Fears for two Bangladesh hostage survivors

DHAKA — Families and rights groups yesterday expressed fears for two survivors of a deadly siege at a Bangladesh cafe who are missing after being grilled by police over the attack. Amnesty International has asked the authorities to establish “the fate and whereabouts” of Hasnat Karim who survived the attack and has been missing since being taken in for questioning 11 days ago. Family members of Tahmid Khan also told AFP they were in the dark about the 22-year-old Toronto University student’s whereabouts after he was taken into custody as part of a police probe into the attack. Suspected Islamist militants killed 20 diners and two police officers when they raided the upscale Holey Artisan restaurant on the night of July 1. Army commandoes stormed the cafe the next morning, killing all five attackers and rescuing 13 people, including Karim and Khan. — AFP

10 prison inmates escape in Mexico beach resort

MEXICO CITY — Ten inmates escaped in Mexico’s Caribbean beach resort of Cancun late on Tuesday by jumping the prison wall, in the latest jailbreak to hit the country’s scandal-plagued penitentiary system. The inmates beat a guard and jumped the wall, the Quintana Roo state government said in a statement. It cited witnesses as saying at least three of the escapees fled in a taxi in which they changed their clothes. “Personnel from all of the security agencies of the state are conducting an intense and broad operation to catch the prisoners,” state Governor Roberto Borge said. Searchers included police and soldiers. A state public security spokeswoman said the escape took place at about 9.10 pm and that some of the inmates are considered “highly dangerous”. — AFP

At least 22 killed in Italy head-on train collision

BARI — At least 22 people were killed on Tuesday and dozens injured in a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the southern Italian region of Puglia, in one of the country’s worst rail accidents in recent years. Emergency services raced to extract people from the wreckage of smashed carriages thrown across a single track into olive groves near the town of Andria, in what one witness described as an “apocalyptic scene”. Coffins were taken to the site near the city of Bari to carry away the first of the dead as 200 rescue workers sifted through the wreckage in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius. “I saw dead people, others who were begging for help, people crying. The worst scene of my life,” one policeman told journalists. Giancarlo Conticchio, head of the railway police for the region, said 22 people had died, and 43 were injured, four of them critically. — AFP

Aleppo rebels brace for long govt siege

BEIRUT — Rebel areas of Aleppo have stockpiled enough basic supplies to survive months of siege by Syrian pro-government forces that cut off their half of the city last week, even though some goods are running out, an opposition official said. Government forces backed by allies including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Russian air force advanced last week to within a few hundred metres of the only road into the rebel-held part of Aleppo, making it impassable for the several hundred thousand people living there. The advance has brought Damascus closer to achieving its long-held aim of encircling rebel districts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a potent symbol of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad now in its sixth year.
— Reuters

Six rescue operations save 1,000 migrants

ROME — Nearly 1,000 migrants were saved in six separate rescue operations in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, while four were found dead below the deck of their boat, Italy’s coast guard said. The four dead had suffocated, according to the Malta-based humanitarian group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), whose Topaz Responder rescue ship recovered the bodies and 400 survivors from the same boat. Italy has long been on the front line of seaborne migration from Africa to Europe, and is now the main point of entry after the European Union struck a deal with Turkey to stem flows to Greece amid Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. Slightly fewer migrants arrived on Italian shores in the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period last year, but the number of deaths on the route have risen. — Reuters

Solar plane lands in Egypt for second last stop

CAIRO — The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Cairo yesterday for its penultimate stop as the solar-powered plane nears the end of its marathon tour around the world. After the two-day flight from Spain, just one final leg lies between it and its final destination, Abu Dhabi, where it started its odyssey in March last year. The aircraft landed in Spain last month, after completing the first solo transatlantic flight powered only by sunlight. After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at about 7.10am. Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles. — AFP

Obama calls for unity at Dallas memorial

DALLAS — President Barack Obama implored Americans of all races to show more unity and understanding as he addressed an emotional memorial for five slain policemen in Dallas.

The president, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama, leaned heavily on scripture as he ministered to a country stunned by gun violence and torn asunder by race and politics.

“I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week,” he said.

A succession of shootings, each racially charged, has led to a sense that “the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened,” Obama said on Tuesday.

“I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist we are not as divided as we seem.”

From Charleston to Orlando to last week’s ambush in Dallas, by a black gunman out to kill whites in retribution for police violence, the past year has seen a torrent of slaughter motivated by hate.

Each week seemingly brings new shaky footage of a police officer shooting dead a black American — images that quickly went viral and revive tough questions about race and policing.

Obama’s speech included a frank admission that his own efforts to tackle violence, guns and racism had come up short.

“I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency,” he said with uncommon candor. “I’ve seen how a spirit of unity born of tragedy can gradually dissipate.”

“I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

Eight years ago, Obama’s rhetorical prowess made him America’s first black president and raised hopes that the country could overcome deeply entrenched societal divides.

Tuesday’s memorial service showed a weary president whose hopes for change had been thwarted.

The way out, Obama said — suggesting work that will continue beyond his presidency — was for Americans to open their hearts to each other.

Black Americans protesting police racism, he said, must understand how hard the police’s job can be.

“You know how dangerous some of the communities where these police officers serve are. And you pretend as if there’s no context?”

But Obama also challenged a mostly-white police force and white Americans at large to admit that while the edifice of legalised racism had gone, prejudice remained.

“We have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point,” he said.

“We’ve heard it at times in our own homes. If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.”

That call for unity was echoed by former president George W. Bush,
Obama’s predecessor.

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” said the Dallas resident.

But Obama, a Democrat, also made a call for Bush’s fellow Republicans to realise the cost of their opposition to gun control and spending on mental health and drug treatment.

“We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment,” Obama said, pointing to a string of causes for violence.

“We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.”

Following the service, Obama met for more than an hour with families of the officers killed and wounded, along with Bush and Vice-President Joe Biden, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. The three men were accompanied by their wives.

Last week, the fatal police shootings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, prompted nationwide anger, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets from coast to coast.

They also seemingly motivated black Afghanistan war veteran Micah Johnson to carry out his deadly rampage in Dallas just as a protest against police brutality was wrapping up.

Johnson, 25, used a high-powered rifle for the killings, also wounding nine other police officers and two civilians in Thursday’s sniper attack.

Before he was killed by a police robot, Johnson told negotiators he wanted to murder white cops in revenge for the black deaths.

The memorial paid a poignant tribute to the fallen “peacemakers in blue” — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith.

Each officer was represented by an empty chair in the auditorium, adorned with a folded US flag and officer’s cap. — AFP

Sanders endorses Clinton as Trump floats VP picks

PORTSMOUTH (United States) — After months of bitter campaigning, Bernie Sanders finally endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, pledging to work tirelessly to help his former rival defeat Donald Trump and win the White House.

The joint appearance in Portsmouth, New Hampshire — their first — was the culmination of weeks of talks between the two campaigns aimed at unifying the party to most effectively take on Republican opponent Trump in November.

“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that,” Sanders, 74, told a cheering crowd, with Clinton by his side.

“She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”

The US senator from Vermont offered voters a litany of reasons why the 68-year-old former secretary of state is a better choice than the 70-year-old Manhattan real estate mogul.

Putting aside the acrimony, Clinton thanked Sanders for his endorsement — even if their body language did not exude warmth and was downright awkward at times.

“I am proud to be fighting alongside you,” she said. “We are stronger together.”

Sanders waged a tougher-than-expected, yearlong battle against Clinton, but early last month she clinched enough delegates to secure the nomination.

Trump, who has proclaimed himself “the law and order candidate” amid rising gun violence, unleashed a barrage of criticism, saying Sanders “abandoned” his grassroots supporters by joining forces with Clinton.

“I want to tell you, a lot of Bernie Sanders people are so upset about it, they are going to be voting for Trump,” he said in Westfield, Indiana.

The Republican billionaire campaigned there with Governor Mike Pence, raising speculation that he could pick Indiana’s chief executive as runningmate.

Trump told The New York Times he expected to make an announcement by tomorrow, three days before the Republican convention in Cleveland, where he will officially become the nominee.

He called Pence a “good man” during his unscripted remarks, but also teased the crowd.

“I don’t know whether he’s going to be your governor or your vice-president. Who the hell knows?” Trump said to raucous cheers.

Trump hit the campaign trail on Monday in Virginia Beach with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — one of those on the vice presidential shortlist.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran for president in 2012, is also in the runningmate mix. — AFP

Thailand: Suspected S’pore bank robber to be sent ‘abroad’

BANGKOK — A Canadian suspected of robbing a Singapore bank of S$30,000 (RM88,545) will be sent abroad, Thailand’s police chief said yesterday, but he did not say whether he would be sent to Singapore or Canada.

The rare bank robbery in Singapore sparked a flurry of debate about whether the country has grown too complacent about security, with crime rates among the lowest in the world.

Thai Police Commissioner General Jakthip Chaijinda told reporters in Bangkok that Singapore had asked for the suspect to be extradited to Singapore.

“Singapore is in the middle of asking for this suspect back but the decision rests with the courts,” said Jakthip. “We are waiting to send him abroad.”

Thai immigration chief Police Lieutenant General Nattorn Prohsunthorn named the suspect on Tuesday as 27-year-old Canadian David James Roach.

Thai police had earlier said Roach was 26.

“We tried to interrogate David but he would not speak to us and asked to speak to his embassy,” said Nattorn.

“Yesterday the Canadian embassy came to see him. We think the Canadians would like to send him back to Canada but first we need to follow Thai legal procedure.”

Thailand has an extradition treaty with Canada.

Reuters was unable to immediately reach the Canadian embassy in Bangkok for comment.

Roach arrived in Bangkok on Thursday, hours after the Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore’s Holland Village was robbed.

He was arrested at a hostel in Bangkok’s Pratunam shopping district.

A man slipped the Singapore bank teller a note saying he was armed, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The teller pressed a silent alarm button and police arrived within minutes, but it was too late, said the source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Standard Chartered said the bank had taken “immediate action to further enhance” security. It declined to comment on the details of the robbery. — Reuters

Search for boatman

A Singapore civil defence team diver searches for a missing tourist boat operator, as the charred wreckage of the vessel is seen at Marina Bay in the Singapore River yesterday. The boatman was last seen on Tuesday diving out of his burning boat. — Picture by AFP

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