U.N. says 230,000 displaced by Myanmar fighting

(Reuters) – An estimated 230,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Myanmar and need assistance, the United Nations said on Thursday, as a major armed ethnic group expressed concern about military force, civilian deaths and a widening of the conflict.

Myanmar has been in crisis since a Feb. 1 coup ousted an elected government, prompting nationwide anger that has led to protests, killings and bombings, and battles on several fronts between troops and newly formed civilian armies.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said relief operations were ongoing but were being hindered by armed clashes, violence and insecurity in the country.

It said 177,000 people were displaced in Karen state bordering Thailand, 103,000 in the past month, while more than 20,000 people were sheltering at 100 displacement areas after fighting between People’s Defense Forces and the army in Chin State bordering India.

Several thousand people had fled fighting in northern Kachin and Shan States, regions with established ethnic minority armies with a long history of hostilities with the military.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of Myanmar’s oldest ethnic minority groups, said it was worried about the military’s excessive use of force and the loss of innocent civilian lives as fighting intensifies all over the country.

“The KNU will continue to fight against military dictatorship and provide as much protection as possible to people and unarmed civilians,” it said in a statement.

The military says it seized power to protect democracy because its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party were ignored.


Anti-junta protests took place in Kachin State, Dawei, Sagaing Region and the commercial capital Yangon on Thursday, with demonstrators carrying banners and making three-finger gestures of defiance.

Some showed support for those resisting military rule in Mandalay, the second-biggest city, where a firefight took place between the army and a newly formed guerrilla group on Tuesday, the first sign of armed clashes in a major urban center since the coup.

The military-owned Myawaddy Television said four members of the militia were arrested on Thursday, describing them as “terrorists”.

At least 877 people have been killed by security forces and more than 6,000 arrested since the coup, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group which the junta has declared an illegal organization.

A diplomatic effort by Southeast Asian countries to halt the violence and initiate dialogue between all sides has stalled and the generals say they will stick to their plan of restoring order and holding elections in two years.

In its nightly news bulletin, state-run MRTV reported on the visit of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to Russia, where a military university named him an honorary professor.

Unlike most global powers, Russia has embraced the junta and the country has long been a key source of Myanmar’s weaponry. His visit comes amid international pressure on countries not to sell arms to the military or do business with its vast network of companies.

State media on Thursday carried excerpts from a speech in Russia by Min Aung Hlaing in which he said it was necessary for countries to avoid encroaching on another country’s sovereignty.

“Myanmar is striving for restoring political peace and stability,” it quoted him saying. “The current government is focusing on the reappearance of honesty over democracy.”

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Giles Elgood)

Some killed in blast at Ariana Grande concert in British arena

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – A blast on Monday night at a concert in the northern English city of Manchester where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing left an unknown number of people dead and injured, police said.

Police said they were responding to reports of an explosion and that there were a number of confirmed casualties and others injured.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

“It was a huge explosion — you could feel it in your chest. It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.”

Concert goers react after fleeing the Manchester Arena in northern England where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing in Manchester, Britain,

Concert goers react after fleeing the Manchester Arena in northern England where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super

Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe, opened in 1995 and has a capacity for 21,000 people, according to its website. It is a popular concert and sporting venue.

A spokesman for Ariana Grande’s record label said that the singer was “okay”. A video posted on Twitter showed fans screaming and running out of the venue.

Britain is on its second-highest alert level of “severe” meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Iraqi forces push into IS-held pocket in Mosul

Young boy in the Andalus district holds up his shirt to show Iraqi forces that he is not wearing a suicide vest during an operation to clear the al-

By Isabel Coles and John Davison

MOSUL, Iraq/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi special forces pushed deeper into Islamic State-held districts in eastern Mosul on Tuesday, and army units battled the militants inside a military base in the north of the city, military officials said.

Islamic State has been driven out of most eastern districts of its Iraqi stronghold in the three months since the U.S.-backed campaign began. Iraqi troops have seized large areas along the river, which bisects Mosul from north to south.

Capture of the entire east bank, which military officials say is imminent, will allow the army, special forces and elite police units to begin attacks on the city’s west, still fully held by the militants.

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces pushed into the Eastern Nineveh and Souq al-Ghanam districts, which are flanked by areas held by Iraqi troops, spokesman Sabah al-Numan said.

The special forces have now taken control of the Andalus and Shurta neighborhoods, where they were fighting on Monday, Numan told a Reuters reporter in Mosul.

“Roughly all the eastern axes for which CTS is responsible will be completed and we will announce the liberation of the entire eastern side,” he said, but did not specify when.

A separate military statement said the CTS had also seized al-Muhandiseen district, nearly three miles further northwest, a short distance from the river.

In a parallel advance, Iraqi army troops in the north of the city moved into the Kindi military base, and were fighting insurgents inside, an army officer said.

More than 60 neighborhoods in eastern Mosul – out of a total of around 80 – had been recaptured since the start of the offensive in October, Numan told state television.

Advances have gathered pace in the new year thanks to improved battle tactics and coordination between different military branches, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say.

Further south, rapid response units of the Iraqi federal police have secured much of the eastern bank of the Tigris.

A spokesman for those forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, said some Islamic State fighters had fled by boat across the river, taking civilians as human shields.

“They fled the eastern bank for the west, and took women and children,” he told Reuters.

Islamic State has fought from among crowded residential areas and Reuters witnesses have seen its fighters shoot at civilians in areas they have been driven out of, in apparent efforts to slow the advance of Iraqi forces.

Several thousand civilians have been killed or wounded in fighting since October.

Advances slowed towards the end of last year as the military sought to avoid hitting civilians, Iraqi military officials say.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles in Mosul, John Davison and Saif Hameed in Baghdad, Stephen Kalin in Erbil; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Hyenas attack hungry women as Somaliland’s drought deepens

Women pray as they wait for assistance at Hariirad town of Awdal region, Somaliland.

By Emma Batha

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Somaliland risks descending into famine amid a severe drought that has killed thousands of livestock, an international aid agency warned on Friday, adding there were reports of some women being set upon by hyenas after collapsing from hunger.

“Many people are saying it’s the worst drought in memory,” said Mary Griffin, spokeswoman for Islamic Relief, who visited the region this month.

She said malnourished mothers were unable to breastfeed their babies, and herders were feeding cardboard boxes to their surviving animals because there was no grass left for grazing.

Adan Shariff Gabow, Islamic Relief’s manager for Puntland, neighboring Somaliland, said there were cases in Somaliland of women attacked by starving hyenas.

“They fell down, malnourished, and we understand they were then set on by the animals,” he said.

The United Nations says 1.7 million people – many of them nomadic – need aid in Somaliland and Puntland, Somalia’s two semi-autonomous regions in the north.

Griffin said there was a “terrible sense of deja vu” in the Horn of Africa where a 2011 drought in southern Somalia killed more than a quarter of a million people.

Aid agencies were criticized then for responding too late to warning signs.

Hany El-Banna, chairman of the Muslim Charities Forum, who also visited the region, called on the world not to repeat the same mistakes.

“We cannot wait like we did in 2011 when we acted too late,” he said. “We need to deal with this today – if we don’t this drought will turn into a famine.”


The drought has been caused by successive poor rainy seasons made worse by El Nino conditions in the Horn of Africa.

Thousands of goats and cows have perished and even camels – which are more drought-resistant – are dying.

Britain’s shadow development secretary Diane Abbott, who accompanied aid agencies on the trip, plans to raise the issue in parliament next week.

“I spoke to families who had 500 or more animals three months ago, and now are left with 20 or fewer,” she said.

“For people who rely on their animals for meat, milk and trade, it’s the equivalent of losing your entire life savings.”

The United Nations says malnutrition-related deaths have been reported in Awdal region, bordering Ethiopia, where sprawling makeshift camps have sprung up as people wait for aid to arrive.

Griffin who visited a camp at Qol Ujeed, in Awdal, said 1,200 people were living there without a single toilet. Many of their dead animals are buried around the camp.

Nimo Mohamed Abdi, a mother of three, described how she had lost all her livestock – more than 180 animals including camels – in three months.

“We were living by the coast then and the animals died so quickly, one after another, that we could do nothing with their corpses but throw them into the sea,” Griffin quoted her as saying.

The United Nations has launched a $105 million appeal.

Abbott said conditions that pastoral communities would expect to see every seven to 10 years were becoming an annual occurrence.

“With the increasing effects of climate change we need to look at how to build more resilience; more boreholes, dams, ways to collect and store rainwater.”

(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

Police: Woman Intentionally Hit 30-Plus Pedestrians on Las Vegas Strip

Police said one person was killed and more than 30 were injured when a woman allegedly intentionally drove her car on a busy sidewalk along the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters that 24-year-old Lakeisha Holloway “repeatedly drove her car over pedestrians,” even as some ran up to her vehicle and pounded on her window asking her to stop.

Holloway remained in custody on Monday, prosecutors said. Police did not announce a motive.

Lombardo told reporters that it does not appear that the case was an act of terrorism, though the investigation was still in its infancy and he wasn’t entirely ruling that out as a potential motive.

The Strip was closed between Flamingo Road and Harmon Avenue while police investigated. That section of road is home to the Paris, Planet Hollywood and Bellagio hotels and casinos.

Lombardo told reporters that police were reviewing multiple surveillance videos from the Las Vegas Strip. He said police had “pretty detailed video that shows that it was an intentional act.”

District Attorney Steven Wolfson told reporters at the news conference that prosecutors will file an initial charge of murder with a deadly weapon, but additional charges would be forthcoming.

Those charges may include child abuse and neglect, Wolfson said, as Holloway had a 3-year-old girl in the vehicle at the time of the alleged incident. The child was not injured, authorities said.

Lombardo said at least three of the 30-plus injured suffered critical head injuries.

TruNews: Islamic Extremists Threaten Civilians and Students in Yemen

TRUNEWS – Islamist extremists have hit the streets in Aden threatening civilians and students.

The militants burst into a university telling students they have until Thursday to segregate men and women into different classrooms. The men also charged into stores demanding female employees to cover up and threatened families on a beach.

The city is at risk of falling to the terror groups, which also includes a dangerous sect of al-Qaeda, the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, Daesh and ISIS. Houthi rebels were forced out in July, leaving a vacuum in leadership.