Smugglers ‘shot escaping migrants’ in Libya

People smugglers opened fire on a group of 100 migrants attempting to flee their clutches in northern Libya, aid agency MSF reports.

Twenty-five injured survivors received hospital treatment in the town of Bani Walid.

MSF says they reported at least 15 people were killed and dozens more, mostly women, were left behind.

Libya has become a key point on the route of sub-Saharan African migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

The country has been in turmoil since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Power is dispersed between different militias and two rival governments, allowing illegal activities to thrive.

MSF says the survivors receiving treatment are mostly teenagers from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who were attempting to seek asylum in Europe.

They reported being sold between groups of human traffickers during their time in captivity, which lasted up to three years.

The attempted breakout happened during the evening of 23 May, the agency reports.

Seven of the survivors required treatment for serious gunshot wounds and broken bones in Bani Walid General Hospital, while 18 received first aid for minor injuries.

They have now been transferred to detention centres or hospital in Tripoli.

“All necessary measures must be taken to ensure patients can access the required treatment and to protect these extremely vulnerable people from further harm after surviving such atrocities. Arbitrary detention cannot be a solution. They are in urgent need of protection and assistance,” said Christophe Biteau, MSF’s head of mission in Libya.

Afghan diplomats in Pakistan targeted by ‘state-backed hackers’

Afghan diplomats in Pakistan have been warned they are believed to be victims of “government-backed” digital attacks trying to steal their email passwords.

Afghan embassy sources told the BBC two staff members and a generic account received alerts from Google this month.

Last week Amnesty International detailed attempts to install malware on computers and phones of activists critical of Pakistan’s military.

The army did not comment on allegations intelligence services were to blame.

After the Google warning alerts were sent out, another Afghan diplomat’s email account was hacked and made to send out emails, without his knowledge, containing suspicious attachments.

The emails purported to contain photographs of rallies by protesters known as the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM). In fact the attachments appear to contain malicious files, although it was not possible to download and examine them.

The PTM movement has accused the Pakistani military of committing human rights abuses in the country’s fight against terrorism. Protests have been non-violent but controversial due to their unusually direct criticism of the Pakistani intelligence services.

Why were the emails sent?

Supporters of the Pakistani military have accused the PTM of working on behalf of the Afghan intelligence services – the two countries regularly accuse each other of working to undermine the other’s security.

A source in the Afghan embassy told the BBC he was concerned that recipients of the emails sent out from the diplomat’s account could believe the Afghan embassy was linked to the movement.

The email was sent to addresses publicly linked to a number of political figures in Pakistan. They include a former information minister, and a former law minister.

It was also sent to a former senator from a Pashtun nationalist party, Bushra Gohar. Ms Gohar told the BBC: “I know for a fact that all my accounts are being observed… this is condemnable.”

She added: “Parliament needs to form a committee and look into what is going on.”

Have there been other cyber-attacks?

An employee of the Afghan embassy and a former member of staff were also both targeted by a fake Facebook profile linked to cyber-attacks.

A report by Amnesty International released last week revealed that the profile, “Sana Halimi”, had repeatedly sent malware to a human rights activist in Lahore.

One of the Afghan embassy staff members befriended by “Sana Halimi” told colleagues “she” had engaged him in conversation pretending to be an Afghan woman from the city of Herat.

The Facebook account also befriended a number of other human rights activists. One told the BBC it had messaged him in a “flirtatious” manner.

In a report released last week, mobile security company Lookout documented “Sana Halimi” sending out malware via Facebook Messenger on at least two occasions.

The incidents form part of an investigation they carried out into the successful hacking of devices by a team they describe as “likely” being run by the Pakistani military. Their report examined around 30GB of stolen data, a significant part of which appeared to have been taken from Afghan officials.

Who was ‘Sana Halimi’?

The BBC has learnt that the pictures of “Sana Halimi” were in fact stolen from the social media accounts of a 21-year-old chef in Lahore called Salwa Gardezi with no connection to Afghanistan.

Ms Gardezi is a close relative of a prominent political commentator, Ayesha Siddiqa, known for her work critiquing the Pakistani military. It is not clear if her photographs were used because of this connection.

Ms Gardezi said she had only realised her pictures had been copied from her Facebook and Instagram accounts after a BBC article on the malware attacks last week. She told the BBC it was “shocking” her images had been used in this way, and that she had “no connection” to political work at all.

She added that she is planning to lodge a complaint with Pakistan’s Federal Investigations Agency as she is concerned she could wrongly be mistaken as being linked to the cyber attackers.

“I want to clear my image,” she said.

North Korea’s Kim ‘set on’ Trump summit

It is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s “fixed will” that a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore should go ahead, state media say.

Mr Trump cancelled the summit on Thursday, citing the North’s “hostility”, but then rowed back after conciliatory messages from Pyongyang.

Late on Saturday he again said the 12 June date for talks “hasn’t changed”.

Leaders of North and South Korea have also agreed to “meet frequently”, the North’s KCNA agency added.

It follows a surprise summit between Mr Kim and Moon Jae-in on Saturday.

President Moon’s spokesman said there had been a “candid” exchange of views in the two hours of talks between the two leaders.

Their second-ever meeting took place in the demilitarised zone between the two countries. It appeared to be an effort to put the proposed US-North Korea summit back on track.

“They shared the opinion that they would meet frequently in the future to make dialogue brisk and pool wisdom and efforts, expressing their stand to make joint efforts for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

It said Kim Jong-un had thanked Moon Jae-in for “much effort made by him” to arrange the Singapore summit and “expressed his fixed will” that it would take place.

The statement added that Mr Kim and Mr Moon had agreed to hold further high-level talks on Friday but no details were given.

The White House confirmed on Saturday that an advance team of officials would leave for Singapore this weekend, as originally scheduled, to prepare for the possible summit.

Mr Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to angrily dismiss media speculation that the summit, even if reinstated, could not now be held in Singapore in the existing time frame.

Nobody asks India to control nuclear assets, says former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf

Pakistan and India were on the path of peace and reconciliation under his regime, former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf has said while claiming that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not an “advocate of peace talks”.

The former president and chief of All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) in an interview with Voice of America claimed that when he was in power, India and Pakistan were on the “path of reconciliation”, but that is not the case anymore, the Express Tribune reported.

“At the time, I spoke to both the prime ministers, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, they were both from different political parties but we wanted to move forward from the disputes,” he said.

The 74-year-old retired general, who is facing high treason charges, has been living in Dubai since last year when he was allowed to leave Pakistan for medical treatment.

Musharraf claimed that a four-point initiation of peace was strategised by the former president and was put in implementation by the leadership of both countries.

The four points of contention included Siachen and Kashmir as well, he said.

“We were working on my strategy because both sides wanted to have peace. This is not the case anymore. They want to undo us,” he claimed.

“Incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to enforce supremacy in India and isn’t an advocate of peace talks,” he alleged.

He alleged that there exists an “inherent bias” towards India’s treatment as both possess nuclear arms, but no questions are raised on India.

“Nobody asks India to control their assets. Pakistan became a nuclear state because India posed an undeniable existential threat,” he said. “The US should have stopped them, we have been loyal to them throughout,” he said.

He said Pak-US relations have suffered quite a blow and are currently at “the lowest ebb”.

Answering a question as to why there are strenuous relations between the two countries, Musharraf said, “US has supported India very openly from the Cold War era. And now again, the US is aligning itself with India against Pakistan, this affects us directly. We would like the UN to examine India’s role in Afghanistan. A one-sided approach to the problem is negative.”

Brazil schools close as truckers’ strike enters fifth day

AFP:

Brazil appeared on the verge of a standstill on the fourth day of a nationwide truckers’ strike Thursday as road blockades caused severe shortages of fuel and food, despite a move by the state-owned oil company to defuse the crisis.

As the government and transport unions continued to seek a solution — after over five hours of talks — airports and gas stations were running out of fuel, food prices were spiraling and agricultural exports were hit.

Truckers have attempted to put a stranglehold on movement of goods in Brazil to protest fuel price rises.

The increases are the result of a politically sensitive decision made in late 2016 to allow the Petrobras oil giant autonomy over its pricing, as well as a rise in world prices in recent weeks.

But the determination of the truckers has caught center-right President Michel Temer’s government flat-footed, five months ahead of presidential elections.

Petrobras yielded to pressure on Wednesday and temporarily reduced fuel prices, sending its shares plunging by around 14 percent on the Sao Paulo stock market by close on Thursday. But the truckers Thursday were blocking main arteries in 26 of the 27 states in the vast country, which has only limited rail services.

In the port of Santos near Sao Paulo — the largest in Latin America — there have been virtually no arrivals or departures of trucks for three days, the management said, even if the “loading and unloading operations of ships continues normally” for now.

In the capital Brasilia, the airport was allowing only planes to land that had enough fuel to take off again, and schools were closed.

At five other airports, including Recife in the northeast and Congonhas in the economic capital of Sao Paulo, fuel reserves could run out on Thursday, the G1 news site said.

Various abattoirs have also halted operations, affecting a key export sector.

– ‘A one-off measure’ –

Prices of fruits and vegetables were rocketing in some places to 400 percent, due to supply problems.

Pump prices were also higher, and long lines formed at many gas stations.

A spokeswoman for Rio’s fuel retailers’ union Sincomb told AFP that the main service stations were last supplied on Monday.

“There is a lack of fuel in practically all the service stations that we have contacted,” she said.

As a way of defusing an increasingly out-of-control situation, Petrobras Wednesday announced a temporary price reduction of 10 percent.

“It is a one-off measure. It doesn’t represent a change in pricing policy,” Petrobras chief Pedro Parente told journalists. “These are 15 days for the government to reach a deal with the truckers.”

But the head of the Abcam truckers’ association, Jose de Fonseca Lopes, was unimpressed. “It is not what we need,” he told CBN radio.

The movement appeared to have some popular support.

“I think that this has been provoked by poor management by the federal government,” said Ana Maria Lobo, a driver waiting in line at a gas station in Sao Paulo, who also noted “all these corruption scandals.”

In another temporary measure, the lower house of congress decided late Wednesday to suspend the introduction of two taxes on diesel until the end of the year.

If the Senate approves the measure Thursday, the truckers “are ready to suspend the movement” said Fonseca Lopes.

But the spokeswoman of the National Transport Confederation (CNT) told journalists Thursday that blockades would continue until the president signs the measure into law.

The proposed suspension of the diesel taxes has sparked tensions within the government.

“There is no agreement yet. I am not against it but I would like to know where the money is coming from,” said the minister in charge of relations with parliament, Carlos Marun.

Malaysia’s Najib quizzed for second time over graft claims

Former Malaysian leader Najib Razak arrived at the anti-graft agency Thursday to be questioned for a second time this week over a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal following his shock election loss.

Najib’s coalition suffered a defeat at the May 9 poll which ended their six-decade hold on power, beaten by a reformist alliance led by Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir, who first served as premier from 1981-2003 and came out of retirement aged 92 to take on Najib, campaigned on claims that the former leader and his cronies looted sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Billions of dollars were allegedly stolen from the fund in a sophisticated fraud, and used to buy everything from artworks to high-end real estate.

Najib pushed through a huge media scrum at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya as he arrived to be quizzed about 1MDB money allegedly ending up in his personal bank accounts.

Najib is being questioned by the anti-corruption body over SRC International, an energy company that was originally a subsidiary of 1MDB.

According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, 42 million ringgit ($10.6 million) originating from SRC was transferred to Najib’s personal bank accounts.

It is just one small part in the graft scandal, which is being investigated in several countries.

Hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB allegedly ended up in Najib’s accounts but the ex-leader and the investment vehicle have denied any wrongdoing.

Mahathir has vowed to fully investigate the financial scandal.

After holding meetings with key figures from 1MDB Wednesday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the fund was insolvent, could not pay its debts, and its chief was “utterly dishonest”.

Najib and his unpopular wife Rosmah Mansor have suffered a swift fall from grace. Police have raided properties linked to them and seized a huge stash of handbags, cash and jewels.

The ousted leader has sought to mount a fightback in recent days, insisting he has not stolen public and attacking the new government.

In a Facebook post late Wednesday, he accused the new prime minister and finance minister of causing the stock market to fall by saying that the country’s national debt was huge.

“Words spoken while in such positions of power result in actual losses to the country and the people,” he said.