Jerusalem, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once compared himself favorably to Adolf Hitler, paid a solemn visit to Israel's national Holocaust memorial on Monday, branding the Nazi leader "insane" as he lamented the genocide of 6 million Jews.
The comments marked a dramatic turnaround for Duterte, who just two years ago had compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and said he would be "happy to slaughter" 3 million addicts. He later apologized.
Duterte, known for his profane outbursts and accused of committing widespread human rights abuses, spoke quietly and respectfully during his stop at the Yad Vashem memorial. He said the Holocaust should never be repeated and that "despots" have no place in the modern world.
"I could not imagine a country obeying an insane leader, and I could not ever fathom the spectacle of the human being going into a killing spree, murdering old men, women and children. I hope this will not happen again," he said.
"There is always a lesson to learn: that despots and leaders who show insanity, they should be disposed of at the first instance," he said.
Duterte, the first Philippine president to visit Israel, has received a warm welcome from the government, despite criticism that it is embracing a leader accused of rights abuses in his deadly crackdown on drug dealers.
The agenda reportedly is expected to include an arms sale to the Philippines. Israel agreed in the past to sell assault rifles to the Philippines national police force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked Monday on the countries' long friendship. He said the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after World War II and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel's establishment. He noted that Filipino health aides now assist the elderly in Israel, including Netanyahu's father.
"We remember our friends, and that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years," Netanyahu told Duterte. "There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino caretakers for the elderly."
Duterte thanked Israel for hosting some 28,000 Filipino workers and for assisting his country in times of need.
"We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But also we share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology, who know nothing but to kill and destroy," he said at a joint appearance with Netanyahu. "And in this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country."
The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957. Netanyahu has worked to cultivate new allies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where many countries have historically sided with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel, to help chip away at the number of anti-Israel votes at the United Nations.
But Netanyahu has come under fire for embracing Duterte, a 73-year-old former government prosecutor whose forces are accused of killing thousands in anti-drug raids since he took office in 2016.
Duterte drew outrage that year when he compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and himself to Hitler. More recently, he forcibly kissed a woman on stage and said there would be many rape cases in a Philippine city "if there were many beautiful women."
In its lead editorial Monday, the liberal Haaretz daily accused Netanyahu of selling out Israeli values for dubious allies.
"Under the shadow of Duterte's visit, Israel once again proves it's willing to overlook leaders' human rights violations for the sake of opportunities for arms deals and defense contracts," the newspaper said.
Duterte, who calls U.S. President Donald Trump a friend and in 2016 cursed President Barack Obama for alleged meddling, offered the former occupant of the White House an apology of sorts.
"I said, 'Son of a bitch, Obama you can go to hell. You son of a bitch.' I said that because he was not a civilized person," Duterte said in Israel. "It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that, 'You are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words.'"
Duterte has been criticized for a brutal crackdown on the Philippine drug trade. Reports of extrajudicial slayings of alleged dealers surfaced during Obama's presidency.
Official Philippine police tallies put the number of suspects killed in police-led drug raids at more than 4,500 since Duterte took office.
International human rights watchdogs have cited far higher death tolls. Duterte denies condoning extrajudicial killings, but has openly threatened drug dealers with death.
His visit to Israel was to include a stop at a monument commemorating the Philippines' rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.
Moabi Regional Park, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — The body of a California woman who was among four people missing after two boats collided on the Colorado River was found Monday, authorities said.
Christine Lewis, 51, of Visalia was discovered in a section of the river along the California-Arizona border, Mohave County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anita Mortensen said.
Lewis was among more than a dozen people ejected from the boats in the crash Saturday night.
A search continued for two other women and one man.
A recreational boat carrying 10 people and another vessel with six people on board collided head-on Saturday night along the well-traveled stretch of the river, the office said.
Both boats sank, and passing boaters pulled crash victims from the water. Nine people were injured, with two in critical condition, authorities said.
The cause of the crash is being investigated.
None of the boaters were wearing life jackets, which aren't required but are recommended by authorities, Mohave County Sheriff Doug Shuster said.
The crash occurred between two popular marinas and near Moabi Regional Park, as people enjoyed the Labor Day weekend.
Helicopters have been deployed as part of the search, and authorities have scoured the shoreline. Divers have been sent into the river, which can run as deep as 30 feet (9 meters).
"These efforts will continue until all of those who are missing and unaccounted for have been located," Shuster told reporters.
Authorities closed off a stretch of the river where the search was taking place.
Islamabad, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — The founder of Afghanistan's much-feared Haqqani network, a former U.S. ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health, a Taliban spokesman said Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani was 72.
Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The elderly founder of the outlawed Afghanistan-based organization, once hailed as a freedom fighter by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, had been paralyzed for the past 10 years.
In announcing his death Tuesday, Mujahed called Haqqani a religious scholar and exemplary warrior.
Because of his infirmity, Haqqani's network has been led by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also deputy head of the Taliban. Considered the most formidable of the Taliban's fighting forces, the Haqqani network has been linked to some of the more audacious attacks in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani joined the Taliban when they overran Kabul in September 1996, expelling feuding mujahedeen groups, whose battles left the capital in ruins.
Since then, the network has been among the fiercest foes fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani's death is not expected to impact the network's military might or strategy.
Haqqani was among the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, the United States backed in the 1980s to fight the former Soviet Union's invading army, sent to Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up the pro-Moscow government. Haqqani was praised by the late U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson as "goodness personified." After 10 years, Moscow negotiated an exit from Afghanistan in an agreement that eventually led to the collapse of Kabul's communist government and a takeover by the mujahedeen.
In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Haqqani had not been heard from in several years and reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Declassified U.S. cables called Haqqani a "moderate socialist" who did not embrace the Taliban's strict rules that denied girls education. "Haqqani functions more in the military area, and is not a force in setting Taliban political or social issues," the cables read.
Born in 1947 into the powerful Zardran tribe that dominates southeastern Afghanistan's Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces, Haqqani was a close friend of Osama bin Laden, who often took refuge in his camps outside Khost.
The father of 12 sons, the ailing Haqqani — who had been suffering from Parkinson disease for several years prior to his death — had turned the day-to-day military campaign over to his son Sirajuddin.
The elder Haqqani's association with Pakistan dates back to his early years, when he studied a deeply conservative form of Islam at the Darulaman Haqqania madrassa, or religious school, in northwest Pakistan. In an earlier interview with The Associated Press, the school's top cleric Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, recalled a studious Haqqani.
It was Haqqani's rigid interpretation of Islam that launched him on the road to insurgency in the early 1970s when he returned to Afghanistan to open a madrassa, or religious school, and organized a movement against Afghanistan's monarch, King Zahir Shah, according to unclassified U.S. documents that tracked Haqqani's militant career from the early 1970s to his partnership with the Taliban in 1996.
Forced to leave Afghanistan because of his agitation against the monarchy, which was eventually overthrown, Haqqani set up a madrassa in Miran Shah, in Pakistan's North Waziristan.
During the 1980s, when Washington backed an uprising against the communist government in Kabul and its Russian allies, it was Haqqani's military prowess that brought him attention from both the United States and Pakistan. He received both money and weapons from the U.S.
While the Soviet Union poured men and money into Afghanistan to support the Communist government in Kabul, Pakistan, the United States and several Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, stockpiled weapons for the mujahedeen in neighboring Pakistan. Suitcases full of cash were delivered to the mujahedeen through Pakistan, according to a former CIA chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He told The AP he personally delivered suitcases full of money to Haqqani, whom he described as "one of the good ones."
It was during the 1980s that fighters from the Muslim world were recruited to fight the invading communists in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was among the first to sign up. Many of the Arab fighters gravitated toward Haqqani because he was an Arabic speaker and a ferocious warrior.
Many of the Arab fighters, who remain in Afghanistan, including the new head of al-Qaida Ayman al Zawahri, are believed to be protected by the Haqqani network, which it is believed they also help fund.
Haqqani developed close ties with Pakistan's intelligence service known by the acronym ISI as well as Pakistani militant groups, many of whom were being groomed by the ISI to fight neighbor India in the disputed Kashmir region.
After the Russians left and Afghanistan's communist government fell to the U.S.-backed mujahedeen, Haqqani served briefly as justice minister. He soon abandoned the mujahedeen government frustrated by their relentless feuding and returned to Khost where he maintained close contact with militants, including bin Laden, from Arabic speaking countries.
After taking power in September 1996, the Taliban embraced Haqqani for his military skills, according to a declassified 1998 cable from the U.S. Embassy. That cable also said Haqqani "is close buddies with many Arab and Pakistani Islamists."
In August 1998, U.S. cruise missiles targeted Haqqani's base in a failed attempt to kill bin Laden. Several Pakistani militants affiliated with the Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen group were killed in that attack.
In November 2001, when the Taliban were routed from Kabul, Haqqani was ordered by Mullah Omar to move the Arab fighters to safety.
Haqqani had proven to be among the most resilient of Afghanistan's insurgents.
San Bernardino, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Eight people were wounded, two critically, during a shooting at a California apartment complex during a dice game, police said Monday.
Officers arrived at a chaotic scene on Sunday night and had to call for help after a hostile crowd emerged from the complex, San Bernardino police spokeswoman Sadie Albers said. She said investigators are still trying to determine how the shooting unfolded, what preceded it and whether there was an exchange of gunfire.
"Most of the witnesses are being uncooperative, so we're not really sure what happened prior to the shooting," she said. Evidence at the scene showed handguns and rifles were used, police have said.
Seven adults and a 17-year-old boy at the complex were shot. Albers said the 17-year-old and one adult were critically wounded. The six other victims had wounds that were not life-threatening and were expected to survive.
Police have said there is gang activity in the area, but it's too early in the investigation to attribute the shooting to gang rivalry.
Dhaka, Sep 4 (UNB) - Carcases of nearly 90 elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say, reports the BBC.
Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting an aerial survey, said the scale of poaching deaths is the largest seen in Africa.
The spike coincides with Botswana's anti-poaching unit being disarmed.
Botswana has the world's largest elephant population, but poachers have been breaching its border.
Some readers may find the image below distressing
The scientist carrying out the extensive wildlife survey said many of the 87 dead elephants were killed for their tusks just weeks ago - and that five white rhinos have been poached in three months.
"I'm shocked, I'm completely astounded. The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I've seen or read about anywhere in Africa to date," said Dr Mike Chase from Elephants Without Borders.
"When I compare this to figures and data from the Great Elephant Census, which I conducted in 2015, we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa."
That census estimated a third of Africa's elephants had been killed in the last decade and 60% of Tanzania's elephants had been lost in five years.
Botswana has had a reputation for an unforgiving approach to poachers and had largely escaped the elephant losses seen elsewhere.
Despite a lack of fences on the international border, data from tracking collars showed elephants retreating from Angola, Namibia and Zambia and deciding to stay within the boundaries of Botswana where it was thought to be safe.
Incidents of poaching in the country were rare because of armed and well-managed anti-poaching units.
With 130,000 elephants, Botswana has been described as their last sanctuary in Africa as poaching for ivory continues to wipe out herds across the rest of the continent.
The first sign that was changing came two years ago when the BBC flew with Mr Chase close to the Namibian border and he discovered a string of elephant carcasses with their tusks removed for the first time.
Watch: Findings from the last Elephant census
But these latest killings have been found deep in Botswana - close to the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, which attracts tourists from around the world.
"People did warn us of an impending poaching problem and we thought we were prepared for it," said Mr Chase, who pointed to the disarmament of the country's anti-poaching unit as a cause.
"The poachers are now turning their guns to Botswana. We have the world's largest elephant population and it's open season for poachers.
"Clearly we need to be doing more to stop the scale of what we are recording on our survey."
The government disarmed its anti-poaching units in May - a month after President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn into office.
The units have focussed much of their effort on the border regions, which have historically been more vulnerable.
A senior official in the president's office, Carter Morupisi, told journalists in Botswana at the time that the "government has decided to withdraw military weapons and equipment from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks", but he did not explain why.
Botswana's 2018 Wildlife Aerial Survey is only half-way through and conservationists fear the final figure of poached elephants will be a lot higher.
The survey area is split into sections, or transepts, and the plane flies back and forth like a lawnmower cutting the grass - turning at each end to ensure nothing is missed.
"Fresh carcasses" are those lost within the last three months, but many of those recorded had been killed within the last few weeks.
Conservationists fear the scale of this new poaching problem is being ignored as it is bad for the country's reputation.
"This requires urgent and immediate action by the Botswana government," said Mr Chase.
"Botswana has always been at the forefront of conservation and it will require political will.
"Our new president must uphold Botswana's legacy and tackle this problem quickly. Tourism is vitally important for our economy, jobs, as well as our international reputation, which is at stake here as being a safe stronghold for elephants."