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Argentina’s vice-president escapes assassination – Xtra News


Argentina’s Vice-President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, avoided assassination by whiskers after a gunman’s weapon jammed as he aimed at her.

Footage shows her – surrounded by a mob of supporters – found herself face-to-face with the loaded weapon.

The former president was returning home from court, where she facing allegations of corruption. She has however denied the charges.

Police said the gunman, who local media identified as a 35-year-old Brazilian man, has been taken to custody.

They are attempting to establish a motive for the attack on the left-leaning populist, who was Argentina’s president from 2007 to 2015, and its first lady for four years before that.

President Alberto Fernández revealed the gun was loaded with five bullets, but failed to fire when triggered.

Video circulating on social media shows the gun emerging from the crowd, and Ms Fernández de Kirchner ducking to avoid it – covering her ears as she crouches.

In another video, people in the crowd appear to try to block Ms Fernández de Kirchner from the suspected gunman, who came within inches of her. The crowd has been gathering outside her home her for the last few nights in a show of support as she fights charges of defrauding the state and being involved in a scheme to divert public funds while she was president.

A police spokesperson earlier told Reuters news agency that a weapon was found a few meters from the scene after the man had been arrested.

Addressing the nation late Thursday night, President Fernández – who worked as chief-of-staff to both Ms Fernández de Kirchner and her husband during their tenures – said: “Cristina remains alive because, for a reason not yet technically confirmed, the gun, which contained five bullets, did not fire.”

He went on to condemn the attacker and said the attempt on Ms Fernández de Kirchner’s life was one of the “most serious” incidents since the country returned to democracy in 1983.

“We can disagree, we can have deep disagreements, but hate speech cannot take place because it breeds violence and there is no chance of violence coexisting with democracy,” President Fernández said, declaring a national holiday on Friday to allow Argentines time to “express themselves in defense of life, democracy and in solidarity with our vice president”.

Argentina’s economy Minister, Sergio Massa, called the attempted shooting an “attempted assassination”.

“When hate and violence prevail over debate, societies are destroyed and situations like these arise: attempted assassination,” he said in a tweet.

Fernández de Kirchner has yet to make any comment.

She is accused of defrauding the state and of fraudulently awarding public works contracts in her stronghold in Patagonia while she was president between 2007 and 2015.

If convicted at trial, prosecutors have asked that the ex-president face 12 years in prison and a lifetime ban from politics.

However, Ms Fernández de Kirchner is the Senate president and so enjoys parliamentary immunity. She would not be imprisoned unless her sentence was ratified by the country’s Supreme Court, or she loses her Senate seat at the next elections at the end of 2023.

Ms Fernández de Kirchner has faced numerous other corruption trials following her time as President.

The verdict of the current trial is expected to take some months.

Teenage girl shot dead while recording TikTok videos in Colorado


A 14-year-old girl identified as Aaliyah Salazaar was shot in the head while recording TikTok videos with her friends in Monte Vista, Colorado, the United States.

According to KUSA television station, the authorities have arrested and charged three people in connection with the sad event that happened on Thursday evening.

The report said a 21-year-old man Emiliano Vargas, along with two unidentified juveniles, were charged with the incident, which “could be an accident.”

According to a radio station, KRDO, one of the underage suspects was fiddling with a gun and tossed it to another minor, who “caught the gun and did not know how to hold the gun and fired it.”

KRDO reported one of the suspects said that “it could be an accident,” though she confirmed that the gun was pointed and fired at the Salazaar.

Both juvenile suspects face reckless manslaughter charges for their role in the matter.

Vargas, the owner of the gun was not present during the incident but was also charged with permitting or providing a minor with a firearm, as the gun was conveniently available by one of the suspects.

The report revealed that one of the suspects and Vargas had dated and lived together.

A search of the suspects’ phones and social media accounts reportedly showed them wielding the gun in question, suggesting that it was not the first time the teenagers accessed the firearm.

While the authorities have resolved to get justice for the deceased, her family have also talked to journalists about their grief.

“It’s hard. It’s hard to put into words,” the victim’s father William Salazar told KUSA.

“She could go into a store and come out with 20 new friends. She was just that type of person. She loved people, and people loved her,” Aaliyah’s grandfather, Gary Salazar, recalled.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to three years for electoral fraud – source


A Myanmar junta court sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years in jail for electoral fraud during 2020 polls her party won in a landslide, a source with knowledge of the case said Friday.

Suu Kyi was “sentenced to three years prison with hard labor”, the source said, adding that the Nobel laureate, 77, appeared to be in good health.

Detained since the putsch last year, Suu Kyi has already been convicted of corruption and a clutch of other charges by a closed junta court and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

The military pained widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 election, won resoundingly by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, although international observers said the poll was largely free and fair.

The military has since canceled the result and said it uncovered more than 11 million instances of voter fraud.

In a speech broadcast last month, Min Aung Hlaing did not mention a date for fresh polls but said they could only be held when the country was “peaceful and stable”.

More than 2,200 people have been killed and over 15,000 arrested in the military’s crackdown on dissent since it seized power, according to a local monitoring group.

IAEA chief: Integrity of Ukraine nuclear plant ‘violated’


The head of the UN nuclear agency on Thursday said the “physical integrity” of a Russian-held Ukrainian nuclear plant had been “violated” following frequent shelling, on his team’s first visit to the facility.

Russian forces seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest, and the surrounding region shortly after the February 24 invasion.

Both sides have traded blame for recent shelling near the plant lying on the frontline, sparking fears of a nuclear disaster.

A 14-strong team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived at the facility on Thursday to conduct “security and safeguards activities” after a risky journey across the frontline and early-morning shelling of the area.

“It is obvious that the plant and physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times,” IAEA head Rafael Grossi told reporters after returning to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Grossi said part of the IAEA mission will stay at Zaporizhzhia “until Sunday or Monday” to continue the assessment, without specifying their number.

The Argentine described the visit as productive and said he gathered lots of information.

Wearing bright blue flak jackets and helmets, the IAEA team crossed into Russian-held territory, reaching the facility at around 1200 GMT.

After the inspection, in a video released by the Russian RIA Novosti news agency, Grossi said: “We have achieved something very important today and the important thing is the IAEA is staying here.”

A dawn shelling attack on the area had forced one of the plant’s six reactors to close.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear agency, said it was “the second time in 10 days” that Russian shelling had forced the closure of a reactor.

It said the plant’s emergency protection system kicked in shortly before 5:00 am (0200 GMT), shutting reactor five, with the attack damaging a back-up power supply.

‘Stop playing with fire’

“It is high time to stop playing with fire and instead take concrete measures to protect this facility… from any military operations,” Robert Mardini, chief of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters in Kyiv.

He warned the consequences of hitting the plant could be “catastrophic”, saying “the slightest miscalculation could trigger devastation that we will regret for decades.”

After Russian forces seized the plant on March 4, Energoatom shut two reactors, followed by a third after shelling on August 5. With a fourth undergoing repairs, Thursday’s incident leaves only one of the six reactors working.

Mardini said it was “encouraging” the IAEA team was inspecting the plant because the stakes were “immense”.

On leaving Zaporizhzhia, Grossi said his team would be traveling through areas where “the risks are significant” but had decided to go ahead anyway due to the “very important mission to accomplish”.

Shelling and saboteurs

The neighboring town of Energodar came under sustained attack at dawn, with Russian troops firing “mortars and using automatic weapons and rockets”, its mayor Dmytro Orlov said.

But Moscow accused Kyiv of smuggling in up to 60 military “saboteurs” who reached the area near the plant at dawn, prompting Russian troops to take “measures to annihilate the enemy”.

Ukraine has accused Russia of deploying hundreds of soldiers and storing ammunition at the plant.

Kyiv also suspects that Moscow intends to divert power from the plant to the nearby Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014 — a view held by other international figures including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops pressed ahead with a counter-offensive in the nearby region of Kherson to retake areas seized by Russia at the start of the invasion.

In its morning update, the presidency said “heavy explosions continued for the last 24 hours” across Kherson, while five people were killed and 12 others wounded in the eastern Donetsk region.

Back-to-school gunfire soundtrack

Despite the conflict, now in its seventh month, September 1 marked the start of a new school year for children across Ukraine.

In the southern Mykolaiv region, children were back in front of screens for online classes as all school attendance was canceled due to the ongoing fighting.

On her first day back, nine-year-old Antonina Sidorenko, who lives in a hamlet near the frontline, was doing her online lessons with the distant crackle of gunfire in the background.

“I’m happy to be back at school but I would be even happier if there was no war because I miss my teacher and my friends,” she told AFP, saying her best friend had fled to Poland.

Russia starts massive war games with China and other ally states


Russia has launched week-long military drills involving forces from China and other nations, an exercise that shows growing defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as they both face tensions with the United States.

The large-scale manoeuvres also seem to be intended to demonstrate that Russia has sufficient military might for enormous drills even as its troops are engaged in action in Ukraine.

The Russian defense ministry said the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise will be held until September 7 at seven firing ranges in Russia’s Far East and the Sea of ​​Japan, and that it involves more than 50,000 troops and 5,000 weapons units, including 140 aircraft and 60 warships.

Russian General Staff chief, General Valery Gerasimov, will personally oversee the drills, which will involve troops from several ex-Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.

The defense ministry noted that the Russian and Chinese navies will “practice joint action to protect sea communications, areas of marine economic activity, and support for ground troops in littoral areas” in the Sea of ​​Japan.

Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed strong personal ties to bolster a “strategic partnership” between the former communist rivals as they both are locked in a rivalry with the United States.

China has refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the United States is the “main instigator” of the conflict by supporting NATO expansion and putting sanctions on Moscow.

In return, Russia has strongly supported China amid tensions with the US caused by its House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin compared US support for Ukraine and Taiwan, saying both were part of pained American efforts to foment global instability.

Political analyst Alexander Gabuyev noted: “It’s very important for Beijing to show to the US that it has levers to pressure America and its global interests.

“The joint manoeuvres with Moscow, including the naval drills, are intended to signal that if the pressure on Beijing continues it will have no other choice but to strengthen the military partnership with Russia,” Gabuyev said. “It will have a direct impact on the interests of the US and its allies, including Japan.”

He told The Associated Press the Kremlin, for its part, wants to show the country’s military is powerful enough to flex its muscle elsewhere despite the grinding campaign in Ukraine.

“The Russian leadership demonstrates that everything goes according to plan and the country and its military have resources to conduct the manoeuvres along with the special military operation,” Gabuyev said.

China’s participation in the drills “aims to deepen pragmatic and friendly cooperation between the militaries of the participating countries, enhance the level of strategic cooperation among all participating parties, and enhance the ability to jointly respond to various security threats”, Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Colonel Tan Kefei said last week.

The exercise continues a series of joint war games by Russia and China in recent years, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of ​​Japan and the East China Sea. Last year, Russian troops deployed to Chinese territory for joint drills for the first time.

Even though Moscow and Beijing in the past rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance, Putin has said such a prospect cannot be ruled out. He also noted Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly bolster its defense capability.

Uighurs demand accountability after UN report on China abuses


Members of the Uighur diaspora are urging the world to act after the United Nations said China may have committed crimes against humanity in the far-western region of Xinjiang.

The long-awaited report by the outgoing UN Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, was published late on Wednesday, just minutes before the end of her four-year term.

The 48-page document said it was “reasonable to conclude” that Chinese authorities had subjected Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to “large-scale arbitrary detention” in facilities they described as vocational education training centers (VETCs), at least during the period between 2017 and 2019.

It also said allegations of torture, ill-treatment and sexual abuse at VETCs were “credible”, and said there were “serious indications” of forced labor and violations of reproductive rights in Xinjiang.

Uighur rights campaigners described the report as “a game-changer”.

In a statement signed by more than 60 groups, campaigners said the report by the world’s leading human rights body offered a confirmation of the abuses that human rights groups have documented in Xinjiang for years now.

“This UN report is extremely important. It paves the way for meaningful and tangible action by member states, UN bodies, and the business community,” World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa said.

“Accountability starts now.”

The Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim Turkic group who differ in religion, language and culture from China’s majority Han ethnic group.

Uighur rights groups have accused China of carrying out a “genocide” against the community, by launching a campaign of mass internment, killings, forcible sterilisations, separating children from their families and destroying the group’s identity, including by demolishing mosques and other sacred sites.

The United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have backed those claims.

China, however, denies the accusations.

In its response to Bachelet, Beijing claimed the report was based on “disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces and out of presumption of guilt”.

‘No more excuses’

China had previously described the Xinjiang camps as vocational training centers aimed at countering extremism and separatism in Xinjiang and had lobbied Bachelet to refrain from publishing the report.

The commissioner said last week that she had received a letter from China and several other countries, including North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba, asking that the report not be published.

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the US-based Campaign for Uyghurs, said Bachelet’s office had waited far too long to deliver the report.

Still, Abbas said, the report once again offers evidence of “China’s atrocities” and gave no room for the world to shy away from an obligation to act.

Elfidar Iltebir, president of the Uyghur American Association, agreed.

“Now that the leading UN office on human rights has spoken, there are no more excuses for failure to hold the Chinese government accountable,” she said.

Alim Osman, president of the Uyghur Association of Victoria in Australia, described Bachelet’s report as a “vindication”.

“The High Commissioner’s damning findings explain why the Chinese government fought at any cost with their allies to prevent the publication of her Uyghur human rights report, which clarifies China’s sweeping rights atrocities,” he said.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council should use the report to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting the Uyghurs and others – and hold those responsible to account.”

Official: IAEA mission determined to reach Ukrainian nuclear plant despite delays


Ukraine said a UN team on its way to inspect the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday was stuck at a checkpoint about 20 km (12.4 miles) from the front line after reports of fresh shelling earlier in the day.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, remained determined to reach Europe’s largest nuclear power plant on Thursday despite hours of delays, a spokesperson told Reuters.

Ukraine’s state nuclear company Energoatom told Reuters that the convoy was waiting at a Ukrainian checkpoint for the situation near the plant to become safe before proceeding.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which was occupied by Russia in March, has come under frequent shelling over the past month, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame over the strikes and fueling fears of a radiation disaster.

The IAEA spokesperson told Reuters around 12:00 local time (0900 GMT) that the mission, headed by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, had been delayed on the Ukrainian-controlled side for three hours.

“Director General Grossi has personally negotiated with Ukrainian military authorities to be able to proceed and he remains determined that this important mission reaches the (Zaporizhzhia plant) today,” the spokesperson said.

Poland seeks $1.3 trillion in WWII reparations from Germany


Poland has estimated its World War II losses caused by Germany at 6.2 trillion zlotys ($1.32 trillion) and announced its plan to officially demand reparations from Berlin.

The remarks were made on Thursday by the leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The new estimate tops a governing party lawmaker’s $850bn estimate from 2019. PiS has repeated calls for compensation several times since it took power in 2015, but Poland has not officially demanded reparations.

“The sum that was presented was adopted using the most limited, conservative method, it would be possible to increase it,” Kaczynski told a news conference before the release of a long-awaited report on the cost to the country of years of Nazi German occupation as it marks 83 years since the start of World War II.

Poland’s right-wing government has argued that the country, which was the war’s first victim, has not been fully compensated by neighbouring Germany, which is now one of its major partners within the European Union.

Top leaders including Kaczynski, who is Poland’s chief policy maker, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attended the ceremonial release of the report at the Royal Castle in Warsaw.

It was the main point of national observances of the anniversary of the war that began on September 1, 1939, with Nazi Germany’s bombing and invading Poland, for more than five years of brutal occupation.

The war was “one of the most terrible tragedies in our history”, President Andrzej Duda said during Thursday morning’s observances at the Westerplatte Peninsula near Gdansk, one of the first places to be attacked in the Nazi invasion.

“Not only because it took our freedom, not only because it took our state from us, but also because this war meant millions of victims among Poland’s citizens and irreparable losses to our homeland and our nation,” Duda said.

Germany has argued compensation was paid to Eastern Bloc nations in the years after the war, while territories that Poland lost in the East as borders were redrawn were compensated with some of Germany’s pre-war lands. Berlin calls the matter closed.

The combative stance towards Germany, often used by PiS to mobilize its constituency, has strained relations with Berlin.

It intensified after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine amid criticism of Berlin’s dependence on Russian gas and its slowness in helping Kyiv.

About six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war and Warsaw was razed to the ground following a 1944 uprising in which about 200,000 civilians died.

One year later, US relies on drones to battle jihadists in Afghanistan


One year after US forces retreated from Afghanistan, Washington now counts only on its drones to continue the fight against the Islamic extremist groups that drew it to invade the country 21 years ago.

But experts say that is not going to be enough to counter the resurgence of Al-Qaeda, or its jihadist rival Islamic State, inside the country now back under the rule of the Islamist Taliban.

US forces entered Afghanistan on October 7, 2011, to remove the Taliban government from power over its protection of Al-Qaeda and its founder Osama bin Laden, responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Criticized for the decision to end the US military presence in the country, President Joe Biden promised that the American military and intelligence agencies would be able to keep up the war on the two jihadist groups via “over-the-horizon” operations.

That was a reference to the ability of the US military and CIA to surveil the country via high-flying unmanned aircraft operated from distant locations and, when necessary, to use drones to strike targets, as the US did on July 31 when it fired two rockets that killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in his home in Kabul.

But besides that, there are few signs that the over-the-horizon approach can prevent the jihadists from reestablishing Afghanistan as a base from which to carry out attacks around the globe, as Al-Qaeda did up to 2001.

For retired general Frank McKenzie, who as commander of the US Central Command oversaw the operations in Afghanistan through last year’s pullout, the presence of Zawahiri in Taliban-controlled Kabul illustrates how hard it is to fight the Islamic extremists without a US presence on the ground there.

“I’ve said publicly in testimony that counterterrorism operations from over the horizon in Afghanistan would be very hard but not impossible,” McKenzie told the BBC in a recent interview.

“We are going to have to continue to apply pressure, and that’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

– Not safer after withdrawal –

McKenzie’s predecessor at Central Command, retired general Joseph Votel, said the Zawahiri strike shows that the US does have the capability to pressure Qaeda and Islamic State from outside Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, he told the Voice of America, “I think that we’re not in a safer place.”

“Whether we find ourselves back in Afghanistan, like we found ourselves back in Iraq just literally three-plus years after we left, I don’t know. I hope not,” he said.

“But I think we have to be prepared for that.”

The Pentagon maintains that it does not share those worries.

“At this stage, it would be our assessment that in terms of external planning, operations external to Afghanistan, I think we are in a safe situation,” said the Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder.

“We absolutely have the means to respond wherever and whenever we need, around the world, to any counterterrorism threat,” he said.

Without forces inside Afghanistan, Ryder said, it is “more of a challenge,” but it is “not something that is insurmountable,” he said.

Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl said that US intelligence believes both Al-Qaeda and Islamic State’s Afghanistan arm intend to undertake external attacks, including against the United States, but currently lack the capacity to do so.

However, he told Congress, Islamic State could developed that capability “in somewhere between 6 or 12 months.”

Doug London, a former official at the CIA, which is believed to have executed the Zawahiri strike, “America neglects Afghanistan at its peril.”

London, now a professor at Georgetown University, wrote on the Just Security website that instead of relying wholly on the over-the-horizon drone strategy, Washington needs to communicate more directly with the Taliban.

“There is always something to gain being on the ground and talking to your adversaries, regardless of their intentions,” he said.

Boris Johnson goes nuclear in parting shot as British premiere


Boris Johnson on Thursday pledged £700 million ($815 million) in funding for the new Sizewell C nuclear power station, as he prepares to hand over power as UK prime minister.

The cash, unveiled at the Sizewell site in eastern England, comes as he seeks to improve UK energy security and fend off criticism over rocketing domestic fuel prices.

Sizewell C is expected to be constructed in partnership with French energy firm EDF and could power the equivalent of about six million homes.

“We need to pull our national finger out and get on with Sizewell C,” Johnson said in one of his last major policy speeches as prime minister.

“That’s why we’re putting £700 million into the deal, just part of the £1.7 billion of government funding available for developing a large-scale nuclear project to final investment stage in this parliament.

“In the course of the next few weeks I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line.”

Sizewell C would create “tens of thousands of jobs”, he vowed.

The government had already given the go-ahead in July to the plant to generate low-carbon electricity.

Johnson added it would be “madness” not to go ahead with the project which would “fix the energy needs, not just of this generation but of the next”.

Johnson will step down next Tuesday, handing the keys of 10 Downing Street to either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak after an internal Conservative party leadership contest.

He was forced to quit in July after dozens of resignations from his government in protest at a series of scandals.

“I say to you, with the prophetic candour and clarity of one who is about to hand over the torch of office, I say go nuclear and go large and go with Sizewell C,” the PM added.

And he reaffirmed a government pledge to build a nuclear reactor every year.

“Whoever follows me next week, I know that they will do the same.”

The UK is seeking to safeguard energy security after key producer Russia sent prices rocketing with its invasion of Ukraine.

Thursday’s announcement comes almost one week after news that British households will face an eye-watering 80-percent hike in electricity and gas bills from October.

Regulator Ofgem, which announced the move last Friday, blamed the staggering increase on spiking wholesale gas prices in the wake of the Ukraine war.

UK inflation is in double-digits and forecast to hit 13 percent in the coming months, worsening the cost of living crisis.