Twenty-one separatist fighters and six members of Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch were killed on Tuesday as an attack by the jihadists punctured months of relative peace in the war-torn country, government and security sources said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) attacked positions held by the UAE-trained Security Belt group in Abyan province in Yemen’s south, the sources said.
The violence came just days after the jihadist group released a video of a United Nations worker whom it abducted in the same province more than six months ago.
About three hours of fighting “left 21 dead among the (Security Belt), including an officer, and six among the Al Qaeda combatants”, a government official said on condition of anonymity. Two security sources confirmed the death toll.
Yemen has been gripped by conflict since Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.
AQAP and militants loyal to the militant Islamic State group have thrived in the chaos.
The Security Belt, a powerful southern Yemen separatist force, has played a decisive role in the fight against the jihadists, forcing them to retreat from towns into rural areas.
Tuesday’s fighting comes as the Houthis and forces supporting the ousted government observe a shaky ceasefire in the years-long civil war.
Riven by divisions, the groups opposing the Houthis, who originate from the north, include southern separatists who support the re-establishment of South Yemen.
The country was divided into North and South Yemen until reunification in 1990.
Kidnapped UN worker
Underlining Yemen’s parlous security, on Saturday AQAP released a video showing a United Nations worker who was abducted more than six months ago, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
Five UN staff members were kidnapped in Abyan in February while returning to the port city of Aden after a field mission, UN spokesperson Eri Kaneko said at the time.
In Saturday’s video message, apparently recorded on Aug 9, Akam Sofyol Anam urges “the UN, the international community, the humanitarian organisations, to please come forward... and meet the demands of my captors”, without outlining the demands.
Formed in a merger of Al Qaeda’s Yemen and Saudi branches, AQAP has carried out attacks on both rebel and government targets in Yemen as well as foreigners.
It has been accused of plotting attacks beyond the Middle East and its leaders have been targeted by a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.
Yemen’s UN-brokered ceasefire has drastically reduced fighting since the truce began in April, but outbreaks of violence continue.
North Korea fired around 130 artillery shells into the sea off its east and west coasts on Monday, South Korea's military said, in the latest apparent military drill near their shared border.
Some of the shells landed in a buffer zone near the sea border in what Seoul said was a violation of a 2018 inter-Korean agreement designed to reduce tensions.
The South Korean military sent several warning communications to the North over the firing, the ministry of defence said in a statement.
North Korea did not immediately report on the artillery fire, but it has been carrying out an increasing number of military activities, including missile launches and drills by warplanes and artillery units.
South Korea and the United States have also stepped up military drills this year, saying they are necessary to deter the nuclear-armed North.
The 2018 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) was the most substantive deal to come from the months of meetings between leader Kim Jong Un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
With those talks long stalled, however, recent drills and shows of force along the fortified border between the Koreas have cast doubts on the future of the measures. South Korea has accused the North of repeatedly violating the agreement with artillery drills this year.
This year North Korea resumed testing of its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time since 2017, and South Korea and the United States say it has made preparations to resume nuclear testing as well.
A Group of Seven (G7) price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force on Monday as the West tries to limit Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine, though Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production.
The G7 nations and Australia on Friday agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland. Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the world had shown weakness by setting the cap at that level while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday it was a gross interference that contradicted the rules of free trade.
"We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilise the market," said Novak, the Russian government official in charge of its oil, gas, atomic energy and coal.
"We will sell oil and petroleum products only to those countries that will work with us under market conditions, even if we have to reduce production a little," he said.
The G7 agreement allows Russian oil to be shipped to third-party countries using G7 and EU tankers, insurance companies and credit institutions, only if the cargo is bought at or below the $60 per barrel cap.
Industry players and a US official said in October that Russia can access enough tankers to ship most of its oil beyond the reach of the cap, underscoring the limits of the most ambitious plan yet to curb Russia's wartime revenue.
According to Zelenskiy, the $60 cap would do little to deter Russia from waging war in Ukraine. "You wouldn't call it a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of a terrorist state."
The United States and its allies have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24 and sent billions of dollars in aid to the Ukrainian government.
French President Emmanuel Macron, however, drew criticism from Ukraine and its Baltic allies over the weekend for suggesting the West should consider Russia's need for security guarantees if it agrees to talks to end the war.
Zelenskiy's aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the world needed security guarantees from Russia, not the other way around.
In Ukraine, Russia has been pounding power infrastructure since early October, causing blackouts and leaving millions without heating as temperatures plummet.
Russia says the assaults do not target civilians and are meant to reduce Ukraine's ability to fight.
Ukraine says the attacks are a war crime.
Zelenskiy, in a video address on Sunday, urged citizens to be patient and strong in resisting the rigours of winter.
"To get through this winter, we must be even more resilient and even more united than ever," he said.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Telegram that blackouts would be confined from Monday to planned "stabilisation" cutoffs to get the grid working again, but added the situation remained "difficult".
Ukraine's largest power supplier, DTEK, said blackouts were planned for three other regions - Odesa, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine's south and east.
In Kherson, largely without power since Russian forces abandoned the southern city last month, the regional governor said 85% of customers had electricity.
SHELLING ALONG FRONT LINES
On the battlefront, Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces were holding positions along the front line, including near Bakhmut, viewed as Russia's next target in their advance through Donetsk.
Ukraine's military said Russian forces were pressing for improved tactical positions to advance in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions. About 16 settlements, including Bakhmut and Avdiivka, were shelled by tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces added.
Russian forces are on the defensive along the Zaporizhzhia frontline while hitting four settlements in the Donetsk region and six in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine's army added.
Russia's defence ministry said its troops were conducting successful operations in the area of Bakhmut and had pushed back Ukrainian attacks in the Donetsk direction.
Russian-installed officials in the occupied Donetsk said Ukraine fired at least 10 Grad rockets into the city. There was no word on casualties.
In Kryvyi Rih, among the largest cities in southern Ukraine, Russian rockets killed one person and wounded three just after midnight, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, said.
"They aimed at an industrial enterprise," Reznichenko said on the Telegram messaging app without giving details.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.
The head of US intelligence said fighting in Ukraine was running at a "reduced tempo" and that militaries on both sides were looking to refit and resupply to prepare for a counter-offensive after the winter.
Gunmen abducted 19 Muslim worshippers after attacking a mosque in the restive northwest of Nigeria, police said Sunday.
The attackers stormed the mosque in Maigamji village, in Katsina state, during evening prayers Saturday and carried out the kidnappings after shooting and wounding the imam and another worshipper, said local police spokesman Gambo Isah.
"Our men mobilised and went after the bandits and succeeded in rescuing six of the worshippers from their abductors, while efforts are underway to free the remaining 13," he added.
The two people wounded were being treated in hospital, he added.
Northwest and central Nigeria have been terrorised by criminal gangs locally known as bandits, who village raids steal cattle, kidnap for ransom and burn homes after looting supplies.
Hostages are usually released after a ransom is paid to the gangs, which take refuge in the vast Rugu Forest. It straddles four states in northwest Nigeria, including Katsina.
Last month, 15 people were killed and several others wounded in a series of bandit attacks on villages in neighbouring Kaduna state, say the authorities.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been under intense pressure to end the violence before he leaves office next year at the end of his eight-year tenure in office.
There is growing concern over an alliance in the northeast between the bandits and jihadists waging a 12-year insurgency to establish a Caliphate.
More than a dozen people were killed in a 5.6-magnitude quake that rattled Indonesia's West Java province on Monday, a local official said.
Herman Suherman, a government official from Cianjur, the town in West Java where the epicentre of the quake was located, told news channel MetroTV that up to 20 people had died at one hospital in the area.
The epicentre was on land in Cianjur in West Java, about 75 km southeast of Jakarta, and at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles), BMKG said, adding there was no potential for a tsunami.
Some people evacuated offices in the central business district of Jakarta, while others reported feeling buildings shake and seeing furniture move, Reuters witnesses said.
Muchlis, who was in Cianjur when the quake hit, said he felt "a huge tremor" and the walls and ceiling of his office building were damaged.
"I was very shocked. I worried there will be another quake," Muchlis told the Metro TV news channel, adding that people ran out of their houses, some fainting and vomiting because of the strong tremors.
BMKG chief Dwikorita Karnawati, speaking to reporters at parliamentary building, advised people to stay outdoors in case of aftershocks.
Suko Prayitno Adi of the BMKG said authorities were checking the extent of the damage caused by the quake.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recorded the earthquake at a magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter scale.
Turkey launched airstrikes over several towns in northern Syria on Saturday, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces reported.
The airstrikes occurred a week after a bomb rocked a bustling avenue in the heart of Istanbul, killing six people and wounding over 80 others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militant groups have, however, denied involvement.
Ankara and Washington both consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been allied with the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Following the strikes, the Turkish ministry of defense posted a photo of a fighter plane with the phrase, “The treacherous attacks of the scoundrels are being held to account."
The airstrikes targeted Kobani, a strategic town near the Turkish border that Ankara had previously attempted to overtake in its plans to establish a “safe zone” along northern Syria. SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami in a tweet added that two villages heavily populated with displaced people were under Turkish bombardment. He said the strikes had resulted in “deaths and injuries.”
Syrian opposition media reported that Turkish airstrikes targeted Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces positions.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that the strikes had also hit Syrian army positions and that at least 12 had been killed, including both SDF and Syrian army soldiers.
The observatory said about 25 air strikes were carried out by Turkish warplanes on sites in the countryside of Aleppo, Raqqa and Hasakah.
The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria said Saturday that if Turkey attacks, then fighters in the area would have “the right to resist and defend our areas in a major way that will take the region into a long war.”
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north.
North Korea fired around 130 artillery shells into the sea off its east and west coasts on Monday, South Korea's military said, in the latest apparent military drill near their shared border. Some of the shells landed in a buffer zone near the sea border in what Seoul said was a violation of a 2018 inter-Korean agreement designed to reduce tensions.
A Group of Seven (G7) price cap on Russian seaborne oil came into force on Monday as the West tries to limit Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine, though Russia has said it will not abide by the measure even if it has to cut production. The G7 nations and Australia on Friday agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland. Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter.
Gunmen abducted 19 Muslim worshippers after attacking a mosque in the restive northwest of Nigeria, police said Sunday. The attackers stormed the mosque in Maigamji village, in Katsina state, during evening prayers Saturday and carried out the kidnappings after shooting and wounding the imam and another worshipper, said local police spokesman Gambo Isah.
More than a dozen people were killed in a 5.6-magnitude quake that rattled Indonesia's West Java province on Monday, a local official said. Herman Suherman, a government official from Cianjur, the town in West Java where the epicentre of the quake was located, told news channel MetroTV that up to 20 people had died at one hospital in the area.
Turkey launched airstrikes over several towns in northern Syria on Saturday, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces reported. The airstrikes occurred a week after a bomb rocked a bustling avenue in the heart of Istanbul, killing six people and wounding over 80 others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militant groups have, however, denied involvement.