaeyen.

More about the attacks

Pre-planned attacks or revenge?

So were Tuesday's bombings retaliation for last Friday's success in capturing two Islamists alive? The arrests were clearly a blow to IS and Belgian jihadists.

Abdeslam has been described as the logistics expert in the Paris attacks. He rented flats, drove militants across Europe and bought bomb-making equipment. Days before his arrest, an accomplice who had been hiding with him, Mohamed Belkaid, was shot dead by police. He had been wrapped in an IS flag.

"What seems likely is that attacks were already being planned and due to specific arrests they were accelerated because the terrorists knew they were being hunted," says Prof Dave Sinardet of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University Brussels).

In fact Brussels had already tried to guard against multiple attacks following an apparent threat 10 days after the Paris attacks. For several days the city went into lockdown, much as it did on Tuesday, with public transport at a standstill and people told to avoid travelling around.

Did Belgium's security forces fail?

Heavily armed men were able to enter the airport at Zaventem, open fire and blow themselves up. An hour or so later another man was able to enter a metro train a stone's throw from the headquarters of the EU and blow himself up.

Security forces had a dry run in November, the terror threat was at its second highest and soldiers were already deployed on the streets of several cities.

A beleaguered police force has clearly buckled under the weight of an almost non-stop Islamist threat. And yet it suffers from institutional problems too.

Brussels is a relatively small European capital, and yet it still has six police zones. Its CCTV system is far less developed than London or Paris.

"It's clear there are inefficiencies in the level of security services. For years we haven't put enough energy into issues of security and terrorist threats," says Prof Sinardet. However, he argues this kind of terrorist attack is very difficult to avert, as witnessed in Madrid, London and Paris.

Are further attacks likely?

For Belgians, this is the most awkward question. Several suspects are still urgently being sought by police.

One of the suspected airport attackers (the man in the hat on the right of the picture) was on the run on Tuesday and police were already actively hunting two other suspects after the Paris attacks who were both accomplices of Salah Abdeslam.

One of the missing Paris suspects is Najim Laachraoui, whose fingerprints were found in the Brussels flat where Paris bombs were made, and the other is Mohamed Abrini, another Belgian Islamist.

After the Paris attacks, US counter-terrorism expert Clint Watts wrote of the "iceberg theory of terror plots": for every attacker, there were usually several others helping to facilitate the plot, but what one saw was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Watts believes that the Brussels bombings are the fallout from the Paris attacks. What is not clear is whether those still on the run plan further bloodshed.


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Brussels attacks: Zaventem and Maelbeek bombs kill many

More than 30 people are believed to have been killed and dozens injured in attacks at Brussels international airport and a city metro station.

Twin blasts hit Zaventem airport at about 07:00 GMT, with 11 people reported killed.

Another explosion struck Maelbeek metro station near EU headquarters an hour later, leaving about 20 people dead.

Brussels police have issued a wanted notice for a man seen pushing a luggage trolley through the airport.

He was pictured in CCTV footage with two other suspects who are believed to have died in the blasts.

The Islamic State (IS) group said it was behind the attacks in a statement issued on the IS-linked Amaq agency.

Belgium has raised its terrorism alert to its highest level. Three days of national mourning have been declared.

Prime Minister Charles Michel called the latest attacks "blind, violent and cowardly", adding: "This is a day of tragedy, a black day... I would like to call on everyone to show calmness and solidarity".

'The worst thing I've seen'

Two blasts tore through the departures area of Zaventem airport shortly after 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT).

A suicide bomber was "probably" involved, the Belgian prosecutor said.

Eleven people were killed and 81 wounded in the blasts, Belgian Health Minister Maggie de Block said.

"People were running over others that had fallen, I couldn't breathe. I can't believe I'm alive," 15-year-old Antoine told me as he walked with his school friends in a line of hundreds being escorted on foot and by bus to a sports hall, now a makeshift reception centre.

Three hearses passed, heading towards the ruins of the airport departure hall. People sobbed at the sight of them.

Several tourists were asking police what they should do now, where it was safe to go - and when the airport might reopen.

The police were confused too, but offered what little information they had, telling people to head to a reception centre. An officer repeatedly shouted: "Quickly, keep moving, evacuate, this is serious."

Carnage on the Metro

The metro blast occurred shortly after 08:00 GMT during the rush hour at Maelbeek station.

It struck the middle carriage of a three-carriage train while it was moving away from the platform.

Alexandre Brans told AP: "The metro was leaving Maelbeek station when there was a really loud explosion. It was panic everywhere. There were a lot of people in the metro."

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said "about 20" people had died and more than 100 had been injured, 17 of them severely.

Eyewitnesses recall explosions

In pictures: Brussels explosions

Full coverage

The station is close to EU institutions. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has told employees to stay indoors or at home. All meetings at EU institutions have been cancelled.

Ryan McGhee, a catering worker at a college in Brussels, told the BBC: "The entire city is in lockdown. People are calm at the moment but the atmosphere is tense."

Security raised

Local and international travel has been suspended or disrupted and security tightened across Europe.

All flights have been cancelled. The airport is due to reopen on Wednesday.

Eurostar has cancelled all trains to and from Brussels. The Thalys France-Benelux train operator says the entire network is closed.

In the UK, security has been stepped up at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. The UK Foreign Office has advised British nationals to avoid crowded areas in Belgium.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the Cobra response committee on Tuesday.

In France the cabinet has held an emergency meeting. There is also extra security at Dutch airports.

'Outrageous' attacks

There has been strong international condemnation:

  • US President Barack Obama called the blasts "outrageous attacks against innocent people".
  • The 28 EU leaders said the bombings were an "attack on our open democratic society" in a joint statement.
  • "The terrorists have struck Belgium but it is Europe that was targeted," said French President Francois Hollande.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin called the attacks "barbaric".

Belgium's Interior Minister Jan Jambon had said on Monday that the country was on the highest level of alert for possible revenge attacks after the capture on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, the main surviving suspect from the Paris attacks in November.

Mr Jambon told Belgian radio: "We know that stopping one cell can... push others into action. We are aware of it in this case."

Gaps in intelligence: By Chris Morris, Europe correspondent

European security experts had been braced for another attack for months. But it is always a huge shock when it actually happens.

If this was "revenge" for the arrest of Salah Abdeslam on Friday, it will be a source of considerable concern that a functioning terrorist network was able to respond so quickly and with such devastating effect.

It is possible that a cell linked to Abdeslam brought forward the timing of a future attack because they thought he might blow their cover.

Either way, it shows how advanced the planning was in terms of logistics, explosives, weapons and people willing to carry out such attacks on civilian targets.

The priority now will be to ensure that anyone else who poses an imminent threat to the public is apprehended as soon as possible. But it is clear that there are still huge gaps in intelligence, and Brussels is seen as a soft target.

In the words of French President Francois Hollande, the response from Europe will need to be "calm, lucid and determined" - and it will have to last for a long time.


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Pianist's estranged wife charged with killing daughters in US

The estranged wife of world-renowned concert pianist Vadym Kholodenko has been charged with killing their two daughters in Texas, US officials say.

Authorities suspect Sofya Tsygankova last week killed one-year-old Michela and Nika, five, and stabbed herself at the family home near Fort Worth.

Ms Tsygankova, who is originally from Russia, now faces a mental evaluation. The charge can bring the death penalty.

Mr Kholodenko, a Ukrainian musician, is not a suspect, the officials say.

Last Thursday, Mr Kholodenko, 29, called emergency services after finding his 31-year-old estranged wife in an "extreme state of distress", as well as the bodies of his two children.

The children were found in their beds in Benbrook with no visible signs of trauma. A post-mortem examination will determine the cause of death.

Ms Tsygankova, who also performed as a concert pianist, is currently being treated at local hospital.

On Monday, Benbrook police Commander David Babcock said: "We have probable cause, reason to believe that she committed the homicides."

He added that police had collected physical evidence at the scene.

Mr Kholodenko won the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth in 2013 and has performed with a number of major orchestras.

He married Ms Tsygankova in 2010. They moved to Fort Worth from Moscow in 2014.

The couple divorced in November, according to court records.

The children lived with their mother, but Mr Kholodenko would routinely pick up the girls from the home in the mornings, police said.


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Sven Mary: The 'scumbag's lawyer' acting for Salah Abdeslam

Sven Mary has earned the nickname "avocat des crapules" ("scumbag's lawyer") from his work defending a series of notorious criminals in Belgium.

But now his profile is set to go international through his latest client - Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.

Mr Mary was once a youth footballer at top Belgian side Anderlecht before suffering an injury and it would appear he has channelled the same competitive spirit needed in professional sport into his new vocation.

"If someone is described as public enemy number one, I want to fight that abuse of authority," Belgian paper Metro quoted him as saying.

And few would accuse him of shying away from a fight. He had to repeat the first year of his law degree three times but went on to be regarded as one of Belgium's best legal professionals.

Former clients include Fouad Belkacem, who led the Sharia4Belgium group and was convicted of sending jihadists to fight in Syria.

He has also defended Michel Lelievre, an accomplice of Belgian serial killer and paedophile Marc Dutroux.

Mr Mary suggested as far back as in January he would be prepared to represent Abdeslam, after he was contacted by someone close to him while still on the run, Le Soir reported.

The fugitive was finally captured in a dramatic raid in Brussels last week and is now fighting extradition to France.

Abdeslam does not deny his presence at the brutal Paris attacks last November. Indeed, Mr Mary told L'Express he would be "bothered" by having to defend such a line - and was not prepared to do so.

Instead Mr Mary has focused on procedure, accusing the Belgian foreign minister of political interference and the French authorities of legal overreach by seeking his client's extradition.

"We have to stop kneeling, to stop this guilt complex that seems to exist in Belgium over the attacks in France," the lawyer told La Derniere Heure newspaper.

He has also said he will sue French prosecutor Francois Molins after the official revealed that Abdeslam said he had abandoned plans to blow himself up during the attacks, something Mr Mary said was a violation of judicial confidentiality.

Despite this Mr Mary said his client was co-operating with the authorities and that there "is no single reason that he won't go to France".

Salah Abdeslam's luck runs out

Is Molenbeek a haven for Belgian jihadis?

What happened during the Paris attacks?

Who were the Paris attackers?

The Belgian will not be the first or last lawyer to be accused of lacking principles. But is "avocat des crapules" fair?

His actions do not fit a template. He has acted for the victim of a horrendous sulphuric acid attack and has said he will not represent members of the extreme right.

All defendants have the right to an advocate, however abhorrent their crimes may be - it is an essential part of a fair trial.

Not everyone believes he is just a man doing his job of course. Comments on social media have labelled him "inhuman" and "callous", and of cynically exploiting a tragedy for his own publicity.

Mr Mary says he is motivated by "the fight against impunity and the abuse of power".

"Do you remember the live press conferences by the federal prosecutors in the days, and even nights, after the attacks?" he told Le Soir.

"I was sickened by the way by the way they exploited fear just to gain more power."


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