INTERNATIONAL SHORTS

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Iraqis wake up to snow, first time in over a decade

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s capital of Baghdad awoke on Tuesday to a sight not seen in over a decade — their city covered in snow. 

It was a rare moment of respite during which residents took selfies and children played in parks, lobbing snowballs before the fluffy flakes disappeared and the white cover dissolved into grey puddles. 

Iraq has grappled with months of unrest, beginning with an anti-government protest movement which engulfed the country in October, and the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad in early January, which brought the region close to war amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. 

Over 500 people have died in the protests as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds in Baghdad and southern Iraq. 

The movement is entering a critical phase, after influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who initially threw his weight behind demonstrators, withdrew it. Tensions have since seethed between protesters and al-Sadr’s followers. 

In the city’s central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protest movement, protesters took a moment to observe the snowfall and dusted the flakes off their sit-in tents. 

Annual snowfall is common in the mountainous northern region of Iraq, but very rare in Baghdad. The last time the capital saw snow was in 2008. 

 

Suicide bombing near military academy in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber targeting a military academy in the Afghan capital on Tuesday killed at least six people, including two civilians and four military personnel, the Interior Ministry said. 

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kabul, but both the Taliban and militants from the Islamic State group regularly stage attacks in the city, targeting Afghan forces. 

Along with the six killed, 12 other people, including five civilians, were wounded in the attack, said Nasrat Rahimi, the Interior Ministry spokesman. 

The attack happened at a police checkpoint near the entrance to the Marshal Fahim Military Academy, located on the outskirt’s of a western Kabul neighborhood, he said. Local TV channels showed images of Afghan security forces blocking off the main road leading to the blast site from far away. 

The academy has been attacked in the past. Last May, a suicide bomber killed six people there. The school is sometimes called “Sandhurst in the Sand,” in reference to the famous British school. It’s named for Mohammed Fahim, the country’s late vice president and a military commander of the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban. It was inaugurated in 2013 and British troops in Afghanistan oversaw the establishing of the academy’s officer school and training program.

 

Ferocious storm in Europe kills 8, disrupts travel

BERLIN (AP) — Ferocious winds, with gusts over 125 mph, lashed Corsica and whipped up a forest fire that flared overnight on the French Mediterranean island on Tuesday, after a storm with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains battered northern Europe for days, killing at least eight  people and causing severe travel disruptions.

More than 300 fire officers were involved in fighting the blazes and two ports were closed and flights suspended on Corsica. Power was cut to 2000 homes.

The storm also continued to batter other parts of Europe. Fallen trees blocked roads and train tracks in southern Germany and Austria.

Deaths due to the fierce storm were reported in Poland, Sweden, Britain, Slovenia, Germany and the Czech Republic. On Tuesday, Polish officials reported a third storm-related death in the country, saying a relative of two people killed Monday when the roof of the ski rental building collapsed also died.

 

China denies cybertheft, Equifax accusations

BEIJING (AP) — China denied involvement in any hacking activities on Tuesday after the United States indicted four members of the Chinese military for allegedly breaking into the computer networks of the Equifax credit reporting agency and stealing the personal information of tens of millions of people. 

The Justice Department accused Beijing on Monday of engineering one of the biggest hacks in history targeting consumer data. 

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was committed to “firmly oppose and combat cyberattacks of any kind,” adding that it is a staunch defender of cybersecurity and its institutions “never engage in cybertheft of trade secrets.”

Geng also turned the accusation back on the U.S., saying past events had shown Washington is “engaging in large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cyberstealing, spying and surveillance activities on foreign governments, enterprises and individuals.”

“China is also a victim of this,” Geng said.

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