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Archive for January, 2019

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Blasts heard as French siege continues

French police stepped up pressure on a besieged al Qaeda militant who boasted of having ‘brought France to its knees’ with a wave of brutal attacks that left seven dead.


The sound of blasts and gunshots were heard overnight near the flat in Toulouse, southern France, where the gunman was holed up for a second day.

One source said anti-terrorist officers besieging the apartment had exploded a series of charges before and after midnight to intimidate the 23-year-old suspect, who has claimed responsibility for the seven murders.

Prosecutors said Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had fought off several police assaults on the flat on Wednesday and bragged to negotiators of having been trained by Al-Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“He expressed no regret apart from not having had enough time to kill more victims and even boasted of having brought France to its knees,” France’s top anti-terror prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.

The drama began in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday, and the French authorities are convinced that they have surrounded the right man and that he has no hostages with him.

While there were no obvious signs of an imminent police assault on the gunman early Thursday, a source close to the enquiry said that the final denouement was not far off.

A police source played down talk of an assault on the flat.

“He said he wanted to give himself up. He changed his mind, so we’re stepping up on the pressure on him to surrender,” he said.

There was no indication of an exchange of fire following the blasts. Merah is thought to be armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Mini-Uzi submachine pistol and a collection of handguns.

Molins said Merah had claimed responsibility for three shootings over the previous 10 days in which three French paratroopers, three Jewish children and a teacher were killed in cold blood, shocking the nation.

He claimed to be avenging Palestinian deaths and opposing the French military’s involvement in Afghanistan and France’s ban on full-face veils.

French public broadcaster France 2 has identified this undated photo of a man as Mohamed Merah, suspect in the recent shootings at a Jewish school and of French paratroopers. (AP)

Molins said the suspect had shot and wounded two elite officers after police first raided the Toulouse apartment building before dawn on Wednesday.

“Mohamed Merah explained that he belonged to Al-Qaeda. He explained he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Pakistani-Afghanistan region in Waziristan,” Molins told reporters in Toulouse, scene of two of the shootings.

Waziristan is a tribal area straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border which is known as a haven for Islamist insurgents — including Al-Qaeda militants — connected to Taliban guerrillas fighting in both countries.

Molins said the suspect had gone to the region twice and on one occasion had been arrested by Afghan police and handed over to US army troops, who put him on a flight back to France.

“He said he does not have a suicidal spirit, he did not have a martyr’s soul, he preferred to kill and remain alive,” said Molins, adding that the killer had claimed to have always acted alone.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Merah received orders from Al-Qaeda.

“He explained how… he had even been suggested to carry out a suicide mission and refused, but agreed to carry out a general mission to commit an attack in France,” Gueant told TF1 television.

Police and prosecutors said they had arrested Merah’s mother, brother and his brother’s girlfriend as part of the inquiry. Sources said the suspect had been known to the domestic security service for some years.

After the failed police assault on the first floor flat in Toulouse where Merah was living, the two sides settled down to an armed siege. During the day Wednesday other residents were evacuated from the building.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election in an April-May vote, told religious representatives at a meeting in a police station near the siege site that the gunman had planned to carry out another attack Wednesday.

Molins told reporters that Merah had chosen two Toulouse policemen to target for future assassination and planned to kill another soldier.

Gueant said the suspect had thrown out a .45 pistol used in the seven murders.

He also defended law enforcement from criticism for missing danger signs.

“In France you do not get sent to prison for professing strange or extremist ideas,” Gueant told AFP.

The siege came as the Jewish victims of the attacks were being buried in Jerusalem and two of the soldiers were being laid to rest, one in France and one in Morocco.

The shootings began on March 11, when a paratrooper of North African origin arranged to meet a man in Toulouse to sell him a scooter.

Four days later three more paratroopers from another regiment were gunned down, two of them fatally, in the same fashion in a street in the nearby garrison town of Montauban.

The pair — Corporal Abel Chennouf, 25, and Private First Class Mohammed Legouade, 23, — were also French soldiers of North African origin.

Then on Monday the shooter, again wearing a motorcycle helmet and riding a scooter, attacked the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a religious studies teacher, his toddler sons and a seven-year-old girl.

Sarkozy and several rival candidates for the presidency attended a memorial ceremony for the slain soldiers at their barracks in Montauban.

Sarkozy returned to Paris, where his office said US President Barack Obama had called to offer condolences, adding: “France and the United States are more determined than ever to fight together against terrorist barbarism.”

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Police arrest 14 in child porn ring

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have raided properties in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and the ACT with one of the men arrested allegedly in possession of images and videos that would have required 24 standard laptops to store.


The original discovery of the child porn ring came in Germany, with a tip-off from Interpol alerting the AFP to the alleged involvement of Australians.

“With the execution of our final two search warrants this morning that has resulted in one further arrest,” the AFP’s head of cybercrime operation Glen McEwen told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

“So for this particular investigation we are now up to 14 offenders. There is another person assisting the AFP with their inquiries.” Commander McEwen couldn’t confirm where the images and video that had been seized was originally shot.

He also didn’t know if any Australian children were involved but said various ethnicities were represented in the material.

The 14 men are facing federal charges in relation to accessing and making available child exploitation material as well as state-based possession of child pornography charges.

The covert AFP investigation was codenamed Operation Belfort. It targeted a number of Australians allegedly accessing, downloading and possessing child abuse images over a file-sharing network.

Police began investigating the group in late 2011 and during the past week executed search warrants across Australia, seizing computers, hard drives, laptop computers, portable storage devices and mobile phones.

Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare said the 14 arrests represented a important breakthrough “smashing an alleged child exploitation ring and taking hundreds of thousands of child exploitation images and videos out of circulation”.

“The work the AFP are doing to protect our children against predators who seek to harm them is tough and I congratulate them on the work they are doing,” he said in a statement.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Dads among those arrested in child porn ring

Fourteen men, including fathers, have been arrested across eastern Australia following the discovery of hundreds of thousands of pornographic images and videos of children.


Australian Federal Police (AFP) searched 19 premises in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and the ACT and laid 27 charges after receiving a tip-off from Interpol last December.

The peer-to-peer file sharing network, which involves the sharing of information without using a central server, was originally discovered in Germany.

AFP cybercrime operations manager Glen McEwen said hundreds of thousands of images and videos were seized and some involved toddlers.

“They are atrocious,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Friday. “Allow me to place on record my personal disgust of the abhorrent nature of activity associated with the exploitation of children.”

The arrested men were aged between 21 to 64 and some were fathers, Commander McEwen said.

“The reach of the internet, which has no geographical physical boundaries, attracts all walks of life,” Commander McEwen said. “You just never know who could be involved in this.”

The charges cover accessing, making available and possessing child pornography. The terabytes of images and videos were found on hard drives, laptops, mobile phones and portable storage devices.

Commander McEwen said the AFP would work with international agencies to determine the identities of the victims depicted.

He said he didn’t know if any Australian children were involved but various ethnicities were represented in the material. A 15th man was assisting the AFP with its inquiries.

The Victorian men were arrested in Warranwood, Bulleen, Kings Park, Croydon and Southbank.

In NSW, arrests were made in Colyton, Neutral Bay, Petersham, Carramar and Dulwich Hill, while in Queensland police made arrests in Mount Warren Park. Police also arrested men in Franklin and MacGregor in the ACT.

A 21-year-old Bulleen man and Warranwood man, aged 62, were expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare welcomed the arrests which followed a covert AFP operation code named Operation Belfort.

“This is a really important breakthrough – smashing an alleged child exploitation ring and taking hundreds of thousands of child exploitation images and videos out of circulation,” he said in a statement.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Toulouse shooting suspect dead

A suspected al-Qaeda militant behind a wave of killings in France has died in a shootout with police who moved into his flat to end a lengthy siege.


The exact circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, but a police source said the suspect, identified by police as 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, had died while resisting RAID special police forces who had moved into the apartment in Toulouse.

Three police were wounded in the assault, one “fairly seriously”, police sources said.

Sustained bursts of gunfire were heard outside the apartment shortly after sources said police were moving “rapidly” to end the siege, but progressing “step by step” through the apartment in fear of booby traps.

A total of around 300 shots were fired.

Three loud explosions near the apartment were heard shortly before police said the officers had moved in, and an ambulance was then seen passing through a security cordon.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrived at the scene right before the blasts, an AFP reporter said. France’s chief anti-terror prosecutor, Francois Molins, was also on site.

Merah had been holed up since overnight on Wednesday after being tracked down by police as the main suspect in a wave of shootings that killed seven people, including three soldiers and three Jewish children, was holed up.

Gueant had earlier said police had lost contact with Merah but that he had told authorities he wanted “to die weapons in hand”.

Prosecutors said Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had fought off several police assaults on the flat on Wednesday and bragged to negotiators of having been trained by al-Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“He expressed no regret apart from not having had enough time to kill more victims and even boasted of having brought France to its knees,” Molins told reporters on Wednesday.

The drama began in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday, and the French authorities are convinced they have surrounded the right man and that he had no hostages with him.

After two police were shot wounded when they attempted to raid the apartment, authorities evacuated the building, turned off electricity in the neighbourhood and settled in for the siege.

Officials had said Merah was armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a mini-Uzi submachine pistol and a collection of handguns.

Molins said Merah had claimed responsibility for three shootings over the previous 10 days in which three French paratroopers, three Jewish children and a teacher were killed in cold blood, shocking the nation.

He claimed to be avenging Palestinian deaths and opposing the French military’s involvement in Afghanistan and France’s ban on full-face veils.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Greek central bank cautiously upbeat

Greece now has “relatively few” problems left to solve following a “very rough” several years of recession and harsh austerity cuts, the country’s central bank said in a cautiously upbeat annual report.


“In the past few years, we have covered some very rough ground at high cost to the whole of Greek society,” central bank governor Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday.

“If we can address the relatively few issues still pending and complete the first phase of the effort launched in 2010, we will then be able to move on to the next phase, in which the growth potential of the economy will be considerably enhanced.”

He was also upbeat on economic output after last year’s return to growth of 0.7 per cent following six straight years of recession in which gross domestic product (GDP) contracted more than 25 per cent.

“Based on the latest available data, GDP growth is projected to be positive in 2015 and to pick up in 2016,” Stournaras said.

The main risks to growth in the medium term are of Greece not fulfilling the terms of its 240-billion-euro ($A345-billion) bailout, a deterioration in public finances and “reform fatigue,” he said.

“If these uncertainties can be contained, then the economy can and should continue to recover in 2015, driven by exports of goods and services and by private consumption and supported also by rising business investment,” he said.

On Tuesday Greece’s new anti-austerity government secured from its creditors a four-month extension to its bailout with a list of planned reforms and after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras toned down some of his election campaign promises.

The International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and Germany, the biggest contributor to Greece’s bailout, have however stressed that Athens still has a huge task ahead of it to solve its many problems and stay in the euro.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

WA court rules heir’s daughter to get $25m

The third daughter of late mining heir Michael Wright has succeeded in her bid to extract much more than she was left from his will, with a judge ruling she should get $25 million.


Olivia Jacqueline Mead had been left up to $3 million from the estate, estimated at more than $1 billion, but could not touch it until she was aged 30.

The 19-year-old challenged the will in the Supreme Court of Western Australia this month, suing executor David Lemon and demanding $20 million worth of cash and luxury items.

She claimed to have been left without adequate funds for her proper maintenance, support, education and advancement in life.

On Thursday, Master Craig Sanderson agreed, saying Mr Wright did not make adequate provision for his youngest child from his “colossal” estate.

“The deceased had a vast fortune and he was in the fortunate position of being able to provide for all of the parties who had a claim on his bounty,” Master Sanderson said.

The structure of the trust meant there was a real prospect she might get nothing, given it was worded “up to” $3 million.

It was also worded in an “unwieldy” way, putting Ms Mead’s fate in the hands of Mr Lemon whom she had never met and had close ties with other family members, which was unreasonable, Master Sanderson said.

The strangest aspect of the trust was a provision that “could operate in an entirely oppressive fashion”, potentially excluding her as a beneficiary if she was convicted of a drink driving offence.

“It may even be the case if she was suspected of involvement with someone who used an illicit substance she could be excluded,” he said.

Master Sanderson said the most “egregious” provision was a clause that if the plaintiff converted to Buddhism, or perhaps Islam – or even was associated with someone who practised those faiths – she would be an “excluded person”.

Most Australians regarded freedom of religion as a birthright, but Ms Mead would have had to give that up at age 30, which was “an extraordinary proposition”.

Master Sanderson said the money should be paid to Ms Mead in a lump sum.

The remainder of the estate will then pass to Ms Mead’s half sisters, Leonie Baldock and Alexandra Burt, who will get about $10 million each minus about $1 million for legal costs.

“That is on top of the $400 million they already have and they can rest easy in the knowledge their half-sister will be financially secure for the rest of her life.”

The trial heard Ms Mead had lavish tastes.

She sought a diamond-encrusted Ritter Royal Flora Aurum bass guitar worth $250,000 and a $US1.2 million limited edition, crystal-studded Kuhn Bosendorfer grand piano.

Her wishlist also included $10,000 a year to spend on fashion accessories, money for the upkeep of four children she plans to have and thousands of dollars a year to care for four pets including an axolotl.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Charged Titans must play: Henry

Five Gold Coast players facing drug charges should be allowed to play after their court appearances, Titans coach Neil Henry says.


The Gold Coast mentor has revealed his concern for the quintet, saying isolation is affecting them after they were stood down with the cocaine scandal sweeping through Queensland sport.

Beau Falloon and Jamie Dowling will face Southport Magistrates Court next Thursday, two days before the Titans’ NRL season opener against Wests Tigers.

And State of Origin stars Greg Bird and Dave Taylor plus outside back Kalifa Faifai Loa are set to appear on March 9.

The matters are expected to take up to two years to resolve but Henry believed the players should be given the green light to play after their initial court appearance.

“There’s been players who’ve had to go to court but they’ve still played, they haven’t been stood down, in a variety of codes, not just rugby league,” Henry said.

“In fact, playing football and being around their mates will be a real bonus.

“The isolation at the moment is making it really difficult for our players.”

Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) announced more arrests could be made by the end of this week or early next week as part of their investigation into the state’s cocaine trafficking syndicate that has already claimed players in two codes.

Apart from the Titans players, Queensland Reds’ code hopper Karmichael Hunt has become embroiled in the scandal.

And rumours have also linked four Broncos NRL players.

There is speculation that Brisbane will be the next NRL club engulfed in the scandal after some bookmarkers suspended betting on their NRL season opener against South Sydney next week.

Brisbane’s official line is that they are “not concerned” by the speculation after having no contact from Queensland police or crime authorities.

And it was a line veteran backrower Corey Parker stuck to on Thursday.

“It is a frenzy,” he said.

“All you guys (media) are here tiptoeing around the same question.

“But all it is innuendo and rumours.

“I have got nothing else for you (on the topic).”

When asked whether he was shocked that Broncos players’ names had been caught up in the rumours, Parker said: “What names are they?

“You are talking about names that are floating around but you can’t give me one of them.

“It’s rumour and innuendo until those names are specified or they are tapped on the shoulder.

“There is nothing else for me to say.”

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Bligh votes and braces for Labor wipeout

Premier Anna Bligh has cast her vote on what she says is a ‘tough day’ for the Queensland Labor Party, while her opponent, Campbell Newman, broke with tradition, has voted for his party’s candidate in the neighbouring seat.


Ms Bligh voted at West End State School flanked by her husband Greg Withers and son Oliver, who is celebrating his 19th birthday and voting for the first time.

He said his mum was “the best candidate” in South Brisbane and he would spend the day driving her around to polling booths while she hands out sandwiches.

Ms Bligh’s other son, Joseph, 24, is staffing a booth in Ashgrove.

Both boys went to the school where their mum voted.

After visiting 50 electorates this week in a gruelling campaign schedule, Ms Bligh said she was feeling good.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” she told reporters.

“I’m feeling great today, I love election day.

“There is a lot of energy around.”

Polls point to that energy giving the Liberal National Party (LNP) a landslide victory, reducing Labor to as few as 12 seats.

But Ms Bligh said she had no regrets about her campaign, which was heavy on attacks on LNP leader Campbell Newman’s integrity.

“This is a very tough day and a tough election for the Labor party,” she said.

“I know what the polls are saying.

“But you don’t give up until every last vote has been cast and that’s what I will be doing and what I know my candidates will be


The premier continued to urge undecided Queenslanders to vote Labor if they care about education, job security and the


Ms Bligh said she spoke to prime minister Julia Gillard on Friday and had the support of federal and interstate politicians.

“We are a great Labor family nationally and I’ve had a lot of support from people,” she said.

Former premier Peter Beattie told ABC Radio Ms Bligh had his sympathies as she braced for the wipeout.

“She’s going to lose today and that’s a terrible feeling,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like for the leader to … go into an election and lose badly, which she will.

“That’s very difficult and I have enormous sympathy for how she feels today.”


Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman has broken with tradition, popping a vote in the ballot box for his party’s candidate in the neighbouring seat.

Mr Newman is tipped to win Saturday’s election emphatically, becoming the first Queensland premier to win the top job from outside parliament.

The former Brisbane lord mayor doesn’t live in Ashgrove, the seat he is contesting, so he has voted for his candidate in the neighbouring seat of Brisbane Central, Rob Cavalluci.

He popped into Ashgrove to vote however, casting an absentee vote at Newmarket State School.

Carrying an elephant lucky charm with him, Mr Newman was calm and upbeat.

“We’ve fought a campaign based on the issues; a clean, fair, straight up and down campaign,” he told reporters.

“I’m proud of everybody across this state who has worked so hard, but it’s down to Queenslanders.”

Mr Newman’s wife Lisa sighed nervously when Mr Newman said he would be campaigning right up until 6pm (AEST).

“(I’m) terrified,” she said.

“Butterflies everywhere, and I’m just really looking forward to 6.01pm tonight.

“I know what I’m hoping and praying and we will just see.”

Mr Newman still refuses to claim the victory, despite a Newspoll on Saturday showing overwhelming support for the LNP.

“It comes down to these individual battles – here in the Ashgrove electorate, in Broadwater, in Toowoomba north, in the Whitsundays and those battles around Cairns and Townsville,” he said.

“It won’t happen unless people turn out and change their vote. It’s tough.”

The elephant is a tradition started by Mr Newman’s late father Kevin Newman, who carried an elephant with him as a lucky charm.

The former federal Liberal minister was given an elephant during his first political campaign.

“In 2004 when I was running for the (Brisbane) lord mayoralty a bloke came up to me randomly and just said, ‘Here, you need a lucky elephant’,” he said.

“So I’ve always had a green lucky elephant.”

Mr Newman’s mother, former Liberal senator Jocelyn Newman, advised her son to get plenty of sleep if he becomes premier.

“So long as he has enough sleep, he’ll be pretty good,” she told ABC Radio.

“He’s a good son, he looks after his mum, he looks after his sister and you know, our lucky family.”

Mr Newman will visit each of the polling booths in Ashgrove on Saturday before attending the LNP’s election night function at the Hilton in Brisbane.

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Sunk Thorpedo had enough time, Ginn

Thorpe and fellow comeback swimmers Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill all missed Olympic selection by flopping at the trials in Adelaide this past week.


Five-time gold medallist Thorpe agreed with the prevailing view he failed because his 13-month build-up wasn’t long enough to get up to speed.

But Ginn, who made a comeback of his own in this Olympic cycle after taking two years off rowing as he recovered from delicate back surgery, labelled that as bunk.

The 37-year-old strongly believes older athletes only need sixmonths of full-on hard training to return to their best.

“Having watched all the swimming last week and hearing ‘oh they needed another year or two years’, sorry to say it, I reckon that’s bullshit,” he told AAP.

“I believe the older athletes are actually capable of being as good as they’ve ever been.

“You can get yourself back to the right level very, very quickly. It’s being able then to manage yourself then close to the ceiling.

“If you overdo it and try to do too much in any one stage then your performance will drop off.

“The notion of another 12 months, I don’t think that should make a difference.”

Ginn made the argument as he hopes Rowing Australia’s selectors keep the faith in his Beijing gold medal-winning partner Duncan Free, who is sidelined by a rib cartilage injury.

With Free needing a month before returning to light training, his London Games hopes are hanging by a thread.

But Ginn believes the 38-year-old Gold Coaster, who also sustained a badly broken leg last year, had done enough before his rib injury to stay in contention for selection in the men’s four priority boat.

“For me his ability to peak in London is not an issue,” he said.

“With someone like Duncan, don’t try and get him back to the ceiling too quickly and when you get him there you’ve got to give him time to recover.”

January 30th, 2019 by admin

Atletico facing crucial tests of new pedigree

Diego Simeone’s Spanish champions play at Sevilla on Sunday and host Valencia the following week in La Liga, two sides who are keen to show they can also challenge wealthy Real and Barca on a more consistent basis.


A trip to Espanyol on March 14 is followed three days later by the Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Bayer Leverkusen, when Atletico will need to overturn a 1-0 deficit to the Bundesliga side.

Their chances have been hurt by Tiago’s red card in Wednesday’s first leg and the Portugal midfielder will be suspended for the return along with centre back Diego Godin.

Fullback Guilherme Siqueira and midfielder Saul Niguez picked up injuries in Leverkusen that look like sidelining them for several weeks and they join playmaker Koke, who has had a crucial role in Atletico’s success in recent seasons, in the treatment room.

Simeone insisted after the defeat in Europe his squad has enough depth to cope with injuries and suspensions.

However, without Koke the team has lacked a creative inspiration in the centre and Arda Turan, who provides the same kind of spark from a more advanced position, has also been hampered by injuries in recent weeks.

Another worry for Simeone will be the way Atletico, who under the Argentine have won plaudits for their intensity and commitment, were outmuscled by Leverkusen at the BayArena.

Atletico looked a shadow of the formidable side which has beaten Real four times and drawn twice in six meetings in all competitions this season, including this month’s historic 4-0 drubbing of their neighbours at the Calderon in La Liga.

“It was a very, very tough game,” Atletico captain Gabi said in an interview with Spanish television after the Leverkusen game.

“Bayer played a very, very intense match, with a lot of speed up front,” he added.

“They were enjoying pressuring us and they were superior in that sense but we still have the return leg and we will try to turn it around.”

Atletico, who came within seconds of beating Real in last season’s Champions League final, are third in the La Liga standings with 14 games left, three points behind second-placed Barcelona and seven adrift of leaders Real.

At this stage of the campaign, any more dropped points would surely mean the end of the bid for a second consecutive Spanish league title after their first in 18 years in 2013-14.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)