Bulgarian police struggle to identify bomber

Bulgarian police, the FBI and Interpol are struggling to identify a suicide bomber who killed six people, including five Israelis, as the US said the attack bore the “hallmarks” of Hezbollah.

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Investigators have released CCTV footage of the person they believe carried out Wednesday’s attack in the Black Sea airport of Burgas on a bus carrying Israeli holidaymakers, which also claimed the life of the Bulgarian driver.

After two days of investigations, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was only able to confirm Friday that the bomber was “not a Bulgarian citizen” and had been in the country “not less than four days”.

Fingerprints and DNA samples from the suspected bomber’s body were being used in the effort to learn his identity, he added.

The minister also made public Friday evening some scanty details on the explosive used in the first attack of its kind in Bulgaria.

“We are speaking about trotile, about three kilogrammes. Analyses are continuing,” he told state BNT television.

Trotile is made from Trinitrotoluene or TNT — a common material in military bombs and also frequently used in attacks by militant groups.

Israel and Bulgaria meanwhile held emotional funerals for the victims — Israelis Kochava Shriki, 44, who was pregnant, Yitzhik Kolengi, Amir Menashe, Elior Priess and Maor Harush, all in their 20s, and the Bulgarian driver of the bus Mustafa Kyosov, 36.

More than 30 people were also injured in the blast, three of them seriously, all of whom have since been repatriated, as have around 60 others who escaped injury. Some opted to continue their holiday in the Black Sea resorts popular with Israelis.

US President Barack Obama pledged solidarity with Bulgaria over the “barbaric attack,” echoing indignation from around the world.

In a telephone call with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Obama “offered his support for the ongoing investigation, and for the Bulgarian people in this challenging time,” the White House said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Obama had phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his condolences and support.

Israel has blamed Iran and Tehran’s “terrorist proxy” Hezbollah, saying it fitted a pattern of other recent attacks or attempted attacks on Israelis including in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya and Cyprus.

The Islamic Republic, already under pressure over growing international tensions over its nuclear programme, rejected Israel’s accusations as “ridiculous”.

“The attack does bear some of the hallmarks of Hezbollah but we’re not in a position to make any final determination on who was responsible,” Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters on Friday.

Airport video footage of the presumed suicide bomber released by Bulgarian authorities showed an apparently white male with long hair, possibly a wig, dressed in typical holiday gear — shorts, a baseball cap, sneakers — and carrying a backpack and a laptop bag.

Tsvetanov said the man, who was shown wandering around the airport, looked around 36. Investigators have also recovered his driving licence from the US state of Michigan that is thought to be fake.

The name on the licence, an image of which was shown on Bulgarian television, is Jacque Felipe Martin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, born in 1987. Michigan is known to only issue licences to state residents.

Bulgarian prosecutor Kalina Chapkanova told private bTV television Friday that the suspect had used the fake licence when he tried to rent a car in the nearby town of Pomorie the day before the attack.

The car rental owner turned him down as the document seemed suspicious.

She also cited witnesses as saying that he spoke English with an accent, possibly an Arab one.

The owners of the car rental agency confirmed that the man who tried to hire a vehicle had very short hair, dark skin and “looked like an Arab.” He also did not resemble the photo on the licence, which showed someone with long hair.

Interpol has sent an “incident response team” to Bulgaria including two “terrorism” experts from Switzerland and France and a US explosives specialist. European police agency Europol was also assisting.

The explosion ripped through the bus as around 50 Israeli tourists arriving from Tel Aviv were loading their bags before travelling to nearby holiday and gambling resort Sunny Beach.

The bomber struck on the 18th anniversary of an attack on a Jewish community centre in Argentina that killed 85 people.


Organisers insist Zimbabwe ready for vote

“Elections will be credible, free and fair.

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We are ready for the elections,” the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s Deputy Chairwoman Joyce Kazembe told election observers.

The ZEC said 6.4 million voters, or around half the country’s population, will be eligible to cast their ballot on July 31.

The presidential vote will pit veteran leader President Robert Mugabe against his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

But early voting for the security services has already been marred by problems. Shortages of ballot papers and voting ink meant thousands were unable to cast their ballots.

Kazembe said of the 63,268 people who were eligible to vote in the early polling, only 37,108 voted.

Many of the delays have been blamed on the ZEC only securing roughly half of the $132 million polling budget they had asked for from the cash-strapped government.

“Out of the budget we wanted, we have received $58 million. But nothing has stopped us from moving,” ZEC commissioner Bessie Nhandara said.

Concerns have also arisen about the chaotic state of the voter roll, fuelling fears of fraud and irregularities.

Voter registration only closed two weeks ago, raising questions about whether an accurate voter roll will be ready for election day.

“The registrar-general of voters is currently working flat-out to print the voters roll in time,” said Kazembe.

In June the Research and Advocacy Unit, an independent non-governmental group, claimed one million people on the roll were either dead or had left the country.

It also found that 63 constituencies had more registered voters than inhabitants and two million potential voters under 30 were unregistered.

About 600 foreign election observers have been accredited to observe the polls while 6,000 local observers will also be watching the vote.

Foreign observers are drawn mainly from the African Union (AU), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Zimbabwe did not invite observer missions from European Union countries or the United States because of sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his top officials for rights abuses.

But all foreign embassies in Zimbabwe including those from the EU countries and the US will be allowed to send five diplomats each to observe the elections.

The 89-year-old Mugabe, who is vying to prolong his 33-year-rule, will be running for the seventh time.


Police shooting sparks riot in Indonesia

National police spokesman Muhammad Taufik said the victim, identified by the initials MT, was from the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and was shot in the town of Waena during a police raid.

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“He was armed. Police asked him to surrender but he didn’t. Police shot at him, hitting his hip and leg. He died on the way to hospital,” he told reporters.

News of the death sparked riots in Waena, officials and residents said.

“People were angry after they heard that their leader or friend was arrested and burnt several motorcycles, cars and three houses,” security minister Djoko Suyanto said.

He added that four people had been arrested in the past two weeks over a spate of violence in the region, including the fatal shooting of a German tourist late last month.

They included KNPB head Bukhtar Tabuni, who was released from prison last year after serving three years for organising a 2008 rally, according to police.

Police said the group was suspected of organising protests in recent months that have left shops and public facilities in several Papuan cities badly vandalised, but it has denied responsibility.

Pro-independence rallies and displaying separatist symbols are considered treason in Indonesia, and protests in Papua, a former Dutch colony on the western half of New Guinea island, have ended in bloody clashes with police.

Jakarta annexed Papua in 1969 in a self-determination referendum widely regarded as a sham and continues to keep a tight grip on the region through its military and police to quell a decades-long insurgency by poorly armed rebels.


The disasters of 2012

Transcript from SBS World News Australia Radio.

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It was a terrible start to 2012 when a cruise ship sank off the coast of Italy in January.

The Costa Concordia was at the start of seven-day Mediterranean cruise with more than 4000 people on board from 60 countries.

Disaster struck when the ship ran aground off coastline off Giglio (jill-lee-oh) on January the 13th.

The ship flooded leading to the deaths of 32 people.

It was one of many man-made and natural disasters that occurred in 2012.

LISTEN: Peggy Giakoumelos reports

Australians arriving home after surviving the Italian cruise ship disaster described scenes of chaos and panic.

Melbourne woman Michelle Barraclough (BARA-cluf) said she and her family had to struggle for places on a life boat.

She said more than 200 people were attempting to get on life boats designed for just 100, which were operated by crew who didn’t know how to control the boats

“It was just craziness they didn’t tell us anything. Everybody was just literally screaming and they wouldn’t calm down and every time they asked for silence so they could hear the radio they’d just keep screaming and it was just total chaos.”

Captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino (sket-een-oh) was placed under house arrest for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers were evacuated.

Another major search and rescue operation was launched off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea after a ferry sank in February.

There were more than 300 people onboard the M-V Rabaul Queen which the P-N-G government says claimed the lives of at least 161 people.

A number of merchant ships in the area responded to a distress call, abandoning their own voyages to pick up survivors from the ocean.

Australia’s Maritime Rescue Authority’s Carly Lusk says the quick response helped save many lives.

“It’s been a wonderful response from vessels in the area. As soon as we put out the broadcast to shipping we had numerous responses from merchant vessels. They’ve all proceeded to the location and they’re rescuing survivors from the water. Now these are commercial vessels who have stopped their voyages, proceeded to the location and are committed to staying there to save the lives of people in danger so we’re very happy with the response we’ve received. These people are doing a wonderful job.”

In July around 100 people lost their lives when they went to scoop up fuel from an overturned fuel tanker in southern Nigeria.

They burned to death after the vehicle caught fire.

2012 also saw serious weather-related disasters in parts of the world.

Thousands of market vendors in Fiji lost their livelihoods due to floods in March and April.

Fiji was hit again late in the year by Cyclone Evan, which also caused widespread destruction, and some deaths, in Samoa.

Flash floods also hit parts of southern Russia, killing more than 130 people and affecting around 13-thousand.

In July heavy monsoon rain and flooding resulted in the deaths of an estimated 120 people in India and Bangladesh, with six-million people forced to flee their homes.

World Vision spokesman Kunal Shah says while communities struggled to cope with the flooding they also felt a sense of resignation about the inevitability of floods in their region.

“People are in distress, no doubt. But in this region the flooding keeps happening because of the heavy rains. So there is some kind of a numbness in the community, that is my personal feeling. The people, when we talk to them, we saw them on roads. And they said “oh this keeps happening every year”. But then it’s very sad that it keeps happening but people have become kind of resilient to this flooding.”

In the United States and Canada, Superstorm Sandy claimed more than 110 lives, after killing at least 60 people in the Caribbean, where Haiti and Cuba were hit particularly hard.

Forecasters said it was the largest storm to hit the mainland in modern U-S history.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised the response of the people of his city

I” don’t think it’s any secret, but Super Storm Sandy hit us very hard. It was a storm of historic intensity. But New Yorkers are resilient and we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from people eager to volunteer, donate and help out.”

In early December, Typhoon Bopha (bo-fah) slammed into the southern Philippines, toppling trees and blowing away thousands of homes with 210-kilometre per hour gusts.

More than 1000 people were reportedly killed.

One young resident of the island of Mindanao, (min-dun-OW), Julius Julien Rebukas, told the B-B-C several members of his family were killed in flash flooding.

“(with translation) My father is in the hospital. My mum and older brother were swept away by the floodwater. That was the last time I saw them. My mum said to me ‘I love you’.”

Twin earthquakes rocked Iran’s northwest in August killing 250 people and injuring thousands more and a powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

Residents across Victoria were shaken by the state’s biggest earthquake in decades, when a 5.3 magnitude quake struck in June.

The ability of seismologists to predict earthquake activity came under attack in Italy in 2012 with the conviction of six scientists and a government official over a deadly earthquake that hit the central town of L’Aquila (la-KEE-la) three years ago.

The seismologists were found guilty of manslaughter for underestimating the severity of the earthquake, which claimed over 300 lives and left thousands homeless.

The secretary of science policy at the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Bob Williamson, says that it’s simply not possible to accurately predict when and where an earthquake will occur.

“The scientific ability is just not with us yet to offer those predictions. If there ever was anything that’s going to put absolute terror in the hearts of scientists who were asked to advise government this is it. I can understand that people at L’Aquila will be very angry. They will be very upset. People were killed. Property was destroyed. But to blame the scientists is really quite ridiculous.”


Real should not have made Bale talks public – Villas-Boas

Asked if he felt Ancelotti was in the wrong, Villas-Boas said: “I think so, in my opinion.

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Carlo is a person I appreciate a lot and we have great respect for each other, but bearing in mind this situation they have decided to make it public.

“Normally in situations like this it is scrutinised by the Football Association with lots of care and attention. We have seen lots of people speak about a player that is not theirs and we are due some respect,” added the Portuguese coach.

“These rumours of an imminent transfer are not true. The only thing we have communicated with Real Madrid is that he is our player and he is not for sale.”

Villas-Boas was speaking at a news conference after Tottenham had lost 5-2 in a friendly away to Monaco although the 24-year-old Bale did not travel for the match due to injury.

“Gareth is a guy I really like. We are talking with Real Madrid because there is respect between the two clubs following the transfer last season of Luka Modric,” added Villas-Boas.

“We are building a great team for next season. We envisage the future with Gareth. But we know that in football anything is possible,” he added.

Media in Spain and England have reported that Real are prepared to offer a world-record fee of more than 85 million pounds ($129.82 million) for the English Footballer of the Year.

That would eclipse the fee of about $125 million that the world’s richest club by income agreed to pay Manchester United for Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.

Ancelotti said on Wednesday: “It is difficult to talk about Bale because at the moment he is not a Real Madrid player.

“I believe the club is in talks to find a solution and we will see what happens.

“I am not used to talking about players who are not in my team and it would not be right to do so,” added the Italian, who said he had not spoken to Bale.

($1 = 0.6548 British pounds)

(Writing by Ken Ferris in London; Editing by Martyn Herman)