Iraqi cleric scolds security forces after protesters die in new tensions

By John Davison

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric on Friday berated security forces for failing to protect protesters killed in clashes with rival groups this week in the southern city of Najaf, and urged politicians to pick a government trusted by the people.

The violence in the holy city of Najaf, where Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is based, killed eight anti-government demonstrators after followers of populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed their sit-in protest.

The incident laid bare new tensions on the street in Iraq, where nearly 500 people have been killed in months of unrest.

The most recent events have pitted young anti-government protesters against many of Sadr’s followers, known as blue hats for the caps they wear.

The blue hats turned on protesters in several incidents after Sadr entered a deal with Iran-backed political blocs last week to bring in new Prime Miniser-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi – a move the protesters reject.

Sistani, in remarks delivered by his representative during his weekly Friday sermon in the holy city of Kerbala, condemned the violence in Najaf and blamed security forces for failing to stop it.

“It is the security forces that must take responsibility to keep the peace, protect the protest squares and peaceful demonstrators and identify attackers and rabble rousers,” the representative said.

“There is no excuse for shirking that duty.”

Sistani holds great influence over public opinion among Iraq’s Shi’ite majority. He avoids commenting on politics except during crises. His withdrawal of support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi in November sealed the outgoing premier’s fate.

Sistani urged that the new government which Allawi will form be representative of the Iraqi people and said it must have their full trust.

“It must be capable of calming the situation and take steps toward early elections free of the influence of money, weapons and foreign interference,” he said.

SADR’S ‘BETRAYAL’

Some protesters had hoped Sistani would reject Allawi who was named last week ending weeks of deadlock between political blocs.

“We hope Sistani will reject Allawi and the deal between the parties on Friday,” Mahdi Abdul Zahra, a protester in Baghdad, said.

The rival and two most powerful parliamentary blocs of Sadr and a grouping of Iran-backed parties put their differences aside to approve Allawi’s nomination.

Sadr has regularly threatened to call all his followers out to protest alongside the anti-government movement. The followers including the blue hats had been unofficially involved in the demonstrations and at times protected protesters from assaults by security forces and Iran-aligned militiamen.

His move to support Allawi, and subsequent calls for the blue hats to remove protest camps deemed to be preventing schools or businesses from functioning, is seen as betrayal by many.

“I used to support the Sadrist movement. But the minute he did this, I stopped. I’ve erased all by Facebook posts that supported him,” Abdul Zahra said from a main square where protesters skirmished with police.

The protests began in October and swelled in cities throughout the Shi’ite south, pitting impoverished and jobless masses against the Shi’ite-dominated and Iran-aligned government.

Security forces and unidentified gunmen have shot dead nearly 500 people since then.

(Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

For Syrian Kurds, a leader’s killing deepens sense of U.S. betrayal

For Syrian Kurds, a leader’s killing deepens sense of U.S. betrayal
By Tom Perry and Ellen Francis

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf spent the final months of her life building a political party that she hoped would help shape Syria’s future, drawing the attention of U.S. officials who said it would have a say in what happened once the war ended.

To her colleagues in the Future Syria Party and Kurdish communities in Syria’s northeast more broadly, her killing became a symbol of betrayal by the United States.

As recently as Oct. 3, State Department officials reassured her at a meeting that Washington would safeguard northern Syria from a threatened Turkish assault by mediating between Kurdish-led forces and Ankara, according to a colleague who was present.

A state department official said the U.S. message to Syrian partners had been consistent: that American forces would be withdrawing from the country.

Days after the meeting, President Donald Trump announced U.S. forces would quit the region, leaving it vulnerable to attack by Turkey.

Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, key allies in the U.S. battle against Islamic State, said rebels fighting on the Turkish side murdered Khalaf. She was 34.

She was slain on Oct. 12 along with a driver and aide when Turkey-backed fighters stopped their SUV on the M4 highway in northern Syria, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and officials in her party.

The spokesman for the Turkey-backed Syrian rebel force, the National Army, at the time denied its fighters killed her, saying they had not advanced as far as the M4.

Last week, the spokesman, Youssef Hammoud, said the incident was being investigated among other “breaches”.

“If America hadn’t decided to withdraw, these factions … would not have dared to carry out their operations in that area,” said Moaz Abdul Karim, a Future Syria Party leader.

The U.S. State Department has said it was looking into reports of Khalaf’s death apparently while in the hands of Turkey-backed forces, calling the reports “extremely troubling”.

An autopsy report circulated by the SDF said Khalaf’s body had been riddled with bullets.

AMERICAN ASSURANCES

On Oct. 3, U.S. State Department representatives visited the Future Syria Party’s headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa and told Khalaf and party president Ibrahim al-Kaftan that American efforts in the region were aimed at mediation.

Since the party was founded in 2018, its leaders say U.S. officials have voiced their support. The party aims to attract members from across the ethnic spectrum in a region where critics said the Kurdish YPG militia had become too powerful.

“Yes, there was encouragement from the Americans to set up a party,” Kaftan said.

“The party was already being worked on by a team who believes in Syrian democracy. It was a Syrian idea, not an American one, but I repeat they were in favor of this idea,” he told Reuters in written answers to questions.

U.S. forces withdrew from a section of the border on Oct. 7, and soon afterwards Turkish troops mounted their third incursion into northern Syria since 2016.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist threat due to their links to a Kurdish insurgency at home. It has also said its operation in Syria was designed to create a buffer where some of the 3.6 million refugees who fled the Syrian conflict into Turkey could be re-settled.

DEEPLY INVOLVED

A civil engineer by training, Khalaf was deeply involved in the politics of northeast Syria from the earliest days of the war, now in its eighth year.

After leaving her job as a state employee, she helped to set up the Kurdish-led administration whose influence would eventually stretch over one third of Syria including predominantly Arab areas.

In 2018, she was elected secretary general of the Future Syria Party, which was launched from Raqqa, a predominantly Arab city where the SDF defeated IS in 2017 with U.S. backing.

Kaftan, an Arab architect from Manbij, was elected its leader, and he said that U.S. and French officials attended the ceremony.

The United States has long adopted a cautious political approach toward northern Syria, even as it backed the SDF militarily in the fight against IS.

Washington opposed the emergence of the Kurdish-led autonomous region and the main Kurdish groups were always kept out of the U.N. political process for Syria, despite their huge influence on the ground.

But according to Kaftan, U.S. officials including the envoy for Syria James Jeffrey told members of his party that it would have a role in international talks over Syria’s future.

The State Department official said the United States wanted a political solution to Syria’s conflict that included “full representation for all Syrians.

“U.S. officials, including Ambassador Jeffrey, made clear that this included the populations of northeast Syria and intervened repeatedly with the UN to this end.”

The fate of Kurds in northern Syria is now more uncertain than it has been for years. Stripped of U.S. protection, the SDF struck a deal for Syrian government forces to deploy into the region it controlled.

The SDF says Washington has stabbed it in the back.

Despite the Turkish incursion, which has sparked an exodus and killed scores of people, leaders of Future Syria Party hope it will have a role in shaping the next phase of Syria’s recovery from war.

Khalaf always believed the solution in Syria must come through dialogue with all concerned parties including the Syrian government and Turkey, Kaftan said.

“Hevrin didn’t sleep more than 4-5 hours a day,” he said. “But she would always say Syria deserves a lot from us, and for the people who have suffered through nine years of war, we must seek to secure a real, safe future for them.”

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

As Pakistan-India tensions flare, a child mistakes a bomb for a toy

A relative displays the picture of 4-year-old Mohammad Ayan Ali, who, according to his family, was killed after he found a device that looked like a toy and exploded in his hands at home in the village of Jabri, in Neelum Valley, in Pakistan-administrated Kashmir. Pakistan's military says the device was an unexploded cluster bomb.. REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir

By Saad Sayeed

JABRI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Deep in the mountains of the Neelum Valley, where a river separates India and Pakistani Kashmir, is the small village of Jabri, usually far enough away to avoid being hit by exchanges of fire between the countries’ armies.

That changed late last month when Indian artillery shells hit the village and an unexploded device found its way into the hands of four-year-old Ayan Ali.

“He found a bomb that looked like a toy and he brought it here,” said Ali’s uncle, Abdul Qayyum, pointing to their home.

Ali showed the “toy” to his siblings as the family sat down to breakfast. It exploded, killing Ali and wounding eight of his siblings, his mother, and a young cousin.

“They tried to snatch it from him and then it exploded. He died on the spot,” Qayyum said, adding that two of the children are in hospital in critical condition.

Pakistan’s military said the device was a cluster bomb, a weapon that releases many smaller bomblets that can kill or wound people over a wider area. They are prohibited under the Geneva Convention governing international warfare.

The Indian government and army denied the allegation, and two army officials told Reuters that its shelling across the border was proportionate and in response to Pakistani fire.

On a visit to the Jabri area on Friday, a Reuters journalist was unable to independently verify the type of device that killed Ali, though there were signs of damage in the home.

A small crater in the concrete floor marked the place where Ali was standing when the device exploded.

“The little kids were playing and then there was a loud sound. There was smoke everywhere, I couldn’t see anything,” said Sadaf Siddiq, Ali’s older sister.

A shell hit another nearby home, opening a large hole in the roof but nobody inside was injured, said its 37-year-old owner Muhammad Hanif.

The Pakistan military said they had cleared a number of unexploded devices from the area. One military official showed a toy-sized device that he said was part of a cluster bomb, which could not be independently verified by Reuters.

Cross border exchanges of fire have intensified in recent years and India and Pakistan accuse each other of regularly violating a ceasefire agreement along the 740-km (460-mile) Line of Control (LoC), which serves as a de-facto border in the disputed Kashmir region.

Tensions increased this week after India set a new policy to revoke Jammu and Kashmir state’s rights to set its own laws, arrested hundreds of political leaders and activists, and severed nearly all communications from Indian Kashmir.

Both countries claim Kashmir and have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region, which they have disputed since partition and independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

(Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Martin Howell and Darren Schuettler)

European Court says Russia not facing up to domestic abuse problem

FILE PHOTO: The building of the European Court of Human Rights is seen in Strasbourg, France March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia failed to protect a woman from repeated acts of violence by her former partner, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday, saying her case showed that Moscow was not facing up to its domestic abuse problem.

Valeriya Volodina, who now uses a different name for security reasons, was assaulted, kidnapped and stalked by her former partner after she left him in 2015 and moved out of their shared home in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk, the court said.

The police never opened a criminal investigation into violence and threats that she reported to them from January 2016 to March 2018, it said in its statement.

In one such episode, she was forced to have an abortion after he punched her in the face and stomach when she was pregnant. In other incidents, the partner, whom she met in 2014, cut her car’s brake hose and stole her identity papers, it said.

After she moved to Moscow, Volodina discovered a GPS tracker planted in her bag and the former partner, identified only as S., subsequently started stalking her outside her home and attempted to drag her from a taxi.

The court in Strasbourg said Russia’s police had interviewed the partner and carried out pre-investigation inquiries but not opened formal proceedings against him as it deemed that “no publicly prosecutable offense had been committed”.

Russian legislation does not define or mention domestic violence as a separate offense or aggravating element in other offenses and there is no mechanism for imposing restraining or protection orders, the court said.

“Those failings clearly demonstrated that the authorities were reluctant to acknowledge the gravity of the problem of domestic violence in Russia and its discriminatory effect on women,” the court said in a statement.

Each year, about 14,000 women die in Russia at the hands of husbands or other relatives, according to a 2010 United Nations report.

Police finally opened a criminal investigation only in March 2018 when the partner circulated photographs of her on social networks without her consent, the court said.

The court said Russia’s response had been “manifestly inadequate” and ruled unanimously there had been two violations of the European Convention on human rights, one on the prohibition of discrimination and the other on the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment.

Russia’s Justice Ministry said it had three months to decide whether to appeal against the ruling, but that it would study the findings of the court, Interfax news agency reported.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

North Korean leader’s slain half-brother was a CIA informant: Wall Street Journal

FILE PHOTO - Kim Jong Nam arrives at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 11, 2007. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who was killed in Malaysia in 2017, had been an informant for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The Journal cited an unnamed “person knowledgeable about the matter” for the report, and said many details of Kim Jong Nam’s relationship with the CIA remained unclear.

Reuters could not independently confirm the story. The CIA declined to comment.

The Journal quoted the person as saying “There was a nexus” between the CIA and Kim Jong Nam.

“Several former U.S. officials said the half brother, who had lived outside of North Korea for many years and had no known power base in Pyongyang, was unlikely to be able to provide details of the secretive country’s inner workings,” the Journal said.

The former officials also said Kim Jong Nam had been almost certainly in contact with security services of other countries, particularly China’s, the Journal said.

Kim Jong Nam’s role as a CIA informant is mentioned in a new book about Kim Jong Un, “The Great Successor,” by Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield that is due to be published on Tuesday. Fifield says Kim Jong Nam usually met his handlers in Singapore and Malaysia, citing a source with knowledge of the intelligence.

The book says that security camera footage from Kim Jong Nam’s last trip to Malaysia showed him in a hotel elevator with an Asian-looking man who was reported to be a U.S. intelligence agent. It said his backpack contained $120,000 in cash, which could have been payment for intelligence-related activities, or earnings from his casino businesses.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said the North Korean authorities had ordered the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who had been critical of his family’s dynastic rule. Pyongyang has denied the allegation.

Two women were charged with poisoning Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Malaysia released Doan Thi Huong, who is Vietnamese, in May, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah in March.

According to the Journal, the person said Kim Jong Nam had traveled to Malaysia in February 2017 to meet his CIA contact, although that may not have been the sole purpose of the trip.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have met twice, in Hanoi in February and Singapore last June, seeming to build personal goodwill but failing to agree on a deal to lift U.S. sanctions in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.

(This story has been refiled to correct “Ki’s” to “his” in paragraph 8)

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Deadly storms leave thousands without power in eastern U.S

A view of clouds, part of a weather system seen from near Franklin, Texas, U.S., in this still image from social media video dated April 13, 2019. TWITTER @DOC_SANGER/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Tornadoes, wind gusts of up to 70 mph and pounding hail remained threats early on Monday from eastern New York and into New England, as the remnants of a deadly storm push out to sea, the National Weather Service said.

More than 79,000 homes and businesses were without power in Virginia, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.US, with 89,000 more outages reported across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and New York.

The affected areas will get heavy rains, winds with gusts of up to 70 mph (110 kph) and the possibility of hail, NWS Weather Prediction Center in Maryland said.

“This is an ongoing threat,” said Brian Hurley, from the center.

“There are short spin-ups, pockets of heavy rain and damaging winds that can still hit before this pushes off shore.”

The weekend’s storm brought tornadoes that killed at least five people, including three children, in the U.S. South, officials said.

The massive storm system sped from Texas eastward with dozens of twisters reported as touching down across the South from Texas through Georgia into Pennsylvania.

Nearly 2,300 U.S. flights were canceled by Sunday evening, more then 90 percent of them at airports in Chicago; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio and a dozen major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, according to FlightAware.com.

But no major flight delays were reported on the east coast before 6 a.m. Monday.

The storm’s cold front brought snow to Chicago on Sunday, with 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) reported in central Illinois.

Two children, siblings aged three and eight, were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on the car in which they were sitting in Pollok, Texas, said a spokeswoman for the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department.

A third child, Sebastian Omar Martinez, 13, drowned late on Saturday when he fell into a drainage ditch filled with flash floodwaters near Monroe, Louisiana, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In another storm death nearby, an unidentified victim’s body was trapped in a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, Louisiana, Springfield said.

In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant said one person was killed and 11 injured over the weekend as tornadoes ripped through 17 counties and left 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

In addition, three people were killed when a private jet crashed in Mississippi on Saturday, although Bryant said it was unclear whether it was caused by the weather.

Soaking rains could snarl the Monday morning commute on the East Coast before the storm moves off to sea.

“The biggest impact rush hour-wise probably will be Boston, around 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning, and around New York City around 5 or 6 o’clock, before sunrise,” NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Barbara Goldberg and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alison Williams)

Indian police investigate who helped young American killed on remote island

An American self-styled adventurer and Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, has been killed and buried by a tribe of hunter-gatherers on a remote island in the Indian Ocean where he had gone to proselytize, according to local law enforcement officials, in this undated image obtained from a social media on November 23, 2018. @JOHNACHAU/via REUTERS

By Sanjib Kumar Roy

PORT BLAIR, India (Reuters) – Indian authorities said on Friday they are investigating whether a young American believed to have been killed by an isolated tribe on a remote island, may have had help from more people than initially thought to make his illegal voyage.

John Chau, 26, was allegedly killed on Nov. 17 by people of the Sentinelese tribe who inhabit the North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain. Chau’s family said in a social media post he was a Christian missionary and mountaineer.

It is illegal for people to visit the island and seven people suspected of helping Chau reach it, including fishermen, have been arrested.

The fishermen told police that they saw Chau’s body being dragged across a beach and buried in the sand.

Police are now investigating if Chau had help from other people to travel to North Sentinel, Vijay Singh, senior superintendent of police (SSP) in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, said in a statement.

Police would investigate “the sequence of events, the sea route followed”, and other matters said Singh.

The Sentinelese, hunter-gatherers armed with primitive spears and bows and arrows, are considered to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world and the most isolated such group.

The tribe, estimated to be only a few dozen in number, have for decades aggressively resisted contact with the outside world.

Anthropologists were briefly in contact with the tribe in the early 1990s, but their effort was abandoned due to fears that contact with the outside world could expose the tribe to pathogens and lead to their extinction.

North Sentinel, 50 km (31 miles) west of Port Blair – the capital of the island cluster – is protected by laws which bar even fishing within a 5-nautical mile radius of the island. The law also bars tourism or photography. Those guilty of breaking the law face jail of up to three years.

In a social media post, Chau’s family called on authorities to release his friends in the Andaman Islands saying they did not blame anyone for his death.

Dependra Pathak, director general of police in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told Reuters police had to follow the law.

“I understand the emotional concern of the family,” he said. “But we’ll be handling the entire issue keeping in mind the law.”

He said authorities were looking into whether they could retrieve Chau’s body.

“We have to respect the utmost sensitivities in this case,” he said, adding it was the moral duty of society to protect and respect the tribe that has lived in isolation for millennia.

‘VULNERABLE’

Rights groups including Survival International warned that the Sentinelese face catastrophe unless they are protected.

“They’re the most vulnerable peoples on the planet,” Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said in a statement.

The people could be wiped out by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance, he said.

Some people who said they knew Chau described him in glowing terms on social media, while others criticized his visit to the island.

“John wasn’t reckless; he was incredibly and profoundly filled with purpose and calling,” Sarah Prince, who described Chau as a “dear friend”, said in a post on Instagram.

“His ‘adventure’ to India was to bring the love of Jesus to the Sentinelese people. Ultimately it is what he gave his life for, and he was prepared to do it.”

Others called his action irresponsible and said he should not be glorified.

“While I am sad for his family, the Sentinelese have the right to remain uncontacted and keep their own faith.” said another Instagram user.

Chau had been able to make contact with the tribe and return to the fishing boat two or three times, according to notes he left with the fishermen that are now with authorities.

“What has happened is not very clearly spelled out in his notes, but it is indicative of his deep expedition planning and his determination to contact these aborigines despite knowing he would face vigorous rejection,” said Pathak.

(Reporting by Sanjib Kumar Roy and Sankalp Phartiyal; Writing and additional reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Saudi Arabia must halt Yemen strikes: U.N. child rights panel

FILE PHOTO: Mukhtar Hadi, who survived a Saudi-led air strike that killed dozens including children, stands outside his house in Saada, Yemen September 4, 2018. Picture taken September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Naif Rahma/File Photo

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – A U.N. human rights watchdog called on Saudi Arabia on Thursday to immediately halt its deadly airstrikes against civilian targets in Yemen and to prosecute officials responsible for child casualties due to unlawful attacks.

The censure by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child coincided with international concern at the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Riyadh’s military role in Yemen, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct 2.

Pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia, including from allies, to do more to limit civilian casualties in a 3-1/2 year civil war that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

Riyadh leads a Western-backed coalition of Arab states supporting the Yemeni government in fighting against the Iran-allied Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital. Britain and the United States are among countries supplying the coalition with weapons and military intelligence.

Saudi Arabia told the child rights panel last week that it was working hard to correct mistaken targeting by its military alliance, but the experts voiced skepticism.

The panel of 18 independent experts, in its conclusions issued on Thursday, took note of the Saudi statement but said that Yemeni children continue to be killed, maimed and orphaned.

“We asked them to put a halt immediately to these air strikes,” Clarence Nelson, panel vice-chair, told reporters.

At least 1,248 children had been killed and nearly the same number wounded in air strikes since March 2015, including dozens killed in a strike on a school bus in Saada province in August, U.N. figures show.

COALITION “INVESTIGATING THEMSELVES”

“Nearly 20 percent of the deaths of civilians are children. So that’s one in five civilians killed is a child under 18. That’s a lot of children,” Nelson said.

All sides have attacked civilian targets in Yemen including homes, medical facilities, schools, farms, weddings and markets, in breach of international law, the panel said.

The panel voiced concern at “the inefficiency of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) set up by the coalition in 2016 to investigate allegations of unlawful attacks by (Saudi Arabia) and members of the coalition on children and facilities and spaces frequented by children”.

“There has been no case, let alone a case involving child casualties, recruitment or use of children in armed hostilities, where its investigations led to prosecutions and/or disciplinary sanctions imposed upon individuals, including military officials of (Saudi Arabia),” it said.

Nelson, referring to the JIAT team, said: “Firstly it was set up by coalition, they are essentially investigating themselves. Secondly it’s comprised of members from coalition countries. Thirdly, the information we have is that it is not investigating all ‘accidents’.”

He said a large number of strikes and incidents involving civilian casualties and children were not being pursued by JIAT.

The panel called for lifting the coalition’s aerial and naval blockade which it said has deprived millions of Yemenis of food and other vital supplies, mainly through Hodeidah port.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by William Maclean)

Rising tensions at protests over killing of black man in California

Salena Manni (L), fiancee of Stephon Clark, holds their son Cairo and an unidentified man holds son Aiden (2nd R) while Basim Elkarra speaks and Rev Shane Harris listens at a rally in Sacramento, California, U.S., March 31, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong

By Bob Strong

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Tensions mounted over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Sacramento, California, black man when a protester sustained minor injuries when struck by a sheriff’s patrol car that was under attack by demonstrators, authorities said on Sunday.

About 150 people demonstrated in Sacramento on Saturday night to protest the March 18 shooting death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was gunned down in his grandmother’s yard.

The death of Clark, a father of two, was the latest in a string of killings of black men by police that have triggered street protests and fueled a renewed national debate about bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Protesters on Saturday night surrounded two marked Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department patrol cars and “began yelling while pounding and kicking the vehicles’ exterior,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement early Sunday.

“A collision occurred involving the sheriff’s patrol vehicle and a protester who was walking in the roadway,” the statement said. “The patrol car was traveling at slow speeds.”

The protester was identified by local media as Wanda Cleveland, 61, who regularly attends Sacramento City Council meetings.

The protester was transported by the Sacramento Metro Fire Department to a hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries, the Sheriff’s Department said.

“Vandals in the crowd” damaged the patrol car, which “sustained scratches, dents, and a shattered rear window,” the Sheriff’s Department said.

Demonstrators interviewed by local radio and television stations, who prompted a flurry of similar Twitter responses, said the sheriff’s car failed to stop and called the incident a hit-and-run accident.

The incident is under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Saturday’s demonstration brought together a multi-racial crowd, many in it holding signs such as “Stop Police Rage” and “Power to the People.” It was led by retired National Basketball Association player Matt Barnes, who grew up in the area and had two stints with the Sacramento Kings franchise.

Clark was shot by police responding to a report that someone was breaking windows. Police said the officers feared he had a gun but that he was later found to have been holding a cellphone.

Police have said he was moving toward officers in a menacing way. The shooting was captured on a body cam video released by police.

In several days of sporadic protests, protesters have blocked traffic and twice delayed fans from reaching games played by the Kings at the Golden 1 Center.

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York: editing by Steve Orlofsky)