Military plane crashes in southern Sudan, killing 6

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (BNO NEWS) — Six people were killed on Friday when a military plane crashed shortly after take-off in the southern region of Sudan, local media reported. There were no survivors.

Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad told the Sudan Tribune that the accident happened shortly after take-off from an airport in Al-Ubayyid, the capital of North Kordofan state. A total of six people were on board the aircraft.

Sa’ad said the plane, which was initially reported as a helicopter, was on an ‘administrative mission’ and carrying military ammunition. The newspaper said all crew members were killed, but there were no reports of casualties on the ground.

The exact cause of the accident was not immediately known, but Sa’ad said the crash was the result of a technical failure which occurred about three minutes after take-off, sparking a fire. The report did not mention what type of aircraft was involved.

In November 2010, at least eight people were killed when a Zalingei Tarco passenger plane carrying up to 40 people crashed while landing at Zalingei Airstrip in Zalingei, a town in western Sudan. It was flying on a route from Khartoum to Zalingei, with a scheduled stopover in El Fasher.

Cyclone Thane kills 46 on India’s southern coast

CHENNAI, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — At least 46 people have been killed and thousands of homes have been damaged after severe Cyclone Thane struck India’s southeastern coast on Friday, officials said on Saturday. The death toll is expected to rise.

Cyclone Thane hit the coast in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Friday, leaving a trial of destruction in most notably Cuddalore district and neighboring Union Territory of Puducherry. Cuddalore, south of the city of Chennai, reported at least 26 deaths.

Two fatalities were reported in Villupuram district, two in Tiruvallur, three in Kanchipuram, one in Theni and another in Chennai. Four deaths were also reported in Kerala and seven more died in Puducherry, many as a result of wall collapses and electrocution.

Torrential rains accompanied by winds of up to 140 kilometers (85 miles) per hour uprooted hundreds of trees and electric poles, blocking road traffic and snapping power supply in several areas. Puduchery District Collector S B Deepak Kumar told the Press Trust of India that rescue operations were in full swing and uprooted trees were being removed from the roads.

After making landfall on Friday, Thane moved further westward and weakened rapidly into a deep depression. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the storm had weakened into a ‘well marked low pressure area’ by early Saturday morning.

“Under the influence of this system, rainfall at most places with heavy falls at isolated places would occur over Kerala during next 24 hours,” the department said in a weather bulletin. “Rainfall at many places with isolated heavy rainfall may occur over south interior Karnataka and north interior Tamilnadu during [the] next 12 hours.”

Thane was the strongest cyclone of the 2011 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, which runs throughout the year although most cyclones tend to form between April and December, with notable peaks in May and November.

Jordanians rally against attacks on pro-reform protesters

AMMAN (BNO NEWS) — Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of downtown Amman on Friday to call for genuine political reforms and condemn the continued attacks on peaceful activists, Ammon News reported.

The protest organized by the Muslim Brotherhood took place following Friday prayers outside the Al Husseini Mosque amidst heavy security. Several Islamist leaders and activists from various youth movements participated in the protest.

Demonstrators chanted slogans in protest of the attack on Islamist activists in a rally last Friday in the city of Mafraq. During the rally, he Muslim Brotherhood’s branch was burnt and dozens were injured in clashes between pro-reform youth from the Islamist movement and counter protesters from the Bani Hassan tribe and security forces.

Protesters on Friday criticized the security forces’ failure to prevent the violence and claimed the attacks were an attempt to distance the Islamist movement from the tribal structure in governorates. They chanted slogans in support of Jordanian tribes and stressed the unity of the Jordanian people.

Protesters also blasted privatization, corruption and what they described as incompetence of members of the Lower House of Parliament. They condemned what they see as ‘rampant and endemic corruption’ and demanded genuine political reforms.

In October, Jordanian King Abdullah II issued a decree approving the formation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Awn Al-khasawneh. This is the country’s third government this year alone amid pro-reform protests.

Jordanians have been demanding the trial of corrupt officials since February and have stressed that they will continue protesting until they witness “real and tangible measures” to combat corruption.

Turkish gov’t says it ‘regrets’ airstrike which killed 35 civilians

ANKARA (BNO NEWS) — The Turkish government on Friday said it regrets an airstrike which mistakenly killed 35 civilians along the Turkey-Iraq border on late Wednesday evening, the Antolia news agency reported.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the incident was unfortunate and saddening. He said unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) had noticed that nearly 40 people were moving in a region where the main camps of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are situated.

“Naturally it is not possible for unmanned aerial vehicles to identify the group exactly. In a further identification, it is revealed that the group was comprised of cigarette and diesel oil smugglers,” Erdogan added.

Turkish F-16 warplanes carried out the airstrike in Uludere township of Şırnak province on Wednesday night after receiving information that PKK members were preparing to cross into Sirnak. At least 35 Kurdish civilians who were mistaken for PKK members were killed.

President Abdullah Gul also expressed sorry about the incident and offered condolences to the victims’ families. Gul and Erdogan said an investigation will be conducted into the incident, adding that there was about four hours of footage from the operation.

A mass funeral for the victims took place on Friday afternoon in Uludere. Thousands of Kurds gathered to mourn the victims and condemn the attack.

The PKK, which has been labeled as a terrorist organizations by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, was established in 1984 in its efforts to establish the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey as an autonomous Kurdish state. Over 40,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed in violent clashes since the group took arms. The PKK maintains its military bases across the Iraqi border.

Yemeni protesters demand trial for President Saleh

SANAA (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yemen on Friday to demand that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh face trial for the killings of hundreds of anti-government protesters during the uprising this year.

Saleh handed over presidential powers to his deputy last month and agreed to leave office in February 2012 after signing a political agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Under the accord, Saleh received immunity from prosecution, which has been rejected by some protesters.

Earlier this week, Saleh applied for a visa to enter the United States for medical treatment. He said he would leave for the US “in the coming days… to get out of sight… to calm the atmosphere for the unity government to hold the presidential election” in February. But he has also said he would return later as “an opposition figure”, the BBC reported.

Saleh previously spent more than three months in Saudi Arabia to recover from injuries he sustained in a rocket attack which hit the mosque of the presidential palace in Sanaa on June 3. It was part of an uprising against his government which began in February, resulting in a crackdown by security forces which left at least 1,500 people killed.

A national unity government, led by Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, was sworn in earlier this month in an effort to restore peace and democracy. The ruling party and opposition parties evenly divided the 34 ministries.

North Korean military warns South will pay for ‘hideous crimes’ during mourning period

PYONGYANG (BNO NEWS) — The North Korean military on Friday said the South will ‘pay for its hideous crimes’ during the mourning period for Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il and warned it may launch a retaliatory strike to ‘smash the stronghold of the puppet forces.’

A statement from the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) condemned the South Korean government for immediately putting its forces on alert and convening an emergency meeting following the announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death.

“When the whole nation is overcome with grief over the great loss, only the South Korean puppet group committed thrice-cursed crimes,” the Commission said in a long statement. “The DPRK National Defense Commission, above all, discloses before the world and the nation the truth about those crimes of the South Korean puppet group.”

The Commission said the South’s actions created the impression that a ‘golden opportunity’ had arrived to lead the North to a system change. “The South Korean authorities put the three services of the puppet army on an emergency alert and ordered them to adopt combat posture, creating a war-like atmosphere on the ground and in the seas and air,” it said.

North Korea also condemned the South for spreading anti-DPRK leaflets during the mourning period and preventing certain groups and citizens from visiting Pyongyang to convey their condolences. “Traitor Lee Myung-bak spearheaded all these operations,” the Commission said, referring to the South Korean president.

It added: “[Lee] sought to attain his foolish goal by taking the advantage of the mourning period, and if that fails, to lead the DPRK to ‘contingency’ and ‘change of system’. From the olden times, it was considered inhumane to raise one’s fist at the neighbor visited by misfortune and seek profits.”

North Korean state-run media published a series of articles on Friday which were critical of South Korea. While threats against South Korea have been made in the past, Friday’s threat was the first since Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, took over as Supreme Leader.

“Expressing condolences and sending condolatory messages have been good manners and customs and ethical tradition peculiar to the Korean nation from the ancient times,” the Commission said. “It is for this reason that we brand the evil act of the Lee group as treason bereft of elementary human reason and morality.”

North Korea also reiterated again that it was not responsible for the 2010 sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship carrying 104 people. The incident left 46 people killed and a South Korean-led international investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo which was allegedly fired from a midget submarine.

Friday’s statement further reiterated that North Korean forces only acted in ‘self-defense’ when it bombarded the disputed Yeonpyeong Island last year, prompting South Korea to return fire at North Korea. The artillery engagement from the North left two South Korean civilians killed while the South’s return fire killed at least five people in North Korea.

The Commission said it issued Friday’s statement to ‘clarify’ its principles in regards to South Korea, mainly because of the events during the mourning period. “As already declared, the DPRK will have no dealings with the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors forever,” it said. “To keep company with them is a disgrace for the clear and honest-minded Korean nation as they are ignorant in politics, vulgar in morals and lack elementary human nature.”

The military warned: “We will surely force the group of traitors to pay for its hideous crimes committed at the time of the great national misfortune. The veritable sea of tears shed by the army and people of the DPRK will turn into that of retaliatory fire to burn all the group of traitors to the last one and their wailing into a roar of revenge to smash the stronghold of the puppet forces.”

Despite having no independent media organizations in North Korea, the Commission also criticized South Korean media outlets for allegedly broadcasting false reports, fabrication, speculation and assumptions. “The conservative media of South Korea [..] oblivious of their mission to be a fair speaker for the public and pioneer of true public,” it said.

“Taking this opportunity, we solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change from the DPRK,” the Commission said.

However, the statement concluded that the North Korean government will ‘keep to the path’ of improving North-South relations and achieving peace and prosperity. “The world will see how the army and people of the DPRK win the final victory after turning their sorrow and tears into strength and courage, closely rallied behind the dear respected Kim Jong Un,” it concluded.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which is officially still at war, have been at critical since the two incidents last year. The 1950-1953 Korean War, which left millions of people killed, ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Egyptian court acquits 5 policemen accused of killing protesters

CAIRO (BNO NEWS) — An Egyptian court on Thursday acquitted four police officers and one non-commissioned police officer who were accused of killing protesters during the uprising earlier this year, the Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported on Friday.

The officers were facing charges of killing five protesters and intending to kill a sixth person in front of the police station in the district of Sayeda Zeinab near downtown Cairo. Thursday’s ruling was the first against suspects accused of killing protesters during the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

On January 28, known as the “Friday of Rage,” clashes between police officers and protesters erupted after several police stations were stormed by protesters. The Cairo criminal court said the policemen acted in self-defense, despite accusations of excessive police force.

According to Amnesty International, at least 840 people were killed and over 6,000 people were injured in the violent repression. Activists and victims’ families have been demanding that those responsible for the killings of protesters be brought to justice in fair trials.

Meanwhile, more than 12,000 Egyptian citizens are currently languishing in prison after being tried by military courts since January 28. In September, the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information noted a ‘sharp decline’ in freedom of opinion and expression in Egypt following the ouster of Mubarak.

South African man accused of raping own mother

JOHANNESBURG (BNO NEWS) — A South African man has been arrested for allegedly raping his elderly mother earlier this week, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

‘The Sowetan’ newspaper reported that the 32-year-old man, whose name was not immediately released, was arrested after his 65-year-old mother reported being raped on Wednesday evening while she was sleeping at her home in Diphagane village, located in Limpopo province.

“We were told that the suspect demanded to get under his mother’s blankets,” Constable Thapelo Lesufi told the newspaper. He said the suspect grabbed his mother’s throat when she tried to scream and then proceeded to rape her.

The man allegedly fled the scene when the woman’s granddaughter heard the screams and went to investigate. “The rapist escaped through a window when the girl entered the room,” Lesufi told the newspaper.

An investigation is continuing.

Protesters demand speedy 1971 war crimes trials in Bangladesh

DHAKA (BNO NEWS) — Thousands of Bangladeshi protesters gathered in central Dhaka on Thursday to demand a faster trial for those accused of committing crimes during the country’s war in 1971, local media reported.

The 14-party combine led by the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) held the rally in front of the Shikha Chiranton, which honors the unknown martyrs of the War of Liberation. It is also the place where Pakistani forces finally surrendered to the joint forces of Bangladeshi troops and the Indian army on December 16, 1971.

The rally was also an attempt to foil the opposition’s alleged “conspiracy” to save those facing war crimes charges, who are also key members of the opposition parties. Awami League presidium member Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury claimed during the rally that the suspected war criminals are still committing murders across the country.

The Awami League-led 14-party combine and other like-minded political parties supporting the trial of war criminals said rallies will be held in every district of the country on January 7, Bangladesh News 24 reported on its website.

The war broke out on March 26, 1971, when West Pakistan launched a military operation against Bengali civilians who were demanding separation of the East from West Pakistan. The conflict resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh.

There were widespread killings and violations of human rights during the nine-month war. Bangladesh says that as many as 3 million people were killed, more than 200,000 women were raped and millions more were displaced.

Rogue Afghan soldier kills two French soldiers

KABUL (BNO NEWS) — Two French soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan on early Thursday morning when a rogue Afghan soldier opened fire at them, the French presidential palace and military officials said. The attacker was also killed.

The shooting attack happened in the Tagab valley of Kapisa province when an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier opened fire at French troops which are part of the NATO-led International Security Force (ISAF), killing two of them and injuring several.

“An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against two French Foreign Legion service members,” an ISAF spokesperson said. “The shooter was killed when ISAF forces returned fire. ISAF is investigating the incident.”

The French government said the victims were part of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment in the French Foreign Legion. “[President Nicolas Sarkozy] extends his condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and shares their pain,” Élysée Palace said in a statement. “The Head of State expressed, again, the determination of France to continue to work within ISAF to restore peace and stability in the country and contribute to its development.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, although the claim could not be verified. “Ibrahim (the alleged name for the attacker), who is reported to have joined the puppet army for specific purposes, fulfilled his mission by taking out 3 French invading troops and wounding a number of them after he had opened fire on a group of the French terrorists,” Mujahid said. “He was shot and martyred by the invaders in an exchange of fire.”

The Taliban spokesman claimed three French soldiers were killed, which was rejected by military officials. The insurgent group frequently exaggerates casualty claims for propaganda purposes, and the group is also known to falsely claim credit for attacks carried out by other groups or incidents which were not related to terrorism.

Thursday’s deaths raise the number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year to 563, down from 709 in 2010, according to official figures. A majority of the fallen troops were American and were killed in the country’s south, which is plagued by IED attacks on troops and civilians.

There are currently more than 130,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan, including some 90,000 U.S. troops and more than 3,900 French soldiers. U.S. President Barack Obama previously ordered a drawdown of 23,000 U.S. troops next year, and foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.