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Family of captured British aid worker urges IS extremists to contact them

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The family of a Briton threatened with beheading by Islamist extremists have issued a public plea for his captors to contact them. David Haines, 44, was kidnapped last year as he delivered humanitarian aid in Syria. His whereabouts were revealed only this month when he was shown kneeling in the sand, wearing an orange jumpsuit, in a video produced by jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) that showed the murder of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist.

A masked man, who has become known as "Jihadi John", said Mr Haines would be next if the West did not halt operations against Isil.

In the Haines family's short statement - which was released yesterday by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - the British captive's relations said: "We are the family of David Haines. We have sent messages to you, to which we have not received a reply. We are asking those holding David to make contact with us."

No further details of their messages were released.

Russian aid convoy enters Ukraine

A convoy of more than 200 white trucks crossed the Russian border to deliver humanitarian aid to a battered Ukrainian city yesterday, a move made without Kiev's consent yet met with silence by Ukraine's top leaders.

"Early in the morning, we entered Ukraine to bring aid to Luhansk," said Yury Stepanov, a Russian who was overseeing the convoy. "We came in around 215 vehicles," he added, as workers unloaded boxes into a local warehous.

The much-needed aid arrived as fighting flared again between pro-Russian rebels and government forces, further imperiling an already fragile cease-fire in the region.

Yesterday, Ukraine's military operation in the east said it had repelled a rebel attack on the government-held airport of Donetsk, which came under artillery fire from rebel positions late on Friday. Ukrainian authorities also admitted for the first time since the cease-fire started last week that they have inflicted casualties on the rebel side.

Continuous rocket fire could be heard overnight in Donetsk. A statement on the city council website said that shells hit residential buildings near the airport, although no casualties were reported. A column of three Grad rocket launchers - all its rockets still in place - was seen moving freely through the rebel-held city on Saturday morning.

Air France to be hit by pilots' strike

Air France will operate only 40 percent of its flights from tomorrow as pilots begin a one-week strike over company plans to cut costs to recapture market share from budget airlines, the airline said in a statement yesterday.

Speaking to France Inter radio earlier in the day, Chief Executive Frederic Gagey repeated that the strike, which could run until Sept. 22, would cost the airline €10m-€15m a day. Europe's second-largest traditional carrier by revenue said in early September it would move ahead with a plan to open new bases in Europe under the Transavia brand to recapture market share from low-cost carriers and Middle East rivals.

Request for funds for Ebola doctor

Sierra Leone has requested funds from the World Health Organization to evacuate a doctor sick with the deadly Ebola disease. A letter from President Ernest Bai Koroma's office said he had approved to fly Dr Olivet Buck, a citizen of Sierra Leone, to a hospital in Hamburg, Germany. The letter, seen yesterday, asks the WHO to make funds available to the country's health ministry "without delay".

Buck would be the first citizen from one of the countries hit hardest by Ebola to receive treatment abroad. Three other Sierra Leone doctors who contracted the disease have died.

The worst Ebola outbreak in history has been blamed for 2,400 deaths across West Africa, with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea recording the most cases. The WHO could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hoax-call radio station donates €362k

The Australian radio company behind a hoax royal phone call has donated a six-figure sum to the family of tragic nurse Jacintha Saldanha. Southern Cross Austereo made the donation of €362,000. (500,000 Australian dollars) to a trust fund for the benefit of Ms Saldanha's family following an inquest in London, which recorded a suicide verdict after the nurse - who initially answered the fake call - was found hanging three days after the prank was broadcast.

DJ Melanie Greig, who posed as the Queen while the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated at the King Edward VII's Hospital in London for morning sickness, yesterday broke down in tears as she apologised to the family at the hearing for her part in the ruse, in December 2012.

The radio firm yesterday confirmed it had pledged money to the family.

Three dead in church building collapse

At least three people were killed when a Lagos guest house being built by one of Nigeria's biggest Christian churches collapsed, and the final toll was likely to be higher, rescue officials said yesterday. The building collapsed on Friday at a compound belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations headed by one of Nigeria's best-known evangelical pastors, "Prophet" TB Joshua, who draws tens of thousands of followers from all over West Africa.

"We recovered three bodies . . . there are more we fear were trapped," Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman in Lagos for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said.

Military drafted in for Pakistan floods

Military specialists blew up dikes in central Pakistan to divert swollen rivers and save cities from raging floods that have killed hundreds of people, authorities said yesterday. As a result, officials stepped up efforts in India's part of Kashmir to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

In Pakistan, the breaches at the overflowing Chenab River were performed overnight as floodwaters reached Multan, a city famous for its Sufi saints.

Sunday Independent