The UK has sent gunboats to Jersey as France threatens to cut power to island in Brexit fishing row

  • The UK has sent gunboats to Jersey amid tensions over Brexit fishing rights on the island.
  • Around 80 French boats have assembled to demand greater access to the island’s fishing waters.
  • France has also sent a patrol boat while threatening to cut power to the island.Two British gunboats dispatched by Boris Johnson to Jersey have arrived after around 80 French boats gathered there to demand greater access to the island’s fishing waters.

    The development came as France also sent naval patrol boats and threatened to cut power to the island.

    Jersey, which is a British crown dependency, sits in the English Channel less than 20 miles off the French coast.

    The British naval boats, which are equipped with guns, were sent yesterday after France’s sea minister Annick Girardin threatened to cut off the power to Jersey.

    She was angered that Jersey had issued post-Brexit licenses to French fishing boats which imposed restrictive conditions including the amount of time they could spend in Jersey waters, Reuters reported.

    “Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables … Even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we’ll do it if we have to,” Girardin told France’s National Assembly on Tuesday, per Reuters.

    The Daily Mail reported that Johnson made the decision to deploy the gunboats after intelligence indicated that the flotilla of French boats would try and block all access to Jersey’s Saint Helier port.

    A Downing Street spokesman said on Wednesday: “The Prime Minister underlined his unwavering support for Jersey. He said that any blockade would be completely unjustified.

    “As a precautionary measure, the UK will be sending two offshore patrol vessels to monitor the situation. They agreed the UK and Jersey governments would continue to work closely on this issue.”

    Labour’s shadow defense secretary John Healey said: “The threats on Jersey are completely unreasonable. The Navy’s experience in sensitive situations will help reassure residents and protect Britain’s broader national interests.

    “The British government must now get round the table with French colleagues and authorities in Jersey and sort this issue out.”

Proud Boys saw wave of contributions from Chinese diaspora before Capitol attack

A donor named Li Zhang gave $100. A few minutes later, someone named Jun Li donated $100. Then Hao Xu gave $20, followed shortly by $25 from a Ying Pei. In all, almost 1,000 people with Chinese surnames gave about $86,000 to a fundraiser on the crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo for members of the extremist street gang the Proud Boys.

Their gifts made up more than 80% of the $106,107 raised for medical costs for members of the Proud Boys who were stabbed during violent clashes in Washington in mid-December.

The donations, which are included in a trove of hacked GiveSendGo data provided to USA TODAY and posted on the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets, raise several questions. Chiefly: Why would people from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and members of the Chinese American community, donate to an organization with deep ties to white

supremacists, whose members flash white power signals and post racist memes on social media?

The surprising answer to this question is that the Proud Boys enjoy significant support from a slice of the Chinese American community and the broader Chinese diaspora.

Some Chinese Americans have bought in to the rhetoric spread by the Proud Boys, conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones and conservative commentators that America is under attack from communism. They believe the Proud Boys are on the vanguard of protecting the country from a communist army controlled by antifa and the Black Lives Matter movement – claims that have been widely debunked.

For some who left China in rejection of communism, particularly those who support former President Donald Trump, the Proud Boys have taken on an almost mythical status as tough street soldiers on the front lines of this battle between democracy and communism.

“You have to understand how we feel – we came from communist China and we managed to come here and we appreciate it here so much,” said Rebecca Kwan, who sent the Proud Boys $500 on Christmas Day. “The Proud Boys are for Trump and they are fighting antifa, and can you see anything good that antifa did except destroy department stores and small businesses?”

Donors praise Proud Boys
The Proud Boys have long sought to portray themselves not as a white supremacist organization or a violent street gang but as a group of patriots willing to do the hard work they say America’s police departments and politicians won’t do.

Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio claimed that his group primarily exists to protect American citizens from anarchists and communists aligned with the antifa movement who are trying to overthrow the U.S. government.

That refrain is common in far-right media and social media. Conspiracy mongers such as Jones and his British counterpart Paul Joseph Watson whip their viewers into a frenzy of distrust and fear, contending that socialists and antifa assassins are about to attack mainstream Americans.

This message has been amplified by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has called for anti-fascist activists to be labeled as terrorists. He called the Black Lives Matter movement “poison.”

Several Chinese Americans echoed those sentiments when they sent the Proud Boys money a couple of weeks before the insurrection Jan. 6 at the Capitol led by Trump supporters. At least 21 members of the Proud Boys have been charged with federal crimes for their roles in the attack.

“The Proud Boys are protecting the innocent people,” said Donald Wang, a Queens, New York, resident who donated $50. “A lot of people in my community support them.”

Many of the donations were accompanied by messages that mirror what donors told USA TODAY.

“You are the true heroes and patriots!” Janice Wang wrote after donating $100.

“Thank you for your courage to fight for our freedom!!” Ao Liu wrote after donating $30.

“Thank you, proud boys. You are my heroes,” wrote Nancy Chang, who sent $300 the day before members of the Proud Boys helped storm the U.S. Capitol.

Tarrio, the Proud Boys chairman, said he’s thankful for the donations.

“I am happy that Asians support the ProudBoys because of the continuous hate and the relentless assault they get from BLM supporters,” he wrote in a text message. “So to the Asian community I’d like to say Thank You.”

More: Proud Boys splintering after Capitol riot, revelations about leader. Will more radical factions emerge?

More: Proud Boys leader arrested on charges related to burning of Black Lives Matter banner, police say

Despite its bigotry, Proud Boys has fans among Chinese Americans
Commentators, journalists and academics in the Chinese American community said they have long known that a significant portion of their conservative peers support the Proud Boys, despite the group’s racism and bigotry.

“This isn’t a surprise for us,” said Kaiser Kuo, host and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast, which discusses current affairs in China. “I know these people, I know what they’re all about. Even this recent wave of anti-Asian hate crime, which you would think might have shaken them out of their admiration for these racists and crypto-fascists like the Proud Boys – it’s actually only reinforced their beliefs.”

Kuo stressed that most Chinese Americans voted for President Joe Biden and do not support Trump or the groups that back him. But he said there is a deeply conservative faction of the Chinese American community that embraces the misogyny and even racist attitudes common among America’s far-right.

Much as Trump has enjoyed support from some conservative Asian Americans, the Proud Boys’ rhetoric of traditional gender roles and “Western Chauvinism” has its fans in some Chinese American households, said Jennifer Ho, president of the Association for Asian American Studies.

“The Proud Boys are a very attractive place for men of any ethnic background who are part of a toxic masculinity,” Ho said. “Because what they share is a fundamental belief in their maleness – a fundamental belief that U.S. society has gone off the rails.”

Using the fear of communism as a fundraising tool

Extremism experts said the Proud Boys has long been run by those who exploit whatever conservative talking point will offer them a veneer of respectability.

Since Tarrio, a self-identifying Afro-Cuban American, took the reins of the organization, its political messaging has focused on fighting communism and “cultural Marxism” pushed by liberal social movements – primarily antifa and Black Lives Matter.

Standing in the way of this theory are the facts: Antifa, or anti-fascism, is a loosely defined and decentralized movement, rather than a political organization. Black Lives Matter is a movement focused on racial equality and police brutality. Neither group espouses a communist takeover of America.

Like the McCarthyists of the 1950s, the Proud Boys have latched on to the fear of communism as a tried-and-true mechanism for building support and raising money.

“The Proud Boys are opportunists,” said Samantha Kutner, who studies the group and founded Intuitive Threat Assessment, an agency specializing in intelligence on disinformation and violent extremism. “Any grievance they can capitalize on, they will capitalize on.”

Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who studies extremism, noted that purporting to be anti-communist has also won support among Latin Americans.

“For large parts of the world, there is a context and implication and history to communism and how it has affected several countries,” Holt said. “So there are some communities of immigrants and descendants of immigrants for which the Proud Boys’ projection as a group combating communism in the United States resonates favorably.”

He said it’s important to note that what the Proud Boys call “communism” isn’t the same political force that people who have lived under communist regimes contended with.

“The way the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ have been deployed have really stripped those terms of their practical context,” Holt said. “The Proud Boys are happy to label anything that is antithetical to their own causes, many of which are progressive, as ‘communist.’”

Researchers say donations don’t appear to be Chinese influence campaign

Several researchers of Chinese government disinformation examined the GiveSendGo data. Initially, some posited that the fundraiser could have been used by the Chinese Communist Party to funnel money to the Proud Boys in an effort to foment extremism at a particularly sensitive time in U.S. politics.

“The Chinese government does focus a lot of its efforts on identity politics, but in this particular case, our limited look doesn’t link them to this,” said Anna Puglisi, a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology who studies Chinese government espionage.

Joohn Choe, who co-founded Intuitive Threat Assessment with Kutner, investigated the data and concluded that most, if not all, of the donors are regular people, rather than “coordinated inauthentic behavior” such as bots or government agents.

“These are just radicalized expats,” Choe said. “They’re real people – real estate agents, scientists. Just Chinese American boomers.”

Choe found some unusual activity on social media sites where the GiveSendGo fundraiser spread. For example, a pro-Trump Facebook page with 6,000 “likes” that shared the URL for the fundraiser Dec. 25 is administered by a fake Facebook account run by a man from Taiwan.

Choe concluded that the Proud Boys fundraiser spread organically on social media and by word of mouth, spurring Chinese Americans to reach into their pockets.

USA TODAY emailed everyone who donated to the fundraiser, asking for comment. Only a handful responded. Two people wrote back to say their email accounts had been hacked or used without their permission. Several others responded with hostile comments or Proud Boys talking points.

Sheng Chen sent a one-sentence response to USA TODAY: “Very simple, in a time of social chaos, they have courage to stand up for supporting law and order.”

Federal prosecutors accuse Proud Boys members of coordinating with other extremist groups, including self-described militias, in the run-up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

Tarrio wasn’t at the Capitol on Jan. 6 because he had been arrested two days before.  He was charged with destruction of property in connection with the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner. He also faces two weapons charges; authorities say he was in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines.

‘Living in two realities’: Indian diaspora reckons with crisis abroad

Avani Singh hops on Zoom around 11 every night with her mother in New Jersey and uncle in India, strategizing how to keep her coronavirus-stricken grandfather alive.

They already managed to get K.S. Walia, 94, out of a New Delhi emergency room where Singh said a worker demanded an $8 bribe to keep oxygen running. A different hospital where her grandfather was admitted said the family would need to find oxygen and remdesivir, a drug that reduces recovery time, themselves, Singh said.

Before starting a new search last weekend, Singh, a 28-year-old consultant, walked her dog in her Arlington, Va., neighborhood where people lined up to get inside a rooftop tiki bar and a group pedaled by on a party bike, drinking beer. She returned to her apartment and stayed up until 2 a.m. scouring Instagram for phone numbers of Indians who might have oxygen and getting no replies to a flurry of messages.

Singh is among thousands of Americans struggling to help Indian relatives survive a catastrophic coronavirus surge that has caused the health-care system to collapse. The desperation of families in India has spread across time zones and borders as families fend for themselves in search of hospital beds, oxygen canisters and basic medication.

“There was a huge disconnect where I felt very angry that the world isn’t paying attention, and would it be different if it was White bodies piling up on the streets?” Singh recalled. “How am I supposed to go about my normal day?”

This is the split-screen pandemic in the United States, where vaccine selfies flood social media feeds and newly vaccinated families are reuniting as many are struggling to help loved ones with the coronavirus around the world access medical care. Millions of Indian Americans now grapple with the horrors of one of the worst virus waves since the pandemic started. Several described feeling dissonance as normalcy returns in the United States while their WhatsApp accounts blow up with death announcements and pleas for help from loved ones and strangers in their country of origin.

The ongoing crisis in India and the fallout in the United States illustrates how the global pandemic will continue to inflict misery even if infections plunge inside American borders. A nation of immigrants, and one so interconnected to the world through family, trade and culture, America still reels from lives lost as the coronavirus ravages a mostly unvaccinated world, including in South America, where a variant-driven surge in Brazil has rapidly spread to other countries.

“It’s almost like you’re living in two realities: one where things are getting better in the United States, and one abroad, where the situation is terrible,” said Sadaf Jaffer, the former mayor of heavily South Asian Montgomery Township, N.J. “It’s an extra burden that people who have connections on the other part of the world bear because they know how bad things are there.”

About 4 million Americans are of Indian descent, the third-largest immigrant group behind Mexican and Chinese Americans. They are among the most highly educated and paid immigrant groups, enabling them to help middle class and wealthy Indian relatives who are better positioned than poor Indians to buy access to care. They are also using their growing political and cultural power in the United States to raise alarms about the crisis.

Indian American doctors and public health experts who gained prominence during the pandemic are using their platforms to demand U.S. intervention. The Indian-born chief executives of Google and Microsoft pledged millions to address oxygen shortages. Indian American political groups and members of Congress have pressured President Biden to ramp up assistance.

Ashish Jha, the Indian-born dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, has been among the loudest voices clamoring for the United States to treat the Indian crisis as an American crisis, penning an op-ed for The Washington Post and frequently tweeting on the topic to 200,000 followers.

“Because India is so global, any strain of virus that gains … advantage — more contagious, more deadly or able to spread more efficiently — will not only become dominant there, but quickly become global,” Jha said in an interview.

The Biden administration over the past week announced a series of actions to ship raw vaccine material, oxygen and therapeutics to India. Supply shipments began arriving Thursday.

Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said an increasingly politically engaged movement of Indian Americans deserves credit for tapping their growing influence among elected officials and prodding the administration into action.

“The diaspora is still relatively new and relatively small, but I do think it punches above its weight,” Vaishnav said.

Indian American Impact, an advocacy group founded in 2016 that also donates to South Asian candidates, was among the groups contacted by the White House as it formulated an India response. It is circulating a petition calling on the Biden administration to set aside half of all surplus vaccine doses for India.

“We are getting to the point where those in power are recognizing our power, and that I think gives us a voice and a seat at the table in a way we haven’t had before,” said Neil Makhija, the group’s executive director.

Sanjay Puri, a tech executive who chairs the U.S. India Political Action Committee, noted the growing presence of Indian Americans in high-ranking government positions, including four members of Congress; Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, who has talked about losing relatives in India to the virus; and Vice President Harris, whose mother was from South India. Harris, who has relatives living in India, on Friday called the crisis a “great tragedy.”

“It’s just been an evolution — you build a farm team and get stars and superstars and now you have a vice president,” Puri said. “There’s a realization that India is a strategic partner in that region from an economic standpoint, from a political standpoint. … It does help to have Indian Americans who can explain these points.”

Some Indian Americans have called on Biden to go further, including sharing patents to develop generic coronavirus vaccines, which is opposed by U.S. drug manufacturers, and sending surplus vaccine doses to India. The Biden administration announced it would give other countries up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been authorized for use in the United States, but did not say how many would go to India.

The administration said last week that it will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday.

Others want the U.S. government to take a harder line against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces widespread criticism for his response to the ongoing crisis. Before the surge, Modi lifted virtually all restrictions and held massive political rallies. The Indian government ordered Twitter to hide posts critical of its response.

“We need to be calling out the regime and putting national pressure to stop this because they know they can get away with this,” said Chaand Ohri, a 35-year-old Indian-born Maryland doctor.

Ohri, who treated coronavirus patients, described life as a “daze” seeing people out at bars while people are dying on the streets of his home country. He spends his nights on WhatsApp advising doctors treating patients in India, including one who sought advice on caring for a child before she died.

“What I’m hopeless about is the so-called progressive American who is now happy they have been vaccinated but don’t give a f— about what’s happening around the world,” Ohri said.

In an already exhausting year for health-care workers, the India crisis has prolonged the stress on doctors and nurses emerging from the devastating U.S. winter surge. Many are stretching their packed schedules to offer assistance from afar.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin said it raised more than $500,000 to send 1,000 oxygen concentrators to India and is working with both governments to allow U.S. physicians to practice in India. The group says it represents 80,000 physicians of Indian origin.

Some of those doctors are now urging their patients and neighbors to show compassion to the country key to staffing the front lines of the American pandemic response.

While parts of the Indian diaspora are mobilizing for large-scale business and government intervention, most Indian Americans responding to the crisis abroad are focused solely on their loved ones. Some are finding their options running out.

Ejaz Warsi, a 72-year-old scientist in Houston, lost a member of his brother’s family in New Delhi earlier this week despite their best efforts.

The 60-year-old relative needed oxygen, but family members were only able to get a small cylinder that quickly ran out. Late last week, they had driven for hours around the city trying to get him admitted at a hospital, but no beds were available. His sister remains critically ill, but with medicines largely unavailable, Warsi said the family is concerned that she may not get the care she needs either.

“There is no doctor to see them, no hospital where they can go,” said Warsi, who came to the United States in 1973. “There is very little we can do. Money these days doesn’t buy you much. Things are not available.”

Here’s how unequal the global coronavirus vaccine rollout has been

Lavanya D.J., a managing director at a public relations firm in New York City, said she is having trouble focusing on anything but the news out of India. Her family is based in a small village in the state of Karnataka, four hours from the technology hub of Bangalore. The virus hasn’t spread widely there, but a member of her extended family who lives in another area died recently. Several of her friends are also dealing with loss. Her entire Twitter feed is filled with pleas for help.

Earlier this week, D.J., 41, started a document to crowdsource places to donate and help.

“If I didn’t have this, I would just lose my mind,” she said. She was excited to get her second vaccine shot two weeks ago, but now her sense of optimism has faded. “I just feel so guilty even to have a laugh or anything.”

Avani Singh said she felt guilty when she left her Arlington apartment Wednesday night to grab drinks with a friend while her grandfather was still hospitalized in India. A 38-year-old neighbor of Singh’s mother in New Jersey recently died after traveling to Delhi and contracting the virus, exacerbating the family’s fears.

A Delhi gurdwara — a Sikh house of worship — came through with an extra oxygen canister for K.S. Walia, and Singh’s mother secured him an oxygen concentrator with the help of a high school friend. Doctors say he could survive and even live to his 100th birthday if his condition holds.

But worries persisted. The family was raising money to keep her grandfather in the hospital for five weeks. Singh and her uncle were also searching for plasma donors on Instagram. Some models predict a May peak in India, which Singh fears will exacerbate the chaos at hospitals. On Saturday, Singh learned her grandfather would have undergo dialysis and the doctors urged the family not to lose hope.

Walia survived brushes with death before, his granddaughter said: As a young man fleeing Pakistan during the violent 1947 partition of India, he rode trains where children were set ablaze, and as a government worker, he cleared out a jungle area controlled by criminals.

“Obviously we all have to die at some point,” Singh said. “But I cannot fathom someone dying this way. Gasping for air. I’ll do anything I can to prevent that.”

On Sunday, after this article was published, Walia suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Now his relatives are fighting to prevent him from becoming cremated in a parking lot as crematoriums are overwhelmed — and to make sure his death certificate lists covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as experts say the official death toll is a vast undercount.

“The government already killed him,” Avani Singh said through tears on Sunday. “I will not let them erase him in death.”

Five dead, including two deputies and suspected shooter, in North Carolina standoff.

Five dead, including two deputies and suspected shooter, in North Carolina standoff

Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox were killed during the hourslong standoff. Three others were found dead inside a house.
Image: Standoff in Boone North Carolina

Two deputies were shot and killed after a standoff in Boone, N.C.WXII

Five people, including two sheriff’s deputies, were killed during an hourslong standoff in North Carolina, officials said Thursday morning.

Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox went to a home in Boone, about 102 miles northwest of Charlotte, on a welfare check around 9:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. Someone reported that the homeowner and his family had not shown up to work or answered any calls. The deputies identified all vehicles on the property in the 500 block of Hardaman Circle and entered the house.

That is when authorities said someone inside opened fire, striking both deputies and triggering a 13-hour standoff.

During an initial rescue attempt of the deputies, a Boone police officer was hit by gunfire, but was uninjured because he was wearing protective gear, the sheriff’s office said.

Ward died after he was taken to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, according to the agency. Fox died at the scene.

Three other people, including the suspected shooter, were found dead inside the home after the standoff ended around midnight, authorities said.

“The individual suspected of killing the two officers is also suspected of killing two civilians in the residence,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The agency has not said what led to the suspected gunman’s death, but an official told The News Herald in Morganton that he died in an apparent suicide.

While the names of the remaining victims have not been released, the sheriff’s office confirmed to WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, that the two people who died were a husband and wife who lived at the home. The suspected gunman was the son of one of the victims and the stepson of the other.

The agency has not said what led to the suspected gunman’s death, but an official told The News Herald in Morganton that he died in an apparent suicide.

While the names of the remaining victims have not been released, the sheriff’s office confirmed to WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, that the two people who died were a husband and wife who lived at the home. The suspected gunman was the son of one of the victims and the stepson of the other.

UK suspends Asylum policy for IPOB, MASSOB


There were indications, yesterday, that the United Kingdom (UK) Government had suspended its asylum policy as it concerns the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other Biafra splinter groups.

This followed an e-mailed statement signed by Senior Communications Officer, Newsdesk, at the Home Office, Hannah Dawson, in which the UK Home Office said the policy was being reviewed and would be uploaded once ready.

In the emailed statement, the British Government, however, did not give a timeframe as to when the updated policy would be uploaded to their website.

The email read: “Our country policy and information notes are published on the gov.uk website. They are kept under review and updated periodically.

“We publish our notes as our decisions on protection claims can be appealed to the public immigration courts, so it is clearer and fairer to all involved (applicants, their lawyers, judges, stakeholders, such as the UNHCR) to know what our position and evidence base is.

“Our note on Biafra separatists has been taken down for review; an update is expected shortly.” It would be recalled the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) recently released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications by members of Biafran secessionist groups.

In the guidelines, asylum was to be granted to “persecuted” members IPOB, a group that the Nigerian government had designated as a terrorist organisation.

According to the guidelines, asylum was also to be granted to the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

Although the offer was rejected by IPOB and MASSOB, it was, however, condemned by the Federal Government, saying it was disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stated this while fielding questions at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship interview programme in Abuja, said the decision was unacceptable to Nigeria and amounted to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security.

He stated: “Let me say straight away that this issue is within the purview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I am sure he will handle it appropriately.

“But as the spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, I will say that if indeed the report that the UK will grant asylum to supposedly persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members is true, then something is wrong somewhere.

“Against the background of the fact that IPOB is not only proscribed, but also designated as a terrorist organisation here in Nigeria, the UK’s decision is disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.

“The decision amounts to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security. It is not only unconscionable, it is inexplicable.”

Mohammed stressed that there had recently been heightened attacks against security agencies in the Southeast, which alleged, are linked to IPOB, in spite of its denials.

“For the UK to choose this time to give succour to IPOB, beggars belief and calls to question, the UK’s real intention.

“If we could go down the memory lane, what the UK has done is like Nigeria offering asylum to members of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) before the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement,” he added.

In reaction to the Nigerian Government’s compliant, the British High Commission had explained that all asylum and human rights claims from Nigerians were carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the UK international obligations.

“The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.

 

“Our country policy and information notes are published on the gov.uk website and are kept under constant review and updated periodically. An update to the Biafra separatist note is expected shortly.

“We publish them since our decisions can be appealed in the immigration courts, which are public, so it is clearer and fairer for all involved (applicants, their lawyers, Judges, stakeholders such as the UNHCR) to know what our position and evidence base is.”

Iraq Covid hospital fire: At least 23 dead after ‘oxygen tank explodes’

At least 23 people have been killed in a fire at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in the capital of Iraq, Baghdad.

Dozens of others were injured in the blaze, which erupted at the Ibn Khatib hospital on Saturday night.

Reports say an accident had caused an oxygen tank to explode, sparking the blaze.

Videos on social media show firefighters scrambling to extinguish the flames as people flee the building.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for an immediate investigation into the causes of what he called a “tragic accident”.

The head of Iraq’s Civil Defence, Major General Kadhim Bohan, told state media the fire broke out in the hospital’s intensive-care unit, on a floor “designated for pulmonary resuscitation”.

So far, emergency crew had rescued 90 out of 120 patients and relatives, state news agency INA quoted him as saying.

About “30 patients were in the intensive care unit”, which was reserved for the most severe cases of Covid-19 in Baghdad, a hospital source told the AFP news agency.

The injured and patients who weren’t hurt have been taken by ambulance to other hospitals nearby.

Iraq’s Civil Defence said the fire was under control by the early hours of Sunday morning.

Baghdad Governor Mohammed Jaber echoed the prime minister’s call for an urgent investigation to determine if anyone should be “brought to justice” for negligence.

In a statement, the government’s human rights commission said the incident was “a crime against patients exhausted by Covid-19”.

Iraq’s hospitals have been pushed to the limit during the coronavirus pandemic, adding to the strains wrought by years of war, neglect and corruption.

Coronavirus infections have been rising steeply since February in Iraq, and passed one million cases in total this week.

The health ministry has recorded a total of 1,025,288 cases of the disease and 15,217 deaths since the pandemic began.

The country launched its vaccination campaign last month, and has received nearly 650,000 doses, most of which have come from Covax, a global programme for sharing jabs.

Pakistan hotel bomb: Deadly blast hits luxury venue in Quetta

A bomb explosion at a luxury hotel in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, has killed five people and wounded 12.

The Pakistani Taliban said it was behind the blast in the car park of the Serena Hotel, and that it had targeted police officers and other officials.

A Taliban spokesman described it as an attack by a suicide bomber using a car filled with explosives.

Initial reports had suggested the target was China’s ambassador.

Ambassador Nong Rong is understood to be in Quetta but was not present at the hotel at the time of the attack on Wednesday.

The Pakistani Taliban did not mention the Chinese ambassador in its statements.

In recent months the group, and other militant organisations, have stepped up attacks in tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban – or Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – has been carrying out attacks across the country for years, but the group’s influence and activities dramatically declined following a military offensive in 2014.

  • Mourning the sisters killed as they taught handicrafts

On Wednesday, the group said it had carried out the bomb attack in the car park of the Serena hotel in Quetta. It caused fire to spread to several nearby vehicles.

Two security guards were reported to be among the dead. All guests at the hotel were safe, officials told local media.

Footage of the blast was shared on social media in the aftermath and it showed fire raging at the site.

The Serena Hotel is the best known in Quetta, and provides accommodation for government officials and visiting dignitaries.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad confirmed for Pakistani broadcaster ARY News TV that a car bomb had been used and that Mr Nong had been at a separate function at the time.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of innocent lives in the condemnable and cowardly terrorist attack in Quetta”.

“Our nation has made great sacrifices in defeating terrorism and we will not to allow this scourge to rise again,” he tweeted.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Wang Wenbin, said the country condemned the bombing and was “saddened by the innocent victims”.

He said there were no reports of casualties or injuries among China’s delegation in the region, Reuters news agency reports.

The Chinese embassy in Pakistan told China’s Global Times media outlet that all staff there were safe.

Balochistan’s provincial Home Minister Ziaullah Lango, meanwhile, told reporters that Mr Nong was “in high spirits” and that his visit to Quetta would conclude on Thursday.

Balochistan province, near the Afghan border, is home to several armed groups, including separatists.

Separatists in the region want independence from the rest of Pakistan and accuse the government and China of exploiting Balochistan, one of Pakistan’s poorest provinces, for its gas and mineral wealth.

Separatists were blamed for an attack two years ago on a hotel at Gwadar, a port project funded by China. And last year, militants from the Baloch Liberation Army said they were behind a grenade attack on the Pakistani stock exchange in Karachi.

Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

With its roots in the Afghan Taliban, the TTP movement came to the fore in 2007 by unleashing a wave of violence.

Its leaders have traditionally been based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but it is really a loose affiliation of militant groups.

The group has killed hundreds of Pakistanis in suicide bombings and other attacks over the years, and has also co-ordinated assaults on numerous security targets.

What was arguably one of the most internationally criticised of all Pakistani Taliban attacks took place in October 2012, when schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was attacked on her way home in the town of Mingora.

At least three key figures of the Pakistani Taliban were killed the following year in US drone strikes, including the group’s leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

Pakistan stepped up its own operations against insurgents after Taliban militants killed 132 children at a school in Peshawar in 2014.

The army later declared the entire border region with Afghanistan “militant-free”, but militant activity resumed there in 2018, coinciding with the rise of a non-violent nationalist movement.

George Floyd: Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of murder

A US jury has found a former police officer guilty of murder over the death of African-American George Floyd on a Minneapolis street last year.

Derek Chauvin, 45, was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during his arrest last May.

The widely watched footage sparked worldwide protests against racism and excessive use of force by police.

Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

He will remain in custody until he is sentenced and could spend decades in jail.

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The 12-member jury took less than a day to reach their verdict, which followed a highly-charged, three-week trial that left Minneapolis on edge.

After both sides presented closing arguments on Monday, the jury was isolated in a hotel with no outside contact so they could deliberate on a verdict, a process known as sequestration.

Jurors had to agree unanimously and were told they could not return home until they had made their decision.

The verdict prompted celebratory scenes outside the court, where several hundred people cheered as it was announced.

The Floyd family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, said it marked a “turning point in history” for the US.

“Painfully earned justice has finally arrived,” he tweeted. [It] sends a clear message on the need for accountability of law enforcement.”

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris called the Floyd family right after the verdict.

Mr Biden was heard saying that “at least now there is some justice”.

“We’re gonna get a lot more done. This is going to be a first shot at dealing with genuine systemic racism,” the president said.

Chauvin is expected to appeal against the verdict, US media report.

They say one of the most likely avenues of appeal is the huge publicity given to the case, with the defence team arguing that this might have influenced the jury.

Also, Presiding Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday that public comments by Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for an appeal.

Over the weekend, Ms Waters had urged protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if Chauvin were acquitted.

What happened to George Floyd?

The 46-year-old bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store in South Minneapolis on the evening of 25 May 2020.

A shop assistant believed he had used a counterfeit $20 bill and called the police after Mr Floyd refused to give the cigarettes back.

When police arrived, they ordered Mr Floyd out of his parked car and handcuffed him. A struggle ensued when officers tried to put a screaming Mr Floyd in their squad car. They wrestled him to the ground and pinned him under their weight.

Chauvin pressed his knee into the back of Mr Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, as the suspect and several bystanders pleaded for his life.

As he was being restrained, Mr Floyd said more than 20 times that he could not breathe, pleading for his mother and begging “please, please, please”.

When the ambulance arrived, Mr Floyd was motionless. He was pronounced dead about an hour later.

What happened during the trial?

During Chauvin’s trial, the jury heard from 45 witnesses and saw several hours of video footage.

Some of the most powerful testimony came from eyewitnesses. Several broke down in tears as they watched graphic footage of the incident and described feeling “helpless” as events unfolded.

Courteney Ross, Mr Floyd’s girlfriend of three years, and Philonise Floyd, his younger sibling, also took the stand to share details of the victim’s background.

Expert witnesses on behalf of the state testified that Mr Floyd died from a lack of oxygen due to the manner of restraint employed by Chauvin and his colleagues.

Chauvin himself chose not to testify, invoking his right to not incriminate himself with his responses.

What are the charges?

Manslaughter is when someone unintentionally causes another person’s death.

In second-degree murder, the act that led to someone’s death could have been intentional or unintentional. The maximum sentence for this charge is 40 years in prison.

Third-degree murder means that an individual has acted in a way that endangered one or more people, ending in death.

Police officers have rarely been convicted – if they are charged at all – for deaths that occur in custody, and the verdict in this trial has been widely seen as an indication of how the US legal system will treat such cases in future.

How did the jury reach its decision?

Twelve jurors were tasked with deciding if Chauvin would face time in jail or be acquitted.

The entire jury remained anonymous and unseen throughout the trial, but its demographics skewed younger, more white and more female.

After both sides presented closing arguments on Monday, the jury was isolated in a hotel with no outside contact so they could deliberate on a verdict, a process known as sequestration.

Jurors had to agree on a unanimous verdict and were told they could not return home until they had made their decision.

Chad’s President Idriss Déby dies after clashes with rebels

Chad’s President Idriss Déby has died of his injuries following clashes with rebels in the north of the country at the weekend, the army has said.

The announcement came a day after provisional election results projected he would win a sixth term in office.

The government and parliament have been dissolved. A curfew has also been imposed and the borders have been shut.

Déby, 68, spent more than three decades in power and was one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

An army officer by training, he came to power in 1990 through an armed uprising. He was a long-time ally of France and other Western powers in the battle against jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa.

Déby “breathed his last defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield”, an army general said on state TV on Tuesday.

He had gone to the front line, several hundred kilometres north of the capital, N’Djamena, at the weekend to visit troops battling rebels belonging to a group calling itself Fact (the Front for Change and Concord in Chad).

A state funeral is due to take place on Friday.

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A military council led by Déby’s son, a 37-year-old four star general, will govern for the next 18 months.

Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno will lead the council, but “free and democratic” elections will be held once the transition period is over, the army said in its statement.

He later issued a statement naming the 14 other generals who will make up the new governing body.

The latest clashes began on Saturday. An army general told Reuters news agency that 300 insurgents were killed and 150 were captured. Five government soldiers were killed and 36 were injured, he said. The figures could not immediately be verified.

Some foreign embassies in the capital have urged their staff to leave.

A former BBC journalist in N’Djamena says the situation there seemed relatively calm:

“The news is filtering through to people, but the city is calm and people are just shocked to hear that actually, because many people didn’t even know that he [President Déby] was wounded or that he was at the frontline,” said Mahamat Adamou.

“In the street in downtown, there are armoured vehicles that are posted at key road junctions. Of course, there is a sense of ‘What is going to happen?’. But not more than that.”

N’Djamena has come under rebel attack before and there was panic in the city on Monday, with parents taking their children home from school, when tanks were deployed along the main roads.

Five things about Chad:

1) It is named after Lake Chad. This is the second-largest lake in Africa, but has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s. Its basin covers parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and is a water source for between 20 million and 30 million people.

2) The Sahara Desert roughly covers one third of the country. Much of the north is desert and home to a mere 1% of Chad’s population. The south has large expanses of wooded savannahs and woodlands.

3) Remains of a seven-million-year-old human-like creature – or hominid – known as “Toumai” were unearthed in 2001. Its discoverers argued that Toumai was the oldest hominid known to science.

4) Chad became an oil-producing nation in 2003, with the completion of a $4bn (£2.87bn) pipeline linking its oilfields to terminals on the Atlantic coast. The industry has been plagued by allegations of corruption.

5) Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for most people – cotton is grown in the south, and exported to Europe and the US.

Nefyn beach landslide: People warned to keep away

A major landslide at a beach in north Wales has prompted warnings for people to stay away.

The cliff fall, which eyewitnesses say is up to 40m (131ft) wide, happened on Nefyn’s coastline in Gwynedd.

Christian Pilling, who works nearby, said he was on a walk in the area and “had the shock of our lives” when they saw what had happened.

Coastguard crews were alerted to the fall at about 12:30 BST, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.

Emergency services and utility companies are securing the area after the landslide, which saw parts of some gardens on the cliffs above tumble onto the beach below.

Gwynedd Council said: “A significant landslide has affected the beach in Nefyn with a large part of the cliff having fallen on the beach earlier today.”

It said council officers were on site, adding: “Arrangements have been made for an initial investigation of the cliff to be carried out.”

In a tweet, North Wales Police also said: “We are aware of people gathering to take photographs – the public are advised to avoid the area until further notice.”

Mr Pilling, a hairdresser from nearby Morfa Nefyn, said: “We’d just gone down for a walk and turned round and had the shock of our lives.

“I don’t think anyone was on the beach. We’d gone down there about half an hour after it happened.

“It’s a good 40m wide, but it’s hard to tell.”

Joan Coppin, who lives near the beach, said: “It’s taken land from the bottom of holiday homes on Rhodfar Mor – we have got local people to the right of those and they are in quite a precarious place, I would say.

“I live at the back of the beach. I’m so glad it’s today it happened – I seriously hope no-one is missing. If it happened yesterday, there were people around, it was sunny.

“Us locals don’t go there when the tide is coming in. The whole of the area – about two-and-a-half miles – has coastal erosion. We have had big landslides before.”

In 2001, Shirley Race, 58, died and her husband Donald, 63, was seriously injured in Nefyn when a landslide engulfed their car, sweeping it over a cliff and into the sea.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) lists Nefyn as being in a “subsidence hazard zone”.

The coastal area has a surface geology of weak, superficial drift deposits of clay, silt, sand and gravel.

The BGS has said there was “a variety of landslide types within Nefyn Bay including rotational failures, flows, falls and debris slides.

“The slopes are covered in weathered debris and this is particularly susceptible to shallow landsliding, especially when saturated by water.”

When asked if people living in Nefyn should be worried, engineering geologist for the BGS Ashley Patton said: “I wouldn’t want to scare anyone but of course, when you see events like this and of this scale, you can’t help but think ‘is that area of the cliff next’?

“Of course that happens all along that coastline, so there is the potential anywhere could go.”