Tokyo, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — An U.S. Navy helicopter crashed on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan on Friday, causing non-fatal injuries to sailors, the Navy said.
The Navy's 7th Fleet said in a statement that the MH-60 Seahawk crashed shortly after takeoff Friday morning while the carrier was off the Philippine coast.
All affected sailors were in stable condition and their injuries were non-life threatening, the Navy said. It didn't say how many sailors were hurt. It said some of them would be examined and treated after they reach the shore, though officials did not specify the destination.
The Navy did not give details on any damage to the helicopter or the aircraft carrier. But it said the ship was fully capable to conduct its mission for security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The aircraft carrier also has since resumed flight training.
The Navy said the crash occurred while Ronald Reagan Strike Group was conducting routine operations in the Philippine Sea, which spreads north and northeast of the Philippines. The cause was under investigation.
USS Ronald Reagan participated in the international naval review hosted off the South Korean island of Jeju last week.
Kabul, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — A high-level meeting on security plans for Afghanistan's parliamentary elections had just concluded when an elite Afghan guard turned his gun on the departing delegation Thursday, killing the powerful Kandahar police chief but missing the top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller.
At least one other senior Afghan official was killed in the audacious assassination strike that was claimed by the Taliban and underscored the harrowing insecurity in Afghanistan two days before the elections and more than 17 years after the militant group was driven from power. A Taliban spokesman said Miller was the intended target.
However, Army Col. David Butler, who attended the meeting with Miller, said the powerful Kandahar police chief, Abdul Raziq, was clearly the target, not the U.S. general.
"It was pretty clear he was shooting at Raziq," Butler told The Associated Press, adding that Miller was nearby but not in the line of fire.
The delegates had just gathered for a group photo when gunfire broke out inside the provincial governor's compound in Kandahar city, according to an AP television cameraman who was there. Everyone scattered, and the U.S. participants scrambled toward their helicopter. But a firefight broke out between the U.S. service members and Afghan police when they tried to stop the U.S. delegation from reaching their helicopter, said the cameraman.
Besides Raziq, Kandahar's intelligence chief, Abdul Mohmin was killed in the attack, according to deputy provincial governor Agha Lala Dastageri. He said Kandahar Gov. Zalmay Wesa also died after being taken to a hospital, although security officials in the capital maintained Wesa was wounded but survived.
Three Americans — a U.S. service member, a coalition contractor and an American civilian — were injured and in stable condition, said NATO spokesman U.S. Col. Knut Peters.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the militant group carried out the attack, and Miller was the target.
Butler, however, said the assailant shot at Raziq and then appeared to spray the area with gunfire before he was killed.
He said Miller and the Afghan leaders had moved outside the palace after several hours of meetings and were standing in small groups in the compound. He said he heard several shots "and we all took cover. It was over in seconds."
"We stabilized and treated the wounded and secured the area," said Butler, adding that Miller made sure the scene was secure and the wounded were taken away by medivac before he left the area and returned to Kabul.
Razik was a particularly powerful figure in southern Kandahar and a close U.S. ally despite widespread allegations of corruption. He ruled the former Taliban heartland with an iron fist and had survived several past assassination attempts, including one last year that killed five diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.
Raziq's killing "may have major implications on the security situation in southern Afghanistan. As the chief of police in Kandahar, he has kept a lid on the Taliban's insurgency, which has intensified over the past several years," analyst Bill Roggio wrote in the Long War Journal.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday's parliamentary elections, warning teachers and students not to allow schools to be used for polling and warning Afghans to stay away from the polls.
Within hours of the attack, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation to assure Kandahar residents it was safe to go to the polls. In an AP interview, his adviser, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, said the attack was meant to disrupt elections and urged voters to defy Taliban threats, saying casting their ballot "would be a big slap on the face of the enemy."
At a news conference in Kabul, army chief Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali said additional troops had been moved from neighboring Helmand province to Kandahar.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the killing of the Kandahar police chief is unlikely to fundamentally weaken the security situation. Speaking while in Singapore for a conference, Mattis called Raziq's death a tragic loss but said he believes the Afghan security forces have matured to the point where they can continue fighting the Taliban without him.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the attacks and others recently in Afghanistan and said violence or threats intended to disrupt the elections were unacceptable.
Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, and its military chief condemned the assault.
"The people and the security forces of Afghanistan have been paying a heavy price due to continued instability and threats from the enemies of peace," Khan said in a statement. "Pakistan stands by the government and the people of Afghanistan in their quest for lasting peace and stability."
Security has been steadily deteriorating in Afghanistan with increasingly brazen attacks being carried out by insurgents and Afghanistan's security forces have been on high alert ahead of Saturday's elections.
Late Wednesday, a NATO convoy was attacked near the Afghan capital, killing two civilians and injuring five Czech troops, Afghan officials and the Czech military said Thursday.
The attack in the Bagram district of Parwan province, also wounded three Afghan civilians, said Wahida Shakar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in Bagram, which is the home of a sprawling U.S. military base.
In recent months, Afghan troops have come under near-daily attacks. NATO troops, which handed over security to Afghan forces at the end of 2014, mostly train and assist with air power. So far this year, eight U.S. soldiers and three other NATO service members have died in Afghanistan.
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — Malaysia's former deputy prime minister has been charged with abuse of power, corruption and money laundering involving millions of dollars in another graft investigation against the leaders ousted in shock election results earlier this year.
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi now leads the opposition after his party was ousted in May's general elections. He was brought to court Friday, a day after he was detained by the anti-graft agency. He pleaded not guilty to eight counts of abusing his power, ten counts of criminal breach of trust and 27 counts of money laundering.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife also were charged with graft after the elections.
Dozens of supporters from Zahid's United Malays National Organization rallied outside the court, slamming the charges as politically motivated.
New Delhi, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — M.J. Akbar, India's junior external affairs minister, resigned Wednesday amid accusations by 20 women of sexual harassment during his previous career as one of the country's most prominent news editors, becoming the most powerful man to fall in India's burgeoning #MeToo movement.
Akbar said in a statement that he would "challenge false accusations" in a personal capacity, referring to a criminal case he filed Monday against the first woman to accuse him.
Akbar, 67, first served as a lawmaker for India's then-ruling India National Congress party between 1989 and 1991. He then edited The Telegraph, The Asian Age and other newspapers and wrote several books of nonfiction, becoming one of the most influential people in the Indian news media.
He returned to public life in March 2014, when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and was appointed national spokesman during the 2014 election that brought the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power.
Akbar maintained a low profile after joining India's Ministry of External Affairs in July 2016 as its junior minister, representing India overseas at multinational conferences.
On Wednesday he thanked Modi, who had remained silent about the allegations, for the opportunity to serve in public office.
In India's deeply conservative society, the #MeToo movement began belatedly but has picked up steam in recent weeks. Since September, Indian actresses and writers have flooded social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault by their superiors and colleagues.
The string of accusations against Akbar began when journalist Priya Ramani identified him on Twitter on Oct. 8 as the unnamed editor that she had described in a story about newsroom sexual harassment published in Vogue last year.
Other women in media have alleged that Akbar interviewed job candidates in hotel rooms at night; groped, massaged and forcibly kissed young interns and employees; and offered young women choice out-of-town postings so that he could go visit them there.
On Sunday, returning from an official visit to West Africa, Akbar denied the allegations as "false, baseless and wild."
The following day, dozens of members of the Congress Party's youth wing clashed with police outside Akbar's New Delhi home, demanding his resignation.
Akbar then filed a criminal case against Ramani and released a statement in which he questioned his accusers' motives.
"Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election," he asked.
Modi is hoping to remain in power in elections due early next year.
On Tuesday, 20 women signed a statement asking the court hearing Akbar's case against Ramani to allow them to give their own testimonies against him.
Ramini wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #MeToo"
Arti Jerath, a journalist and political commentator who is not among Akbar's accusers, said his resignation should have come earlier.
"The fact that he chose to brazen it out, he became an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to the government," she said. "I am glad that he is finally gone."
Yangon, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Three detained journalists appeared in a Myanmar court on Wednesday to face charges filed against them by the Yangon city government, which alleges a story they published was false.
An increasing number of journalists have been arrested and jailed for their work under Myanmar's civilian government, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner.
The senior journalists for local Eleven Media Group were arrested Oct. 9 after publishing a story alleging fund mismanagement by Yangon government officials.
A director in the Yangon city government filed a complaint saying the journalists — editor in chief Kyaw Zaw Lin, managing editor Nari Min and chief reporter Phyo Wai Win — violated a law banning publication of "incorrect information" that could cause "fear or alarm to the public." Punishment under the law can include two years' imprisonment and a fine.
Human Rights Watch called for the charges to be withdrawn.
"By arresting these three journalists for simply doing their job to investigate and report on possible Yangon municipal malfeasance, the Myanmar government shows how little it respects freedom of the press," said Phil Robertson, the human rights group's deputy Asia director. "Democracy is in deep trouble in Myanmar if officials can get reporters tossed in prison any time they ask a tough question. The government should order the prosecutor to withdraw the charges, and cease its harassment of the media."
Journalists from Eleven Media have been arrested in the past for investigating corruption by high-ranking politicians. In 2016, its chief executive and chief editor were detained after publishing an opinion piece on corrupt officials. Those charges were eventually dropped.
Recent jailings of journalists in Myanmar include Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced to seven years in prison earlier this year. They had been reporting on the military's operations against minority Rohingya Muslims and were accused of possessing secret documents.
"The decline of press freedom in Myanmar is alarming," said Matthew Smith, the head of human rights group Fortify Rights. "With each imprisoned journalist, the authorities dig the country deeper into an authoritarian pit."
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay could not be reached for comment.
The next court appearance for the three Eleven Media journalists is expected on Oct. 26, when the Yangon government complainant, Kyaw Aung Khaing, is required to produce the original government documents that were written about in the Eleven Media story.