Senior police jailed over Rohingya attacks

Myanmar’s police court has sentenced three senior officers to prison for negligence after Rohingya insurgents overran three border posts in October, killing nine policemen, a government official said.


Several hundred Rohingya men, from a Muslim minority that many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar view as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, attacked the border guard posts on October 9. Most were armed only with sticks.

The attacks set off a crackdown on the minority, prompting more than 70,000 people to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

Information Ministry director Ye Naing told Reuters on Friday an official investigation probed how the poorly trained and barely armed insurgents could successfully stage the attacks.

The government says the militants, who stole weapons and ammunition in the raids, have links to radical Islamists abroad.

The court sentenced the three senior officers in the border town of Maungdaw to one to three years in prison, Ye Naing said.

“They were jailed because they were guilty of negligence regarding security during the October 9 attacks,” he said.

Ye Naing could not specify the date of the sentencing or details of the investigation. Several other high-ranking police officers were still under investigation by the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs, he added.

About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions in northwestern Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship.

The United Nations has documented mass killings and rapes committed during the crackdown by security forces that it says may amount to crimes against humanity. No senior police or army officers have been found accountable for these alleged crimes.

The civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied almost all allegations against the country’s still-powerful armed forces during what it has said was a lawful counter-insurgency campaign that began in October.

Garmin employee gunned down in Kansas

GPS device-maker Garmin is reeling after one of its employees was killed and another wounded in a shooting at a bar close to their workplace in Kansas City.


The tech company has long revered diversity in its workforce, even when the locale of its ever-sprawling operational headquarters – a largely white Kansas City suburb – didn’t reflect it.

It’s the place 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla came to work a few years ago and his wife said on Friday he willingly spent long hours on an aviation systems engineering team alongside Alok Madasani, a friend and colleague also 32 and from India.

Kuchibhotla’s trek led him to have a kinship with his boss, Lebanese native Didier Popadopoulos, who says he moved to America at Kuchibhotla’s age and once held the same Garmin job.

But Garmin – a billion-dollar tech giant launched in Kansas as a startup by two men nearly three decades ago – is now trying to digest Kuchibhotla’s shooting death on Wednesday at a tavern just down the road from work. Madasani was wounded, along with a stranger who tried to help.

Witnesses say the gunman, Adam Purinton, yelled at the two Indian men to “get out of my country” and opened fire. Purinton, who was arrested hours later at a bar in Missouri, remains jailed on murder and attempted murder charges.

On Friday, Garmin comforted grieving employees at a closed-door vigil at its campus in Olathe, Kansas. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, addressed the group of about 200 workers, which included Madasani.

Laurie Minard, Garmin’s vice president of human resources, doesn’t believe the shooting will jeopardise its recruitment of workers from overseas.

“We tend to be a family here,” she said at the Garmin campus, which is waging a $US200 million ($A260 million) expansion.

“We want people to feel safe. We embrace it. We encourage it. We support it. It’s extremely important to us about acceptance.”

At any given time, she said, more than 100 Garmin employees are part of a program, which lets American companies bring foreigners with technical skills to the US for three to six years.

IS suicide blast kills 51 near Syria’s Al-Bab

The bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives outside a rebel command centre in the village of Susian, eight kilometres northeast of Al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


The blast devastated the twin command posts and also seriously wounded a large number of fighters, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Most of the dead were fighters.

There was no immediate claim for the attack but it bore all the hallmarks of IS, which had put up fierce resistance in Al-Bab for weeks.

The strategic town, just 25 kilometres south of the Turkish border, was the jihadists’ last stronghold in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo.

Turkey sent troops into Syria last August in an operation it said targeted not only IS but also US-backed Kurdish fighters whom it regards as terrorists.

With its support, the rebels launched an offensive to take Al-Bab last year.

It has proved the bloodiest battle of Ankara’s campaign accounting for most of the 69 Turkish losses so far.

Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said on Thursday that its rebel allies now had “near complete control” of the town.

The town was also seen as a prize by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, who had advanced to just 1.5 kilometres (one mile) from its outskirts in recent weeks.

On Thursday afternoon, an AFP correspondent heard intermittent gunfire as rebel units continued to clear the heavily damaged town.

Rebels pounded outside Aleppo

The battle against IS around Al-Bab is just one front line in the fighting in Aleppo province.

West of the second city, which government forces took full control of in December, fighting flared with rebels in its western suburbs even as peace talks got under way in Geneva.

Exchanges of rocket and artillery fire first broke out on Wednesday, centred on the rebel-held district of Rashideen, the Observatory said.

The government responded with intensive air strikes on Thursday that killed at least 32 rebel fighters.

“The regime wants to reinforce its positions around Aleppo and is using the rocket fire by the rebels as a pretext to bombard their positions and attempt to drive them out of the suburbs,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

A fragile ceasefire between government forces and non-jihadist rebels has been in force since late December, brokered by regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey.

It has led to a sharp reduction in fighting in many areas.


But parts of the country which are held by IS or its jihadist rival, former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, are not covered by the truce.

The talks in Geneva between government and opposition representatives formally opened on Thursday.

They are the fourth round of UN-brokered negotiations, aimed at ending a conflict that has dragged on for nearly six years and claimed more than 310,000 lives.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said: “I’m not expecting miracles,” but warned of dire consequences if the talks “fail again”.


Broncos can still win title: Bennett

A worrying stat may suggest otherwise but Wayne Bennett insists Brisbane can still win the NRL premiership ahead of Thursday night’s crunch clash with North Queensland.


Bennett claimed the Broncos had moved on from last round’s shock 52-34 loss to Parramatta and believed they were “in as good a position as anyone” to claim the 2017 title.

Brisbane are guaranteed a top four spot and can finish as high as second with victory over a desperate North Queensland in Townsville.

However, their premiership credentials took a major hit from the Parramatta juggernaut last round.

It was just the second time in Broncos club history they had conceded 50 points at Suncorp Stadium.

But a much more concerning stat was expected to trouble Bennett ahead of the NRL finals – no team has conceded 50 points in a game and gone on to win the title in the same season.

Yet Bennett believed Brisbane were still on track for title No.7.

“We are in as good a position as anyone else,” Bennett said of claiming the title.

“A lot of teams aren’t going to be playing next week.

“All of our critics didn’t think we would make the eight so who knows what we can do from here.”

Bennett reacted to last round’s rout by calling in defensive specialist and ex-Broncos hardman Peter Ryan for a morning of brutal tackling drills on Monday.

However, Bennett claimed he was so convinced that last round’s loss was an aberration that he reckoned he did not sit his team down to address the thumping.

“To be honest with you I haven’t actually,” he said.

“And if they had been doing that all season it wouldn’t matter.

“But they haven’t been doing that all season – 21 out of 22 games ain’t bad.

“The team is not built on one defensive display good, bad or indifferent.

“We do it pretty well most weeks. We just had a bad day.”

Another key injury also could not waver Bennett’s faith in his side.

Brisbane received a blow when they lost form prop Korbin Sims (broken arm) for the season against the Eels.

He joins hooker Andrew McCullough (knee) who went down five weeks ago.

Sam Thaiday initially helped fill in for McCullough at rake but will now slot into the front row for Sims with Ben Hunt the starting No.9.

“I have been pretty pleased with how we have covered them (injuries) – I think we are in pretty good shape,” Bennett said.

“We are not overachieving by any means, but there is a lot of upside to this team.”

Bennett confirmed form backrower Alex Glenn would play despite missing Wednesday training with a groin complaint.

UN harshly criticises latest North Korean launch

North Korea’s latest missile test has prompted an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting and drawn sharp criticism from key representatives at the meeting.


The missile, launched near the North Korean capital Pyongyang, flew 2,700 kilometres before breaking up and falling into the sea off the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

The test came as United States and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, which the North sees as preparation for an invasion.

North Korea has conducted dozens of missile tests under leader Kim Jong-un in defiance of UN sanctions, but firing projectiles over mainland Japan is rare.

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Alllen, says the world is united in condemning North Korea’s actions.

“The act by North Korea is a reckless provocation. It is an illegal test. It is against international law and against the resolutions that the Security Council has passed unanimously. So we condemn it completely. We call on North Korea to heed the unanimous position of the international community.”

British prime minister Theresa May is due to visit Japan this week, where she says she will discuss missile-testing with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, says more and tougher action must be taken against North Korea.

“What happened yesterday is absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible. We are going to talk about what else is left to do to North Korea. No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan. It’s unacceptable. They have violated every single UN Security Council resolution that we’ve had. And so I think something serious has to happen. So with all of our partners, what we hope is that China and Russia continue to work with us like they have in the past on North Korea. But I think enough is enough.”

US president Donald Trump has again warned “all options are on the table” as the country considers its response.

Mr Trump says the world has received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear.”

Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Koro Bessho, says his country values President Trump’s backing.

“We appreciate the very strong support that President Trump is showing to Japan, and we appreciate the fact that he said everything, every option, is on the table. But what the United States does is for the United States to decide.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov insists North Korea’s missile program must abide by UN resolutions.

He says Russia fully supports Security Council orders.

“We are all committed to UN Security Council resolutions and insist our North Korean neighbours observe them in full.”

Chinese officials say they feel the United States and South Korea are baiting the North by holding their military exercises in the area, though.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has called for all parties to move towards peace talks.

“In the present situation, China urges all relevant sides not to do anything more to irritate each other or worsen regional tensions. We hope all sides can exercise restraint and jointly protect peace and stability on the Peninsula.”


Afghan refugee footballers look for help to keep going

On a football pitch east of Melbourne, the players of Afghan Victory FC greet each other with hugs and handshakes, but it is not long before the business of training gets underway.


It is a football club for Afghan refugees, established to give purpose and direction to those emerging from chaos.

The man who started it, Zakarya Shojaie, found his players on the streets of suburban Dandenong.

“Teenage boys with no parents, they don’t have any hope for their life. So someone should support them and show them the right way. And I took that responsibility.”

Most of the players are teenage refugees who had lost their homes, their parents and their identities.

Using his own money, Shojaie created a new place for them to belong.

“Sometimes I’m making a joke with them, and I tell them, ‘You are my son,’ because I help them a lot. That’s the good thing for their life.”

Since 2013, Shojaie says, Afghan Victory FC has improved over 50 young lives.

One of those is Mahdi Mahmoodi.

Arriving in Australia four years ago, with no family and no friends, he says the team has given him the life he always hoped for.

“It’s like my second home, especially me, I don’t have anyone here, no family here. But this is my family. We support each other in each way. We help each other.”

Assistant coach Ali Jaan says the team has given the players something to work for every week.

And he says being occupied with training and competing has not only given them something to strive for, but also helped them avoid falling into crime and drug use.

“You know, you don’t get the time to hang around or do something stupid. So this is not just sports, but they’re using their time for a good thing. And we really need support for them.”

A local law firm has provided support with uniforms.

Abode Migration Lawyers know the history of the Afghan refugees better than most.

Lawyer Gerard Gleeson says the firm is doing what it can to support the club.

“Most of these people arrived by boats from Indonesia. Most of these people have had members of their family murdered by the Taliban. They’ve got nowhere to go. They need a help up.”

Much more help is needed.

For four years, Zakarya Shojaie has invested over one-third of his own earnings to fund the Afghan Victory football club, but, a month ago, he was retrenched.

Shojaie has set up a crowdfunding website to raise enough money to stay in operation for at least another year, but, without a major sponsor, the club faces an uncertain future.

Captain Ahmed Hassani says it would be devastating if they could no longer continue, because none of the players could afford to join mainstream clubs.

“If the club were to close, it would be a shame, because it’s not only a club, it’s like a family. And we’d like to continue.”

As Zakarya Shojaie sees it, it is a family with big dreams of glory.

“One of the special things, these kids are playing and trying, and they hope one day a few of them play for the Socceroos, for the Australia national team. It’s their wish.”


Missile defence flagged over Korea threats

The federal government is considering upgrading the Navy’s new air warfare destroyers to include missile defence shields after “very irregular behaviour” by North Korea, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne says.


Following the rogue nation’s latest missile launch, Mr Pyne says Australia may modify the $1.3 billion defence system announced in June to be seaborne rather than land-borne.

“In the defence white paper, and the integrated investment plan, upgrades of the warfare destroyer capabilities have been already flagged,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.

But he said a weapon similar to the United States’ land-based missile defence shield could take as long as 10 years to build and cost at least $10 billion.

Protection from intercontinental ballistic missiles will also be considered for the nine frigates being built in Adelaide.

The highly lethal submarines, also being built in Adelaide, would give Australia a “path to sovereignty” and become the regional power in the South Pacific, Mr Pyne said.

French contractor Naval Group will construct those warships and announced at their headquarters’ launch on Wednesday they have enlisted three local companies.

Mr Pyne said a recognised definition of a local build was 60 per cent but a major priority of the project would be to maximise local involvement.

Australian industry inclusion is expected to add about 2800 jobs annually – 1100 of those directly employed and 1700 in the supply chain.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the South Australian and federal governments were on the same page on this issue.

“There are just so many jobs that are going to flow from the future submarines, future frigates and future patrol boats program,” he said.

“The challenge for us is to make sure we have the people with the skills, the businesses with the capabilities to take advantage of these contracts.”

Coffey Services Australia, Andrew Symonds and Precision Hydrographic Services will assist with surveying and are the first of many companies to benefit from the $50 billion project, Mr Pyne says.

“This announcement today is worth approximately $1 million for these three businesses and will support 26 jobs here in Adelaide,” he said.

$158m spent on govt overseas air travel

Almost $158 million of taxpayer money was spent on international flights across Australian government departments and agencies last financial year.


Defence was the biggest spender in 2016-17, accounting for nearly a third of the total bill with $58.6 million going on overseas air travel.

It was followed by Foreign Affairs and Trade and its agencies ($30.3 million) and Immigration and Border Protection ($18 million).

Immigration spent nearly $1.8 million alone on flights with Air Niugini – the national airline of Papua New Guinea, home to Manus Island detention centre.

Qantas bagged the lion’s share of the travel spend, getting paid about $57.6 million, ahead of ahead of Virgin Australia ($16.5 million).

Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines both received almost $12 million each.

The figures were released by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in response to a question from Labor senator Jenny Macallister earlier this month.


Defence – $58,583,831

Foreign Affairs and Trade – $30,373,758

Immigration and Border Protection – $17,993,889

Industry, Innovation and Science – $11,699,107

Attorney-General’s Department – $10,529,212


Qantas Airways – $57,616,265

Virgin Australia – $16,510,433

Etihad Airways – $11,981,092

Singapore Airlines – $11,935,776

Emirates Airlines – $9,915,816

British Airways – $4,531,307

Qatar Airways – $4,114,310

Air Niugini – $2,993,159

Cathay Pacific Airways – $2,632,748

Air New Zealand – $2,184,522

Cassini set for fiery plunge into Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft will end its 13-year mission to Saturn in mid-September by transmitting data until the final moment before it plunges into the ringed planet’s atmosphere, officials say.


Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, will make the last of 22 farewell dives between the planet’s rings and surface on September 15. The spacecraft will then burn up as it heads straight into the gas giant’s crushing atmosphere.

Cassini’s final dive will end a mission that provided groundbreaking discoveries that included seasonal changes on Saturn, the moon Titan’s resemblance to a primordial Earth, and a global ocean on the moon Enceladus with ice plumes spouting from its surface.

“The mission has been insanely, wildly, beautifully successful, and it’s coming to an end in about two weeks,” Curt Niebur, Cassini program scientist, said on a conference call with reporters from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

Cassini’s final photo as it heads into Saturn’s atmosphere will likely be of propellers, or gaps in the rings caused by moonlets, said project scientist Linda Spilker.

The spacecraft will provide near real-time data on the atmosphere until it loses contact with Earth on September 15, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

Spilker said Cassini’s latest data on the rings had shown they had a lighter mass than forecast. That suggests they are younger than expected, at about 120 million years, and thus were created after the birth of the solar system, she said.

During its final orbits between the atmosphere and the rings, Cassini also studied Saturn’s atmosphere and took measurements to determine the size of the planet’s rocky core.

Cassini has been probing Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun, and its entourage of 62 known moons since July 2004. It has provided enough data for almost 4,000 scientific papers.

NSW premier tight-lipped on Piccoli

There’s growing speculation former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli is set to quit parliament, with the premier refusing to quash the rumours.


News Corp Australia this week reported Mr Piccoli intended to leave politics by the end of the year but the Murray MP has refused to comment publicly on his future.

Gladys Berejiklian has rejected suggestions even more Nationals MPs could follow his lead and make an early departure.

“You’ll have to speak to him about (his future), I share conversations with many of my colleagues and that’s a matter for him,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“I’m not really worried about anything in that regard. We’re a strong government working day in and day out for the people of NSW.”

Mr Piccoli’s retirement would trigger a fifth by-election in NSW in 2017.

By-elections are looming for the seats of Cootamundra and Blacktown following the resignations of Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson and Labor MP John Robertson, respectively.

Gosford and Manly were also re-contested in April with Labor and the Liberals each retaining their respective seats.

As speculation about Mr Piccoli’s future grows, political opponents are beginning to circle his regional seat.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is already eyeing Cootamundra and say they’ll contest Mr Piccoli’s seat of Murray if he does indeed retire.

“This is an electorate that we have been watching very closely for some time now,” Shooters and Fishers MLC Robert Borsak said in a statement.

“Adrian Piccoli’s resignation has been a long time coming.”

Mr Piccoli was appointed an honorary professor at the UNSW School of Education in April and is tipped to take up a full-time position there.

A spokesman from Mr Piccoli’s Griffith office said news of his departure came as a surprise to staff.

“It took us unawares,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

“It’s all speculation at the moment.”

China says working with UN on North Korea response

Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke hours after the UN Security Council unanimously condemned Tuesday’s test and Japan’s UN ambassador suggested that a new sanctions declaration could come next.


Wang said China — which is Pyongyang’s only major ally — was “now working with other members of the Security Council to discuss the recent developments of the situation”.

He added that “based on the consensus of Security Council members, we are going to make a necessary response to the recent test launch of the missile”.

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But Wang did not specify whether a fresh set of sanctions was looming.

“Whether there will be new measures going forward, that should be discussed by the Security Council and consensus needs to be formed,” Wang told a news briefing.

The foreign minister said China opposes the missile launch, which he said violated the non-proliferation treaty.

He urged for a resumption of long-dormant negotiations and urged all parties to avoid actions that “may further escalate tensions”.

“A very important part of Security Council resolutions — which is also a consensus of the Security Council members — is that we should continue to stick to peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve this issue,” Wang said.

He spoke at a briefing ahead of next week’s BRICS summit hosted by China, which also includes Security Council member Russia along with Brazil, India and South Africa.

0:00 UN ambassadors react to UNSC emergency meeting on North Korea Share UN ambassadors react to UNSC emergency meeting on North Korea

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NSW water probe report delayed by a week

An interim report into alleged water rorting in the Murray Darling Basin has been delayed by one week.


The NSW government appointed the former head of the National Water Commission, Ken Matthews, to investigate the claims last month and his team has since met with almost 40 people and received more than 3000 documents.

The allegations were raised in the ABC’s Four Corners program and included claims a senior official helped irrigators undermine the Murray Darling Basin Plan and whether a major investigation into water management breaches was stymied.

An interim report was due by the end of August but on Wednesday Mr Matthews said both he and the government had agreed on an extension.

The additional time would be used to review the final draft and make sure none of the findings could interfere with subsequent investigations or prejudice legal processes.

“These final checks will allow for the interim report to be released publicly,” Mr Matthews said in a statement.

Department of Industry secretary Simon Smith admitted the delay would cause some concerns and there was a “high level of public interest”.

“We believe it is a better outcome for the public if the extra time allows for maximum possible disclosure of the findings of the investigation,” Mr Smith said.

But the NSW opposition is sceptical of the delay, noting the report will now be released after budget estimates have wrapped up.

Labor water spokesman Chris Minns wants Water Minister Niall Blair to make himself available for a second round of questioning.

“It’s highly convenient for the minister to appear at estimates on Friday and be able to avoid being questioned on industrial-level water theft,” he said in a statement.

Along with Mr Matthews’ probe, the allegations of water theft have been referred to the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Federal Auditor-General Grant Hehir has also expanded his inquiry to include how the federal Department of Agriculture monitors the performance of NSW under a national Murray Darling agreement.

Young girl survives Tasmanian shooting

A fight outside a Woolworths supermarket between two women ended with an 11-year-old girl being shot in the face in a suburban Tasmanian street and a man facing charges.


Phoenix Newitt was shot while sitting in a car with her mother, uncle and four-year-old cousin on Tuesday evening outside a house in Deloraine, near Launceston.

A 25-year-old man appeared in court on Wednesday afternoon on charges of grievous bodily harm and recklessly discharging a firearm.

Police say Phoenix’s mother and the alleged shooter’s girlfriend were involved in a scuffle at the Woolworths in the hours before the shooting.

“It initially started as a verbal dispute and became physical,” Detective Inspector John King said.

“One lady has received a bite mark and the other has received a cut to her head.”

Phoenix and the three others in the car travelled to Stagg Court where the alleged shooter lives.

Inspector King said the alleged shooter then got in a verbal argument with Phoenix’s uncle.

He fired a rifle at the car from about 50 metres away.

The shot hit the car’s passenger door before ricocheting into Phoenix who was sitting in the back seat.

Fragments lodged in her neck and head and travelled to her heart through her bloodstream.

Family members rushed her to a nearby medical centre before she was taken to Launceston Hospital and then flown to Melbourne for emergency surgery.

Her condition improved to stable on Wednesday morning and her mother is understood to be by her side at The Royal Children’s Hospital.

“It certainly didn’t look good to start with but it’s very, very pleasing to hear that her condition is improving,” Inspector King said.

Investigators are yet to find the gun, believed to a small-calibre rifle.

Phoenix’s uncle, who was in the car at the time, told the ABC the family is shaken.

“She’s a beautiful little girl,” Zack Newitt said.

“She is just one of those kids that everyone loves.”

Neighbours have told The Advocate newspaper they heard a “heap of yelling” before a swarm of police arrived.

Investigators are reviewing CCTV footage from Woolworths and are urging anyone with information to come forward.

The alleged shooter is expected to re-appear in Launceston Magistrates Court on Friday.