Briefing :- 18/6/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 18th of June, 2017 :-

1. Atleast 5 dead, 18 wounded in Afghan police HQ attacks :-

A Taliban suicide bomb and gun attack on a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan killed at least five officers and injured 18 other people Sunday, authorities said.

The attack — part of the Taliban’s all-out assault during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan — was launched at 6:00 am and was still continuing more than six hours later, said the regional police commander, Asadullah Shirzad.

In addition to the dead, nine police officers and nine civilians were wounded, he said.

The attack involved at least five Taliban, one of whom blew himself up at the entrance to the site in the city of Gardez to clear the way for the others.

One was still holding out more than six hours later, said Shirzad, whose base in the city centre houses both regular policemen and police special forces.

His description of the attack suggested a well-prepared and coordinated assault.

“One (attacker) blew up his vehicle at the entrance of the headquarters, opening the way for two others who opened fire on the security forces. Another suicide bomber was killed,” he told AFP.

The head of the police hospital, Dr. Shir Mohammad, confirmed the five fatalities.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the operation in a statement.

“Around 6:20 this morning a martyr attack was conducted by our mujahideen against a special forces base in Gardez, Paktia,” he wrote.

“First a car bomb detonated then our mujahideen entered the building, opening fire on police.”

Since they launched their spring offensive in late April, the Taliban have been mounting lethal assaults on positions of the Afghan army and police, who have lost several dozen men in recent weeks.

About sixty soldiers were killed on their bases, mostly at night, in the southern province of Kandahar alone around the end of May.

The insurgents are also targeting the international coalition supporting Afghan forces.

Seven US soldiers were injured on Saturday in an insider attack by an Afghan soldier who turned his weapon on his instructors and advisers.

The Taliban did not directly claim the attack but described the soldier, who was killed, as a “patriot.”

On June 11 the insurgents claimed responsibility for a similar attack in which an Afghan soldier killed three US soldiers and wounded a fourth in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The Pentagon is set to announce it is sending another 4,000 US troops to the country to counter the increasingly aggressive insurgents.

US troops in Afghanistan currently number about 8,400, with another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in a training and advisory capacity.

2. Atleast 24 Yemeni die in Saudi-led air strikes :-

At least 24 Yemeni civilians have been killed in Saudi Arabia-backed air strikes on a market place, a medical official said.

The director of the Houthi-run Health Department office in Saada said there were two raids on al-Mashnaq market in Shada district, an area close to the border of Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been torn by a civil war in which the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, is trying to roll back gains made by the Iran-aligned Houthi group which controls most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

“Rescue teams were unable to reach the area for some time for fear of being hit by artillery shelling of the area,” the official, Dr Abdelilah al-Azzi, told Reuters.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition have carried out several air strikes in Yemen in the last 24 months against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

3. President Macron eyes landslide majority in French parliamentary polls :-

French voters cast their ballots in the second round of a parliamentary election on Sunday expected to hand President Emmanuel Macron a landslide majority that should allow him to embark on deep social and economic reforms.

The vote comes just a month after the 39-year-old former banker became the youngest head of state in modern French history, promising to clean up French politics and revive the euro zone’s second biggest economy.

Turnout, though, could touch record lows, in a sign of voter fatigue after seven months of campaigning and voting, but also of disillusionment and anger with politics that could eventually complicate Macron’s reform drive.

Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party is barely more than a year old, yet pollsters project it will win as many as 75-80 percent of seats in the 577-seat lower house.

“People know it’s already a done deal,” Alex Mpoy, a 38-year-old security guard told Reuters TV, echoing the apathy of many voters who intend to abstain.

Macron cast his vote early in the morning in the seaside resort of Le Touquet before flying to a ceremony outside Paris to mark the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s 1940 appeal for French resistance to Nazi Germany’s occupation.

Polls show Macron is on course to win the biggest parliamentary majority since that held by de Gaulle’s own conservatives in 1968.

Many of Macron’s lawmakers will be political novices, something which will change the face of parliament at the expense of the conservative and socialist parties that have ruled France for decades.

One of the challenges for Macron as he sets out to overhaul labour rules, cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs and invest billions of public cash in areas including job training and renewable energy, will be to keep such a diverse and politically raw group of lawmakers united behind him.

“There has never been such a paradox between a high concentration of power and strong tensions and expectations in terms of changes,” Laurent Berger, head of France’s CFDT union, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

“There is no place for euphoria in victory. There is no providential man, no miracle solution”.

Macron’s rivals have urged voters not to stay at home, warning power would be concentrated in the hands of one party and democratic debate stifled.

“We need other parties to have some weight,” 54-year-old assembly line worker Veronique Franqueville said on the parking lot of a tumble-dryer factory in the northern town of Amiens. “If he wins it all there will be no debate.”

Among Macron supporters the mood is very different, with an overwhelming feeling that the president needs to be given a strong enough majority to carry out the policies on which he was elected just over a month ago.

4. Portugal forest fire: Death mounts to 62 :-

Raging forest fires in central Portugal have killed at least 62 people, most of whom burnt to death in their cars, and injured scores of others, the government said Sunday.

Nearly 600 firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late Saturday to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Coimbra, before spreading fast across several fronts.

“Unfortunately, this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires,” a visibly moved Prime Minister Antonio Costa said.

“The number of fatalities could still rise,” he said at the Civil Protection headquarters near Lisbon.

“The priority now is to save those people who could still be in danger.”

The European Union said it would provide firefighting planes following a request from Lisbon.

“France has offered three planes through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and they will be quickly sent to assist the local emergency efforts,” EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said.

Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave across the weekend, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions.

Some 60 forest fires broke out across the country during the night, with around 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out.

Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 57 people burned to death, mostly trapped in their cars engulfed by flames in the Leiria region. At least 59 were injured.

“The fire is still raging on four fronts,” he said, of which two were spreading “violently”.

“It is difficult to say if they were fleeing the flames or were taken by surprise,” Gomes said, speaking of the dead.

5. Missing US sailors found dead in ship damaged off Japan: Navy :-

The US Navy has said the seven sailors who were missing after a destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Japan have been found.

The men were found in areas of the ship that had been flooded after the collision.

AFP reported the Japanese public broadcaster NHK as saying all seven sailors had died.

Reuters reported the Navy as saying the sailors were being transferred to a US naval hospital where they would be identified.

“The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time,” it said.

The destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel more than three times its size some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka early on Saturday.

Three people were evacuated after the collision to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka after the collision, including the ship’s commanding officer, Commander Bryce Benson.

Benson was later reported to be in stable condition.

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