Italian navy rescues 1,000s of refugees during Christmas
Al Akhbar [26/12/14]:
The Italian navy rescued some 1,300 migrants in several operations late on Christmas Day, among them a Nigerian woman who gave birth on board one of the rescue vessels, local media said Friday, a day after hundreds of migrants were rescued off Italy.
The majority of the migrants were on boats adrift off the coast of Sicily and were expected to be brought ashore later Friday.
Italian media said one man was found dead on board one of the boats.
At least another 1,000 migrants were also rescued by the Italian navy on Christmas Eve.
In early December, a total 408 migrants, mainly Syrians, were rescued after spending six days adrift on a boat in the Mediterranean.
According to the Spanish National Research Council, the boat carrying the migrants was intercepted by a Spanish oceanographic vessel about 150 nautical miles east of the Sicilian port of Augusta.
The vessel, the Sarmiento de Gamboa, plucked 194 migrants from the ship, including 61 children and 54 women.
The remaining passengers were rescued by an Icelandic coast guard ship taking part in Triton, a European Union coastal patrol operation aimed at helping Italy cope with an influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa.
United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria
U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 26 using fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct sixteen airstrikes.
Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted fifteen airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 26 using fighter, bomber, attack aircraft, and remotely piloted aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.
The following is a summary of those strikes:
* Near Kobani, thirteen airstrikes destroyed three ISIL buildings, two ISIL staging areas, an ISIL vehicle, and nineteen ISIL fighting positions and struck two large ISIL units and four ISIL tactical units.
* Near Al Hasakah, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles and struck a drilling tower.
* Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike struck an ISIL staging area.
* Near Al Asad, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL mortar, an ISIL rocket system, four ISIL vehicles and struck a large ISIL unit and two ISIL tactical units.
* Near Sinjar, three airstrikes destroyed three ISIL vehicles and struck three ISIL tactical units.
* Near Mosul, three airstrikes destroyed three ISIL tactical vehicles, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL commercial vehicle and struck two ISIL tactical units.
* Near Al Qaim, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL storage container, ISIL equipment and struck two ISIL tactical vehicles.
* Near Bayji, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.
* Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Tal Afar, an airstrike struck an ISIL vehicle.
@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [26/12/14]:
Salah-il-deen: More than 80 displaced families from Yathrub , Dhelo'iya and near areas get stuck at the southern east entry of Samarra which has been closed by government's forces and prevented them from entering ...........
Jordanian authorities have begun indirect negotiations with the Islamic State (IS) to secure the release of a Jordanian Air Force pilot, whose plane crashed near the IS stronghold of Raqqah, Syria, Al Jazeera reported, citing government sources. ... [Sputnik News - 26/12/14]
Bethlehem: Israeli forces injure 4 after opening fire on West Bank protests
Four Palestinians including an elderly women were injured in the West Bank on Friday after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters in two separate villages with rubber-coated steel bullets.
Two Palestinian women were injured in the village of Farun just south of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank.
Yusra Mohammad Al-Haj al-Abd, 72, and Jumana Ahmad Shayib, 48, were shot by Israeli forces in their upper bodies during clashes in the village and were taken to a hospital for treatment.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that the pair were "hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers" when they were shot in the "lower extremities."
She said that Israeli forces had entered the village -- which is in Area A, technically under full Palestinian control -- on "some sort of routine patrol" and while on their way out locals started "hurling rocks" at them.
She said that soldiers fired at them after those hurling rocks refused to comply with orders to stop.
Also on Friday, two Palestinian youths were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets in clashes in the area of Safa in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron.
A 20-year-old was hit in the head and taken to hospital in a stable condition while a 17-year-old was hit in the right hand and treated on the scene.
Spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee in Beit Ummar Mohammad Ayyad Awad said that dozens also suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation in the clashes, which broke out after Israeli forces raided the area.
Awad said that Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli soldiers, who fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters at the crowds.
Afghanistan: 5 civilians feared dead in NATO airstrike in Logar
At least five civilians were feared dead following an airstrike by NATO-led coalition security forces in central Logar province.
According to the local government officials, the airstrike was carried out in Baraki Barak district late on Thursday night.
The provincial police chief, Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai confirmed that an airstrike was carried out amid ongoing military operations and an investigation has been launched regarding the civilian deaths.
Acting provincial governor, Niaz Mohammad Amiri, said a residential house was target as coalition forces were looking to target the militants.
Amiri said at least five civilians were also injured following the air raid.
Logar is among the relatively volatile provinces in central Afghanistan where anti-government armed militants are actively operating and frequently carry out insurgency activities.
US drone strikes kill 7 in Pakistan
A pair of suspected U.S. drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan killed at least seven people, Pakistani intelligence sources said Friday.
The strikes were carried out in North Waziristan, a mountainous region near the border with Afghanistan that's rife with militant activity.
One strike targeted a militant hideout in the Kund area of Shawal, killing four, the intelligence sources say. The second struck at Uzbek hideouts in the Mangroti area, killing three, according to the sources.
A similar strike Saturday in North Waziristan's Datakhel region killed five militants, intelligence sources told CNN at the time.
The strikes come amid an offensive by Pakistan's army in North Waziristan aimed at clearing out Taliban and other militants in the region. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
Swedish anti fascists denounce Christmas Day arson attack on mosque
Several hundred marchers turned out in a Swedish town on Friday to denounce an arson attack on a mosque that injured five people on Christmas Day as the traditionally tolerant country confronts the rising influence of the extreme right.
A firebomb was thrown through a closed window of the mosque in the central city of Eskilstuna on Thursday, injuring five of the nearly 70 worshippers inside, two of whom remained in hospital on Friday.
Answering calls by the Together for Eskilstuna Facebook page to denounce the attack, a large group of people converged on the damaged mosque to show their support.
“Several hundred people were there to deliver a message of friendship,” a police spokesman, Roland Lindqvist, told AFP.
According to police, windows in a second Eskilstuna mosque were broken overnight on Thursday, though authorities couldn’t say whether the two attacks were linked.
Sweden’s leftist prime minister, Stefan Löfven, denounced the “hateful violence”.
“We will never tolerate this kind of crime. Those who want to practise their religion should have the right to do so,” Lofven told SR radio.
No suspects have yet been arrested in the case police have opened for aggravated criminal arson, which has been joined by Sweden’s intelligence service, Säpo.
“This is a serious crime, but for the moment nothing is pointing us in one direction more than others,” said a Säpo spokesman Sirpa Franzen.
Kiev and eastern Ukrainian militias carry out ‘all for all’ POW exchange
The largest prisoner exchange since the start of the Ukraine conflict has been carried out in the Donbass region.
It was agreed by Kiev and eastern Ukrainian militias during a Minsk meeting on Wednesday.
The conflicting sides reached a deal to swap 150 captive Ukrainian soldiers for 225 militia troops from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.
The exchange has taken place 30 to 35 kilometers away from Donetsk, halfway between the city and the village of Konstantinovka.
Kiev handed over 222 people to the militias, while self-defense forces brought 145 Ukrainian troops to the exchange point.
They were handed over on Friday, except for one Kiev soldier who refused to be exchanged.
Five more Ukrainian troops will be brought to the exchange from Lugansk on Saturday, RIA Novosti cited Donetsk People's Republic Defense Minister Vladimir Kononov, as saying.
RT’s Roman Kosarev, who was present at the exchange on Friday, said that only 55 people brought by Kiev were actual militia members; the rest were civilians.
The prisoners are being swapped by a group of 10 people, according to Darya Morozova, who heads the exchange committee for the Donetsk People’s Republic.
She also confirmed that only 55 militia troops are being swapped, saying that “we have no idea who the rest of the people are.”
According to Morozova, the exchange will take two days, with Donetsk captives being transferred on Friday and Lugansk prisoners on Saturday, Tass news agency reported.
Several prisoner exchanges between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics have taken place since the sides reached a ceasefire agreement on September 5.
A previous swap took place in Donbas in November.
Some Donetsk residents released during the exchange said they were tortured and underfed by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which they want to be recognized as a terrorist organization.
The SBU tried to hamper the communications between the prisoners and observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Vadim Stepanenko, who was among those freed on Friday, told Tass news agency.
“Before human rights activists came to us, they (SBU) demanded that we didn’t complain about the confinement conditions, threatening us with violence. Those who still tried to tell the truth found themselves in disciplinary cells,” he said.
“There were cases when seriously ill POWs weren’t allowed to be attended by doctors and were denied permission to visit the hospital.”
Another exchanged Donetsk prisoner said that “we experienced hunger and went through terrible torture. But we’re peaceful people, Ukrainian citizens, who didn’t commit any crimes on the territory of our country.”
His counterpart revealed that he was accused of the attempted abduction of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during his visit to Mariupol.
“The SBU beat me terribly, demanding that I admitted my guilt,” he said.
The military conflict in Ukraine began in April, after the Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in Kiev.
The violence in southeastern Ukraine has led to the deaths of at least 4,707 people. An additional 10,322 have been wounded, according to UN estimates.
North Korea blames the US for Internet outages
North Korea accused the United States on Saturday of being responsible for Internet outages it experienced in recent days amid a confrontation between them over the hacking of the film studio Sony Pictures.
North Korea's main internet sites experienced intermittent disruptions early in the week for reasons that U.S. tech companies said could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack.
"The United States, with its large physical size and oblivious to the shame of playing hide and seek as children with runny noses would, has begun disrupting the Internet operations of the main media outlets of our republic," the North's National Defense Commission said in a statement.
"It is truly laughable," a spokesman for the commission said in comments carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.
The spokesman again rejected an accusation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that North Korea was behind the cyberattack on Sony Pictures and demanded the United States produce the evidence for its accusation.
North Korea's Internet problems began last weekend and it suffered a complete outage of nearly nine hours before links were largely restored on Tuesday.
U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.
Following the attack on Sony, it canceled the release of a comedy called "The Interview" about the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
After criticism from President Barack Obama that it was caving into North Korean pressure, Sony put the film out on limited release.
It took in more than $1 million on Christmas Day in 331 mostly independent theaters after large cinema chains refused to screen it following threats of violence from hackers.
In a separate commentary, the North denied any role in cyberattacks on South Korea's nuclear power plant operator, calling the suggestion that it had done so part of a "smear campaign" by unpopular South Korean leaders.
A South Korean official investigating the attacks this week that led to leaks of internal data from Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power said authorities were not ruling out North Korea's involvement.
"The South Korean puppet authorities are working hard to link this case with (us) though the truth about it has not been probed," Minju Joson, the official publication of the North's cabinet, said in a commentary carried by KCNA.
"This is the same conspiratorial farce as the Cheonan warship sinking case," it said, referring to the sinking of a South Korean ship with the loss of 46 sailors in 2010 that South Korea blamed on the North.
And still Queensland's media refuse to hold the Premier and Ministers to account
... Children are the most wonderful of our society, whose innocent lives deserve the greatest of love and care.
Cherish them. ...
QPS Media [VIDEO - 27/12/14]:
A family spokesperson, Mr Rod Willie, spoke to the media on Wednesday, December 24, in relation to the multiple homicide in the Cairns suburb of Manoora earlier this month. ...
Queensland's fun police go looking for trouble in certain suburbs
Two female police constables were assaulted and four teenagers have been charged following an out of control party involving about 120 people overnight at Ipswich, west of Brisbane.
More than 20 police crews, along with the Polair Two police helicopter, were called to the address on Henty Drive, Redbank Plains.
A Queensland Police Service (QPS) statement said officers went to the address just after 11pm (AEST), following several calls from the public complaining about the behaviour of people at the event.
When police arrived at the property they issued an out of control event direction and about 120 people, most aged in their teens, dispersed out onto the road.
"When police apprehended one person for their behaviour, the crowd became aggressive and began to throw bottles at police," a QPS statement said.
"Two female officers were assaulted during this time, however sustained no physical injuries."
District duty officer senior sergeant Gareth James said Henty Drive had to be closed while police cleared people from the scene.
"We spent about an hour and a half pushing them out of the area and clearing the streets," he said.
He said the assaulted officers suffered minor bruising.
Four people, aged 14 to 17 years, were transported to the Ipswich watch house and charged with various offences such as public nuisance and assault or obstruct police.
A further three teenagers were issued with infringement notices for public nuisance.
Investigations are continuing.
Death investigation, Pormpuraaw
QPS Media [27/12/14]:
Police are investigating the death of a woman that occurred on December 26 in Pormpuraaw.
Police were called to an address on Yulu Street around 7.30am after the body of a woman in her 20s was located inside a house.
A crime scene has been established, and a 28-year old man is currently assisting police with their enquiries.
Investigations are continuing.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Located, man missing from health facility, Wacol
QPS Media [27/12/14]:
Queensland Police have located a 28-year-old man who failed to return to The Park Centre for Mental Health in Wacol on December 17.
The man was located this morning at a Tweed Heads Hospital and is being transported back to The Park Centre for Mental Health in Wacol.
The man was granted community leave as part of his treatment plan on December 17 but failed to return by curfew.
Queensland Police would like to thank the public for their assistance.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Woman held at knifepoint in Sydney home invasion
A woman had a knife held to her throat during a home invasion in Sydney's south-west overnight.
The 64-year-old woman was at the property in Fisher Road, Lalor Park, when two men forced their way in through the front door at 8:45pm (AEDT).
The men took turns to hold the woman down and hold a knife to her throat while they searched the house, police said.
The two men fled the house with the woman's purse and a bottle of alcohol.
Officers said the woman was not injured during the ordeal.
A crime scene has been established and police have appealed to the public for information.
A nation that shuts down its railway lines is on the wrong track
The Save Our Rail protest group said it was chaotic.
The state government, represented by NSW TrainLink acting chief executive Kieron Ritchards, admitted to a handful of minor ‘‘teething problems’’, but nothing more.
Either way, holiday crowds of train passengers started and finished their rail journeys from Broadmeadow on Boxing Day as the government’s plans to ‘‘truncate’’ the Newcastle branch line at Wickham began to take effect.
Mostly wearing black Save Our Rail T-shirts, about a dozen group members and fellow travellers gathered around the main entrance to Broadmeadow station, carrying placards and filming events on mobile phones and digital cameras.
Save Our Rail co-founder Margaret Henry and others said it was ‘‘chaotic’’ early Friday when full trains disgorged too many passengers for the shuttle buses to handle.
But Mr Ritchards said Broadmeadow was regularly used as a terminus during times of track work. He said the set-up until midnight on January 4 – when the main temporary terminus begin operations one station east at Hamilton – was no different.
Save Our Rail claimed a major victory on Christmas Eve when Justice Michael Adams found in its favour in a Supreme Court case brought against the truncation plan.
President Joan Dawson said Justice Adams did not grant the injunctions the group had sought but he did make orders that stopped the government tearing up any rail tracks east of Wickham without recourse to parliament.
With Labor and the cross-benches opposed to the closure, the Coalition plans announced in June 2013 appear to have hit a hurdle.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirmed on Thursday the government would appeal the case.
But Ms Dawson said a government win on appeal would probably result in the matter going to the High Court of Australia if suitable grounds could be found. ‘‘This is not over yet,’’ she said.
Ms Berejiklian’s office declined to comment on the on-going court matter but she issued a statement on Friday saying ‘‘a new era’’ had begun with ‘‘train services no longer dividing this great city’’.
“While we recognise that there will be changes for our customers, there will be long term benefits with the construction of a new transport interchange at Wickham and light rail in the city centre’’ Ms Berejiklian said.
Ms Berejiklian said the $73million interchange would be finished in late 2016 with light rail work ‘‘expected’’ to start in late 2015.
Some changes are already obvious, with earthmoving equipment ripping up Railway Street at a level crossing deemed too close to the new interchange to remain open.
At the Stewart Avenue and Merewether Street level crossings, boom gates were removed as part of work Ms Dawson said was agreed to in court.
‘‘We thought it was a bit provocative, taking the gates out, but they said that, and the removal of some rail power lines, was safety related,’’ she said.
‘‘On that basis, we did not contest it, but the judge did tell them that if they lost their appeal, the wiring and the gates would have to go back in.’’
Save Our Rail complained passengers with bicycles were being denied entry to buses, but Mr Ritchards said that was the case on all state buses.
Taxi drivers pointed out that the Broadmeadow rank had been shortened from about 10vehicle lengths to three, but Mr Ritchards said this was usually the case when trains stopped at Broadmeadow for track work.
Holiday traffic jams cause chaos on M1, Pacific Highway and Princes Highway [Sydney Morning Herald – 27/12/14]
Will we ever know why NSW police charged into the Lindt café with stun grenades and guns blazing, or will unjournalism prevail?
Sydney Morning Herald [27/12/14]:
Counter-terrorism units will be based at the police operations centre on New Year's Eve in support of a "record" police presence following heightened security fears.
Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Fuller said it was common for counter-terrorism officers to be involved in New Year's Eve celebrations but they were not always based at police headquarters.
"They will certainly be a big part of the operation," he said.
"It's important when you have the police operation centre stood up that you have all areas of the organisation there to ensure that we work seamlessly to provide a higher level of safety for the public."
The NSW Police counter-terrorism command was in discussions with its partner agencies "daily" in the lead up to New Year's Eve, Mr Fuller said. Counter-terrorism officers will join mounted police units, the public order and riot squad, the tactical operations unit and the police force air wing on the beat on Wednesday night.
All up, police will work more than 3000 additional shifts compared to a normal evening.
Mr Fuller said the heightened presence was usual on New Year's Eve and "it's got nothing to do with recent terror threats". The police presence increased every year in line with rising attendance, he said. More than 1.5 million revellers were expected to head to the harbour this year.
Sydney has been on high alert since the Martin Place siege on December 15 and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's pre-Christmas announcement that increased terrorism "chatter" made an attack "likely".
Mr Fuller confirmed on Saturday there was no intelligence on terrorism plots related to Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations and planning for the event had not been altered by the siege.
"There is always chatter but there's no chatter that's specific to New Year's Eve," he said.
"Planning has gone ahead as it was the month before, and the month before that. Nothing has changed other than the way we brief police."
A new evacuation plan for the city had been in place since the national terror alert level was raised from medium to high in September, Mr Fuller said.
Large crowds at Carols in the Domain and the Boxing Day sales indicated people were undeterred by recent threats, he said.
"We know that Sydneysiders are confident to come out and we'd certainly like to see them out in big numbers for New Year's Eve," he said.
AFP apologise to Seven West Media for News Ltd. linked armed raid.
How many powerless people has this happened to?
In the UK there has been scrutiny of the dangerously unhealthy ties between the media and law enforcement.
In accepting the AFP's apology, chairman Kerry Stokes said that Seven West looked forward to working with the AFP, and where possible assisting them in their important tasks.
That is not the role of the media in a properly functioning democracy.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus has offered an unreserved apology to Seven West Media for “unnecessary reputational damage” arising from an armed raid of the company’s headquarters in February.
More than 30 armed officers spent 12 hours searching Seven West’s Sydney offices for documents relating to a proceeds of crime investigation into a rumoured interview deal with convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.
The AFP dropped its investigation in March, days after a Federal Court hearing into the raids’ legitimacy, when the AFP was accused of seriously misleading a magistrate, making false allegations of criminal conduct and relying on little more than Google searches to get the raid warrants.
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said today he appreciated the “extensive apology” from Mr Negus.
“At Seven, we understand fully that from time to time mistakes are made and this acknowledgement adds to the recognition and respect we have for the 6,000 members of the AFP who dedicate their lives to protecting Australia,” he said.
“No better example of that can be found in the recent Ukraine crisis when not only was the AFP instantly there when needed but totally prepared to put their own lives at risk and to enter a war zone unarmed.”
“These actions typify the reason that we at Seven continue to respect our friends at the AFP.”
In May, a Senate estimates inquiry heard the botched raid cost taxpayers at least $363,000.
The bipartisan Senate committee’s report into the raid said Federal Police should be slapped with new rules for investigating media organisations, and reporters should be given greater protection to keep sensitive materials from police to protect their sources.
Mr Stokes said Seven West looked forward to working with the AFP, and where possible assisting them in their important tasks.
“Underlining that excellent relationship is Border Security, our award-winning hard-edged real life documentary series which continues to go from strength to strength in its twelfth series, highlighting these areas of contemporary relevance for all Australians,” he said.
28 December 2014