Explosions, gunfire shatter Kabul peace

The attack near the communications ministry occurred one day after planned talks between the Taliban and Afghan representatives were cancelled.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the assault, which left people stranded in the tall building. Six people were injured, according to a health ministry spokesman.

Initial reports were confused, with officials from different agencies saying three or four attackers were involved. It was not clear how many were suicide bombers and how many were gunmen involved in a follow-up assault.

AFP journalists heard one big blast at around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for more than an hour afterward.

“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gun battles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.

On Twitter, the Ministry of Information said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the communications ministry.

General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry. One of the attackers was killed, he told Tolo.

Local television footage showed a small plume of smoke near the ministry, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.

On Facebook, a man named Syed Jaillani Jallan said he was trapped inside the ministry.

“Please pray for us as the enemy has reached very close to us. Suicide attack on communication ministry,” he wrote. AFP could not immediately verify the comment.

– Spring offensive –

The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometres (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified foreign compound. It is the city’s main commercial area and is home to a large hotel.

The ministry itself is an 18-storey building, thought to be the tallest in Kabul.

The explosion comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.

The Afghan branch of the Islamic State group has also previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in Kabul.

Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm, after a horrific year last year that saw a string of attacks including a massive bomb that was concealed in an ambulance and killed more than 100 people.

This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.

The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.

Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants

Notre Dame fire cause may be electrical – official

Investigators think an electrical short circuit may have caused the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, according to a judicial police official.

An initial assessment of the cathedral was made on Wednesday but safety hazards have prevented a search of its charred interior, the official told Associated Press.

Investigators so far believe the fire was accidental and have been questioning cathedral staff, as well as workers who were carrying out renovations. About 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

The police official would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisien newspaper that investigators were looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other possibilities. The prosecutor’s office said only that “all leads must be explored”.

Since the cathedral will be closed to the public for years, the rector of the Catholic parish that worships there has proposed building a temporary structure on the plaza in front of the gothic-era landmark. City authorities gave their approval on Thursday “subject to technical restraints”.

“The rector has no cathedral for the moment … but I’m going to try to invent something,” Bishop Patrick Chauvet said.

Source:

NAF to mark 55th anniversary April 22

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will deploy aircraft, military equipment and personnel in Abuja during rehearsals for its 55th Anniversary celebration.

NAF spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who announced this in a statement in Abuja said the rehearsals would hold between April 22 and April 30.

“The Nigerian Air Force will be celebrating its 55th Anniversary between April 27 and 29 in Abuja.

“As part of activities to mark the event, the NAF will be showcasing its air power capabilities in an Order of Battle (ORBAT) fly past,” he said.

Daramola urged members of the public to go about their normal activities without panic or fear during the activities. (NAN)

Poroshenko begs for forgiveness 72 hours to polls

Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko begged for forgiveness and a second chance Thursday as polls showed him facing all-but-certain defeat three days ahead of a presidential vote.

In a dramatic televised address, Poroshenko pleaded with voters to support him over Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no political experience who has surged ahead in the polls.

“I once again ask you to forgive me. What did not work out hurts the most,” Poroshenko said.

Polls show Zelensky, a 41-year-old standup comic and television star, sailing to victory in Sunday’s second-round vote.

The latest survey on Thursday showed him winning 73 percent of the vote against only 27 percent for Poroshenko.

His rise has stunned Ukraine’s political elite, who have struggled to revive the economy, root out corruption and put an end to a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the country’s east.

Poroshenko, 53, has cast himself as the only Ukrainian politician who can take on Russia’s Vladimir Putin and settle the war, which has claimed 13,000 lives.

He said Thursday that because of the conflict with Russia it would be “very risky to experiment with the post of the president and commander-in-chief”.

He also warned that Ukraine risked defaulting on its debt after a Kiev court on Thursday ruled that his government’s 2016 decision to nationalise the country’s biggest lender was illegal.

The bank, PrivatBank, was owned at the time by Igor Kolomoysky, a controversial tycoon who owns the channel that broadcasts several of Zelensky’s television shows.

Poroshenko said a default would mean “tens of millions” of people would lose their money and suggested the ruling was linked with Zelensky’s campaign.

He called an emergency meeting of his security council, while Kiev’s international partners including the EU, Washington and the World Bank said in coordinated statements they were closely monitoring the situation.

Ukraine’s government has spent nearly 160 billion hryvnyas (around $6 billion) on recapitalising the lender to cover the losses caused by the withdrawal of money from the bank and poorly-secured loans.

“You see they just cannot wait,” Poroshenko said. “They’ve already started implementing their plans.”

Supporters credit Poroshenko, who took power in 2014 after a popular uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed leader, with implementing important economic reforms, rebuilding the army, securing an Orthodox Church independent of Russia and winning visa-free travel to Europe.

But Zelensky has seized on continued economic hardship and corruption, as well as his popularity as the star of sitcom “Servant of the People”, in which he plays a school teacher who becomes a president.

Anticipation has been building ahead of a presidential debate scheduled for Friday in a 70,000-seat arena, the first and only one of the presidential campaign.

“Preparations for the debate are in full swing. You will see the results tomorrow,” a Zelensky spokeswoman told AFP.

The comic suggested he would have an easy time in the debate given Poroshenko’s record.

“I don’t want to call anyone names, insult anyone or engage in mud-slinging,” he told local media.

“After what has been done over the last five years I believe I can simply keep mum.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was hoping to watch what was likely to be a “curious spectacle”.

Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was knocked out in the first round of voting last month, said it was time to accept that Ukraine was facing a new political reality.

“Mathematics already tells us that Volodymyr Zelensky will win the second round,” she said in a video address.

“This is objective reality. It’s time to think of how to live with this.”

Poroshenko has fought hard to recover lost ground in a bruising campaign after Zelensky leapfrogged the political establishment in the first round of voting on March 31.

Over the past few days the candidates traded insults on television and in social media. In a campaign that has become increasingly sensational, both men even underwent drug tests at Zelensky’s insistence.

Bill Gates sends strong message to Buhari

Philanthropist and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates on Wednesday congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election.

Philanthropist and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates on Wednesday congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on his re-election.

Speaking in a telephone call, Bill Gates said he was happy to be associated with the Nigerian President.

He also restated his commitment to the success of the administration as well as the progress, prosperity and well-being of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Gates expressed willingness to do more for the country.

Also speaking, President Buhari reiterated his belief that Gates’ wealth has benefited Nigeria’s development, and expressed appreciation for the call.

Buhari commended Bill Gates for his consistent and generous support to public causes around the globe, and specifically for supporting the eradication of polio and HIV diseases in Africa and Nigeria in particular.

A statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu quoted him as saying “I am very happy the way your projects have touched the life of the average Nigerian.

“The people of this country have given their verdict.”

Pulse Explainer: Did Saudi Arabia kill an innocent Nigerian woman for drugs she knew nothing about?

It was an execution that sparked outrage and drew mixed emotions back in her homeland of Nigeria.

Reacting to the execution, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, expressed concern that some of the trials of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia have not been transparent and fair.

What was the reaction from Saudi Arabia like?
On Friday, April 5, 2019 the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Nigeria said the Kingdom stands by its decision to execute Afolabi.

The embassy said all legal and judicial procedures were followed before the death sentence was meted out on Afolabi.

Afolabi was a widowed mother as well.

“The death sentence is only carried out in the Kingdom after all proofs and legal evidence have been exhausted regarding the accused, and the process goes through various legal stages until the allegations against the detained persons have been proven beyond reasonable doubt,” the statement read.

However, new information suggests that Afolabi may just have been innocent after all and she may just have been executed for a crime she knew next to nothing about.

But, was she really innocent?

What is this new information that appears to exonerate Afolabi?
As it turns out, the Nigerian Consul-General in Saudi Arabia wrote two memos addressed to Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, stating that some of the Nigerians on death row in the Islamic nation are innocent of the crimes for which they have been tried and convicted.

The Nation reports that the Consul-General twice wrote to the Minister on December 3, 2018 and February 6, 2019, on the plight of Nigerians facing the hangman’s noose in Saudi Arabia.

Some of those found guilty of peddling drugs in Saudi Arabia, the Consul-General wrote, were victims of a drug syndicate that plants drugs in passengers’ luggage at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA).

The envoy alleged that the syndicate works in cahoots with greedy airline officials at MAKIA who check in extra bags containing prohibited drugs and tie same to legitimate luggage of innocent passengers.

He said members of the syndicate had been using particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs into countries.

One of the memos from the Consul-General to Minister Onyeama reportedly read as follows:

“Furthermore, it is with humility that I bring to the Honourable Minister‘s knowledge that, sadly, there are a number of Nigerians arrested for alleged drug related offence who are currently in detention at Dhahban Prison (Male Section) and Madina Prison (Male & Female Sections). Mission was unable to gain Consular access to them as the host authorities have flatly refused to grant permission for such despite several requests to that effect.

“Following the outcome of investigations carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) the Honourable Minister may wish to note that:

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;

The envoy alleged that the syndicate works in cahoots with greedy airline officials at MAKIA who check in extra bags containing prohibited drugs and tie same to legitimate luggage of innocent passengers.

He said members of the syndicate had been using particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs into countries.

One of the memos from the Consul-General to Minister Onyeama reportedly read as follows:

“Furthermore, it is with humility that I bring to the Honourable Minister‘s knowledge that, sadly, there are a number of Nigerians arrested for alleged drug related offence who are currently in detention at Dhahban Prison (Male Section) and Madina Prison (Male & Female Sections). Mission was unable to gain Consular access to them as the host authorities have flatly refused to grant permission for such despite several requests to that effect.

“Following the outcome of investigations carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) the Honourable Minister may wish to note that:

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;

Sherifat Shawni 4 yrs

Limata Ahmad 10yrs

Halimat Isah 5yrs

Olubumi Adejarani Olaniyan 10yrs

Omobolanle Funke 15yrs

Nuratu Bolanle Yusuf 15yrs

Maryam Ibrahim Tanko 7yrs

Rahma Abdulkarim 20yrs

Nuratu Yusuf Abike 20yrs

Bolaji Kehinde 10yrs

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, reportedly ignored the memos from the Consul-General or chose to do nothing about the memos, or didn’t do enough, or all of the above.

Or maybe the bureaucracy at the Ministry is to blame?

In any case, was Afolabi part of the 24 on death row in Saudi Arabia as referenced in the Consul-General’s memos? Was she among those found innocent after investigations by the NDLEA and the Police?

What have Nigerians been saying?
In a series of tweets, Engineer Remi Opakunle said: “The execution of Kudirat Adesola Afolabi is solely on The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama and The SSA to PMB on Foreign Affairs & Diaspora, Ms Abike Dabiri. That was the execution of an innocent person in a foreign land that need not have happened.

“The KSA authorities were only concerned with the fact that prohibited drugs were found in her luggage, and she was sentenced based on that. However, the Nigerian State had determined that the real perpetrators were the members of the drug syndicate at the Kano Airport.

In fact, the real criminals had been arrested and prosecuted in Nigeria, and Kudirat’s innocence established in Nigeria. The Nigerian Consul in KSA, was aware of this fact, and had written TWICE to the Minister of Foreign Affairs over this, first time in December 2018, second time in February 2019.

“The Consul is reported to have said there was no response to his letters. The impending execution was widely reported in the media before Adeshola was executed 2 weeks ago. That was one needless death, of an innocent, that shouldn’t have happened.

“Imagine being on Death row and facing death every day with the knowledge that you are innocent, the misery, the torture of facing certain death with the full knowledge that you are innocent, that is totally, totally inhumane….

“Kudirat Adeshola Afolabi, your country failed you, your government failed you, Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un Rest in peace and may your soul find rest and succor with your maker.”

Another Twitter user who identifies himself as @Jackdre02 wrote that: “About that lady going for lesser hajj that was caught with drug in Saudi Arabia.. Apparently the drug was planted in her luggage by workers at the Kano international airport.

“This is how it happened. When the lady and her mom were checking in, the weight of their luggage was lesser than the max, so the workers asked if they could add some stuff for their people in Saudi, the mother declined.

“But when they got to Saudi, the lady’s luggage had increased by 6kg. What’s happening to Nigeria? As of this morning, 5 workers have been arrested at the Kano International airport and they are already in court…

“The Assistant Commander General of Narcotics also confirmed that this is not the first time this is happening at Kano Airport”.

What has been the reaction from the Nigerian government?
Foreign Affairs Minister,Onyeama, is yet to respond to a request for comments from Pulse. We’ll update this story with his comments when he eventually responds.

However, President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, says if the report is true, the letter from the Consul-General wasn’t addressed to her or her office and she shouldn’t be held culpable for Afolabi’s or anyone’s death.

In a series of tweets on the subject, Dabiri-Erewa said:

Thank you ooo. I wonder myself. The report referred to if true, was sent to MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) since December, not to me. So, how is my name coming up here? If anything, I’m glad I brought this to the forefront and everything should be done to tackle these issues.

“Read the report you are referring to again. If a report was sent to a Ministry four months ago ( not to me), how does my name come in? Could bureaucracy have stalled the letter getting to the Hon Min? Please ask the right questions and get your facts right.

Mr. Jack Robinson
@jackdre02
About that lady going for lesser hajj that was caught with drug in Saudi Arabia..

Apparently the drug was planted in her luggage by workers at the Kano international airport..

497
10:52 AM – Apr 10, 2019
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Abike Dabiri-Erewa

@abikedabiri
As you said, this is not a forum tfor that. But I expect the MFA to take drastic action against those who kept the detailed letter away from him . I am sure he will do that and deal decisively with any one culpable

blackguy
@Idomaboy147
Replying to @MrPenfold_ @dondekojo
@abikedabiri I have a lot to say on this but I will give you the chance to clear the air on how or if the government in which you serve did intervene on this issue. This is because diplomacy I know does not happen most times on social media.

What happened to Adesola Afolabi?

14
11:31 PM – Apr 10, 2019
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“All missions should be held responsible. What I suggest in this case is full investigation by the MFA. Who received the letter? Why was no action taken? Seriously, we are talking about human lives and this issue deserves thorough investigation”.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa

@abikedabiri
I understand your point, and all missions should be held responsible.What I suggest in this case is full investigation by the MFA. Who received the lette? Why was no action taken. Seriously, we are talking about human lives and this issue deserves thorough investigation

Penfold
@MrPenfold_
Replying to @MrPenfold_
….people in similar circumstances abroad) that there is a mechanism in place for collaboration between your office and the MFA (I might be wrong), and your being mentioned here was on this premise.
Ma’am @abikedabiri , I did that thread because I’ve personally been at the….

84
9:25 PM – Apr 10, 2019
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Ex-president Al-Bashir sent to prison, 2 brothers detained

Sudan’s military rulers have transferred ousted president Omar al-Bashir to prison and also detained two of his five brothers Abdallah Hassan al-Bashir and Al-Abbas Hassan al-Bashir.

Following the dramatic end to Bashir’s rule of three decades last week, he was moved late Tuesday to Kober prison in the capital, a family source said without revealing his name for security reasons.

Witnesses near the prison in north Khartoum said there was a heavy deployment of soldiers and members of a paramilitary group outside.

The 75-year-old’s whereabouts have been unknown since a military takeover on Thursday, when the country’s new rulers said he was being held “in a secure place”.

The army council said it has also decided to integrate the Popular Defence Force into the army. The PDF is a type of reserve unit frequently used to support units of the regular army.

Amnesty International called for Bashir to be “immediately handed over to the International Criminal Court” in The Hague where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the conflict in Darfur. He denies the charges.

“His case must not be hurriedly tried in Sudan’s notoriously dysfunctional legal system. Justice must be served,” said Amnesty’s Joan Nyanyuki.

Bashir’s detention has failed to pacify protesters, who launched anti-government demonstrations in December and have for days been camped out in front of Khartoum’s army headquarters.

Scores of doctors in white robes marched from Khartoum’s main hospital towards the sit-in, carrying banners and chanting: “freedom, peace, justice.”

Journalists held a separate rally, along with university students and scores of women from a Facebook group who call themselves “the Information Network of the Revolution”.

The women — who include doctors, lawyers and teachers — are renowned for monitoring security agents who target protesters and publishing their information online in order to hold them to account.

Later in the evening crowds of protesters flocked through Khartoum to join the sit-in chanting “revolution, revolution”, an AFP correspondent reported.

Sudan’s military rulers have made some concessions, including the sacking Tuesday of prosecutor general Omer Ahmed Mohamed, but demonstrators fear their uprising could be hijacked.

“We faced tear gas, many of us were jailed. We have been shot and many have died. All this because we said what we wanted to,” Fadia Khalaf told AFP.

Khalid Mohamed, a medic, said: “We got Bashir out, but we still have to get rid of the regime”.

Officials say at least 65 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December, with some of the dead memorialised in a Khartoum mural.

Police detain bird for killing owner

Police in Florida, U.S. have detained Cassowary, a slightly unpopular species of bird after it killed its owner, 75-year-old Marvin Hajos.

Hajos was severely injured by the bird and was rushed to the hospital as a result but unfortunately, he didn’t make it.

The 75-year-old who lived in Florida raised the bird in his farm as one of his exotic pets.

Cassowary which is now in police custody according to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office has been described as one of the most dangerous birds in the world.

The bird has three species and is native to the tropics of Queensland, Australia and New Guinea.

They belong to the same family as Ostriches, Emus and Rheas.

Chadian soldiers kill 63 Boko Haram fighters

Army spokesman Azem Bermendoa Agouna who disclosed this said seven Chadian Soldiers lost their lives in the attack on army position in Kaiga Kindjiria, in western Chad.

Agouna also said 15 soldiers were injured in the attack which occurred on Sunday.

Boko Haram is a Nigerian jihadist group but also carries out attacks in neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroun and Niger.

President Buhari congratulates Prime Minister Netanyahu on election victory

Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the State of Israel on his victory in the parliamentary election.

Buhari in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Sunday, extended best wishes to the people of the State of Israel in the aftermath of the successful conclusion of the poll. The Nigerian leader, who also wished them peace, progress and stability, said he looked forward to continue to work with the Israeli Prime Minister to strengthen existing cordial and mutually-beneficial relations between the two countries.

Buhari wished Netanyahu a successful new term in office and prayed that his record fifth term would bring enduring peace and security to the Middle East.