Friday 23 March 2018

Assad forces losing control of Syria's border as rebels punch out link to sea


Islamist fighters in Syria battled President Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of a border crossing with Turkey close to the Mediterranean yesterday, as part of an offensive aimed at opening up a rebel link to the sea.They said heavy clashes continued around the Kasab crossing and a nearby village of the same name – both about 8km from the coast – a day after rebels launched their assault.

Assad's forces have already lost control of most border crossings with Turkey during the three-year civil war but had held on to Kasab, gateway to the coastal province of Latakia, which has remained an Assad stronghold.

In recent months, Assad's forces have also made gains around the capital Damascus and the border region with Lebanon, seizing two rebel bases in the last week.


A series of attacks in Iraq killed 15 members of the security forces and civilians in areas north of Baghdad yesterday, officials said. Separately, a Kurdish officer in the Iraqi president's guard is alleged to have shot dead the head of a local radio station during a quarrel near the leader's east Baghdad residence, police said.

Police officials said a wave of blasts began with a roadside bomb in the northern city of Tikrit. Minutes later, a car bomb struck policemen who had arrived to inspect the site of the first blast. The officials say five policemen and two civilians were killed and 18 people were wounded in the bombings. Tikrit is 130km north of Baghdad. Hours later, police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint near the town of Adeim about 100km north of Baghdad.

Three civilians and three police were killed. Also, a roadside bomb hit a military checkpoint near the northern city of Mosul, killing two soldiers, according to the police.


Guinea has received confirmation that a mysterious disease that has killed 34 people in the West African country, and may have spread to neighbouring Sierra Leone, is the haemorrhagic fever Ebola, the government said yesterday. It is its first ever outbreak.


Michelle Obama has declared that access to the internet should be a universal right, in a rare and controversial foray into the world of international politics during a cultural visit to China. The US first lady, who is on a week-long trip to the communist state with her daughters and mother, risked upsetting her hosts in Beijing by declaring access to information as a birthright.

During a speech at Peking University's Stanford Centre, she called for greater freedoms while refraining from a direct attack on the controls over information in China.


German weekly Wirtschafts Woche has reported that Etihad plans to increase its stake in Air Berlin to 49.9 per cent. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier – which also owns just over 4 per cent of Aer Lingus – already holds almost 30 per cent of the shares in Germany's second-biggest airline.

Wirtschafts Woche reported yesterday that the plan would involve buying out small shareholders and delisting Air Berlin plc from the London Stock Exchange.

Large shareholders including former managers and travel firm TUI would retain a majority.


Israeli troops killed three Palestinians in an early morning raid that was followed by a clash with angry protesters in a West Bank town yesterday, the military and Palestinian security officials said, in the deadliest incident in months. The violence came amid a recent rise in clashes in the West Bank that could complicate the already troubled peace efforts as the sides near an April deadline set under US-sponsored talks.


Tributes have been paid to former boxer, manager and promoter Mickey Duff, who has died at the age of 84. Duff is best remembered as a promoter, working alongside the likes of Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe and Alan Minter. Fellow promoter Barry Hearn led the tributes, tweeting: "Sorry to hear that Mickey Duff died today RIP Legendary promoter."

A statement from Stephen Powell on the London Ex Boxers' Association website added: "This truly is the end of a golden era in British Boxing, the mould has been broken, there will never be another true boxing man like Micky Duff."

Born Monek Prager in Poland, Duff moved to England in the late 1930s. The son of a rabbi, he had a brief career in the ring as an amateur, then professional. However, he retired from the action at the age of 19. It was unquestionably outside the ring where he made his name, as a matchmaker and manager. He worked with many of the sport's big names prior to his retirement from the promoting scene in 1999.


A US federal appeals court has suspended gay marriages in Michigan, putting on hold a decision by a lower court judge who had struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The Cincinnati court's order yesterday brings a halt to same-sex weddings in Michigan, at least until Wednesday. Dozens of couples got hitched earlier yesterday in the state. Nearly 60 per cent of state voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that recognises marriage only as between a man and a woman.


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