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Powerful earthquake jolts Mexico, sways buildings in capital

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Associated Press
Wed, 2017-09-20 01:00
ID: 
1505847927484441700

MEXICO CITY: A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing some buildings, cracking the facades of others and scattering rubble on streets on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake.
The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. Mexican media broadcast images of several collapsed buildings in heavily populated parts of the city.
The US Geological Survey calculated its magnitude at 7.1 and said it was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.
Puebla Gov. Tony Galil tweeted that there had been damaged buildings in the city of Cholula including collapsed church steeples.
In Mexico City, thousands of people fled office buildings and hugged to calm each other along the central Reforma Avenue as alarms blared, and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument.
In the Roma neighborhood, which was struck hard by the 1985 quake, piles of stucco and brick fallen from building facades littered the streets. At least one large parking structure collapsed. Two men calmed a woman seated on a stool in the street, blood trickling form a small wound on her knee.
At a nearby market, a worker in a hardhat walked around the outside warning people not to smoke as a smell of gas filled the air.
Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.
Pictures fell from office building walls, objects were shaken off of flat surfaces and computer monitors toppled over. Some people dove for cover under desks. Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city’s normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.
Earlier in the day workplaces across the city held preparation drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.1 shake, which killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of Mexico City.
Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil is known to amplify the effects of earthquakes even hundreds of miles away.

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Japan’s Abe to pledge something for all generations in snap election-source

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-09-19 08:13
ID: 
1505807854451040100

TOKYO: Pledges to spend on education and child care, stay tough on North Korea and revise the pacifist constitution are likely to be pillars of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign in a snap election next month, government sources said on Tuesday.
Abe is considering calling the lower house poll when the legislature convenes on Sept. 28 to take advantage of his improved ratings and disarray in the opposition, ruling party and government sources have said.
The prime minister, whose ratings have recovered from below 30 percent in July, is betting his ruling bloc can at a minimum retain a simple majority in the chamber and at best keep the two-thirds super-majority needed to achieve his long-held goal of revising the constitution to clarify the military’s role.
Abe wants to go ahead with a planned rise in the nation’s sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent and use some of the revenue to create a “social security system for all generations,” which would invest in education while decreasing the proportion of sales tax revenue used to pay down government debt, the sources said.
Japan’s social welfare system is weighted toward spending on the elderly, with people aged 65 and over accounting for a whopping 27.7 percent of the population according to the latest government data.
“You can promise anything you want — make a nod toward a more equitable society, empowering women, work-life balance, welfare for all generations,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.
“He’s got a strategy that is going to win.”
Using less tax revenue to pay down debt, however, would make it more difficult to achieve the government’s target of returning to a primary budget surplus in fiscal 2020, which could in turn raise concerns about less rigid fiscal discipline.
“We have to maintain fiscal discipline, regardless,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters when asked about the reports.
Abe has told reporters he will make a decision on the snap election after he returns from the United States on Sept. 22.
Japan’s opposition Democratic Party is struggling with single-digit support and a succession of defections. And while the nascent “Japan First” party, which boasts ties to popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, could be a viable challenger to Abe’s government, it has yet to draft a platform, pick candidates or formally register as a party.
That means Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, the Komeito, have a shot at retaining their two-thirds majority in the lower house, political analysts said.
However, some analysts believe Abe’s electoral base could be undermined by voter distaste over suspected cronyism scandals and concerns about a political vacuum forming amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
“I don’t dismiss the possibility of the voters giving Abe a nasty surprise,” said Gerry Curtis, professor emeritus at Columbia University in New York.

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China, Russia urge end to North Korea vicious cycle

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Agence France Presse
Tue, 2017-09-19 07:42
ID: 
1505806204240984300

NEW YORK: The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers called for a peaceful end to the “vicious cycle” on the Korean peninsula as they met in New York for the UN General Assembly, Beijing said Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov urged all parties to seek a “peaceful resolution” to the current stand-off with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“The Korean Peninsula nuclear problem must be solved through peaceful means,” it quoted Wang as saying, adding that “the current deepening vicious cycle must be broken.”
“Restoring peace talks is also a necessary step to carrying out the UN Security Council’s resolution,” he said.
Lavrov said Russia’s position on the issue is “completely identical” to China’s, the statement said.
Russia has joined China’s call for a “dual-track” approach in which North Korea suspends its weapons program in return for the United States halting military drills in the region.
The White House said earlier that US President Donald Trump had spoken with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over the phone, saying the two leaders were “committed to maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
Trump is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly but Xi — who has a major Communist Party congress next month that will cement his leadership for the next five years — is not attending the event.
The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.
Regional tensions have soared this month as North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan.
Trump has not ruled out a military option for dealing with Pyongyang.
The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a show of force.
Separately, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise east of the Korean peninsula.

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Greeks brace for more Merkel, and potential sway of liberal allies

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Agence France Presse
Tue, 2017-09-19 07:24
ID: 
1505805834830950800

ATHENS: Germany’s bone-hard stance on Europe’s response to dealing with Greece’s debt mountain has hardly endeared it to a nation laboring under the effects of austerity that multiple bailouts have engendered.
Yet, while Germany’s role in trying to force Athens back onto the financial straight and narrow has sparked resentment — with Berlin cast in the villain’s role for demanding fiscal rectitude — most Greeks appear unfazed at Angela Merkel’s expected re-election next week.
Headed seemingly inexorably toward a fourth term, Merkel was present at the creation of all three of Greece’s bailout packages and is an old hand when it comes to the economic turmoil battering Athens while her priorities on economy and migration are well known.
Even so, some Greek observers worry a new coalition, potentially including liberals who oppose a European Monetary Fund to make emergency loans and who have suggested it might be best for Greece to leave the eurozone, could throw up fresh concerns for Athens.
After initially butting heads with leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in his first formative months in power in 2015, Merkel, the dour chancellor known as “Mutti” (mummy) has built a rapport of sorts with the young ex-student rebel.
To the consternation of German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Tsipras has often appealed to Merkel directly when talks on Greece’s tough reforms stall.
“(He) insists on calling Merkel all the time,” Schaeuble said in June.
Athens is grateful to Merkel for helping to craft the EU-Turkey agreement that has kept Greece from being overwhelmed with thousands of additional refugees and migrants, after a huge influx in 2015.
She personally reached out to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to craft the pact, and stood out among European leaders by offering to take in thousands of refugees.
But Dimitris Papadimoulis, Greece’s European Parliament vice president, notes “it’s not a question of (personal) chemistry.”
“The Greek government seeks to change the economic mix and promote fair growth, whereas the German leadership, as we have known under Merkel, aims to maintain a ‘German’ Europe,” the veteran politician, a senior member of Tsipras’ Syriza party, told AFP.
Tackling migration “takes a collective response, it’s not just about Germany,” Papadimoulis said.
“The problem remains the lack of solidarity to entry states such as Greece and Italy, the non-implementation of the relocation program in full, and problematic behavior by states such as Poland and Hungary.”
For informed observers in Athens, the makeup of the next German government is key to its future stance on Greece.
Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc holds a solid poll lead, but looks set to miss an absolute majority that would allow it to rule alone.
“I am concerned about the election,” a senior Greek government source said this week.
“If a CDU-FDP coalition emerges, it will not be the best thing for Greece,” he said.
The last time Merkel was in a coalition with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), its then leader Philipp Roesler — economy minister at the time — was a notorious hawk on Greece and its troubled reform efforts.
Roesler made headlines in 2012 after asserting that for him personally, the idea of a Greek eurozone exit “lost its horror a long time ago.”
Current FDP leader Christian Lindner maintains a tougher stance than Merkel on migration and has called for Greece to temporarily leave the euro.
“Germany’s approach on the Greek economy is not going to change…(it) has grown tired of the Greek issue,” Yiorgos Tzogopoulos, a researcher at the Eliamep foreign policy think tank, told news portal in.gr.
One area where Germany may back down is in giving European authorities extra powers to manage future bailouts — one of which Greece may well need when its current rescue program expires in August 2018.
In April, Schaeuble said future aid programs for eurozone countries should be under EU auspices.
This is consistent with Tsipras’ desire to keep out the International Monetary Fund, seen in Athens as the instigator of the toughest reforms demanded by its international creditors over the past eight years.
However, the emerging concord between Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron on promoting a multi-speed EU could be a “trap” for Greece, Tzogopoulos said.
“Greece may well become a laggard in various sectors of a new European (reality),” he said.
A shift in German policy toward Greece might not even be in the latter’s favor, says 36-year-old software programmer Stamatis Rapanakis.
“Greeks like fairy tales. A (Social Democratic) administration would tempt Greek politicians to seek a new round of talks. And this would delay reforms,” he said.

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New hurdles as Republicans rush to reverse Obama health law

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Agence France Presse
Tue, 2017-09-19 07:17
ID: 
1505805561570930600

WASHINGTON: After falling one vote short this summer, US Republicans have revived efforts to overhaul Barack Obama’s landmark health care bill, but skepticism Monday by some in President Donald Trump’s party has imperiled the plan.
Momentum for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act — a primary Trump pledge as a candidate — swelled in the past week, after a group of Republican senators unveiled a bill that would effectively replace Obamacare with block grants to the US states.
Senators returned to Washington with Republicans hoping to ram the bill through in the next 12 days, before a change in procedural rules that currently allow a health care overhaul to pass with a simple 51-vote majority in the 100-member chamber.
But if the bill were to move forward before September 30, it would have to do so without a comprehensive review by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“That’s problematic,” moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins told reporters.
“I’m concerned about what the effect would be on coverage, on Medicaid spending in my state, on the fundamental changes in Medicaid that would be made without the Senate holding a single hearing to evaluate them.”
Collins is one of the three Republicans who voted against the previous Obamacare repeal effort, which dramatically collapsed July 28 when Senator John McCain gave his thumbs down on the plan.
In recent days, the senator from Arizona said he would rely on his state’s governor for guidance on whether the new plan, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill, was viable.
As Arizona Governor Doug Ducey endorsed the new plan, its co-author Senator Lindsey Graham insisted the effort was “gaining the momentum we need to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
But McCain’s hesitation was clear. He expressed frustration with the lack of public hearings or a CBO score of the legislation.
“I am going to continue to look at this as the process goes on,” McCain told reporters. “But I want regular order.”
The bill’s supporters might be eager to avoid a CBO score. In July, the non-partisan body projected that the ranks of the uninsured would grow by 16 million Americans, and premiums would rise 20 percent annually, over the next decade if the previous Obamacare repeal bill became law.
An earlier repeal effort would have led to 32 million fewer insured.
Senator Ron Johnson, one of the bill’s sponsors, called Graham-Cassidy a “work in process.”
But Democrats insisted the latest bid was worse than previous versions, “a red siren moment” for the nation.
“Trumpcare’s back, and it’s meaner than ever,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned.
“If this bill becomes law, our health care system will be dramatically curtailed, and there will be chaos in many states.”
The bill, Schumer noted, allows states to permit insurers to roll back protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Money to states would decline over time, eventually disappearing unless Congress appropriated new funding.
And “the new Trumpcare would plunge a dagger deep into the heart of Medicaid,” the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled, by halting its expansion and establishing a per-capita cap on Medicaid spending, Schumer said.
Meanwhile, as Collins and McCain equivocated, conservative Republican Senator Rand Paul was a firm no, largely because Graham-Cassidy maintains nearly all Obamacare taxes and regulations.
“This does not look, smell or even sound like repeal,” Paul told reporters, anticipating years of health care marketplace chaos should the bill become law.
“I don’t think anybody’s realized the enormity of this,” he added. “It keeps 90 percent of Obamacare and redistributes the proceeds” to states to use as they see fit.
With Paul and all 48 senators in the Democratic caucus opposed, Republicans could afford just one more no vote.
Beyond McCain and Collins, eyes were on Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski, who voted no on the July effort, and Ohio’s Rob Portman, who voted for the previous bill but has denounced bids to curtail Medicaid expansion.
Democrats have expressed support for a bipartisan effort aimed at stabilizing Obamacare’s insurance exchanges so that millions of Americans could maintain their coverage.

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More than 40 million people trapped in slavery: new global estimate

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-09-19 07:01
ID: 
1505805265290910700

NEW YORK: About 40 million people were trapped as slaves last year in forced labor and forced marriages, according to the first joint effort by key anti-slavery groups to estimate the number of global victims of the escalating crime.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), human rights group Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration said about 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016 — but added this was a conservative estimate.
They estimated 24.9 million people were trapped working in the sex trade, in factories, on construction sites, farms and fishing boats, and as domestic workers, while 15.4 million people were in marriages to which they had not consented.
Almost three out of every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and Pacific, the report said.

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World leaders anxious to hear Trump as UN assembly kicks off

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Agence France Presse
Tue, 2017-09-19 09:27
ID: 
1505802735240864300

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES: World leaders open their annual debate at the United Nations on Tuesday, eager to hear US President Donald Trump deliver his maiden address amid global anxiety over North Korea and Iran.
Trump takes the podium at the General Assembly just after Brazil’s Michel Temer, presenting his message to the world as he pushes his nationalist “America First” agenda.
At a first UN appearance on Monday, Trump vowed to push for reform at the world body that he once disparaged as a “club” where “people get together, talk and have a good time.”
On Tuesday, the US leader will outline his foreign policy priorities, from confronting North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests to deciding the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.
A top White House aide said Trump will take aim at “rogue regimes that threaten world stability and peace,” singling out Pyongyang and Tehran during his 30-minute remarks and urging responsible nations to step in to curb their behavior.
Trump will argue nation states should be free to pursue their interests unfettered — a contentious message for delegates to the world’s foremost multilateral forum.
French President Emmanuel Macron, seen as the face of a more confident post-Brexit Europe, will also be making his first address to the 193-nation assembly.
His speech will likely offer a sharp contrast to Trump’s world view.
The French leader has embraced multilateralism and even went so far as to turn Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan into a motto in favor of climate protections: “Make the Planet Great Again.”
France is pushing Trump to reverse his June decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and stick with a deal seen as the UN’s best achievement in years.
Seeking to shore up the climate deal, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be joined by Macron for a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly later Tuesday that the United States has decided to boycott, unsurprisingly.
At the UN podium, Macron is expected to defend the landmark nuclear deal with Iran amid fears that a US pullout would deal a blow to decades of global non-proliferation efforts.
A counterview on Iran is likely to come from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who on Monday described the nuclear deal as “terrible” as he went into talks with Trump.
Netanyahu’s address comes a day before Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani will address the assembly.
Russia and China, whose foreign ministers will speak later in the week, are getting ready to challenge Trump on North Korea after warning that military action on the peninsula would be catastrophic.
Both countries are firm supporters of the Iran nuclear deal.
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan will take his turn at the rostrum as the war in Syria rages on and Kurds in neighboring Iraq are pressing for independence, a move that could have ripple effects among Turkish Kurds.
Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are likely to be key themes during Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s remarks.
From Africa, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will address the world body, as will Gambia’s new leader Adama Barrow and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma.
Taking a break from the marathon of speeches, world leaders will attend a luncheon hosted by Guterres at the United Nations, with Japanese Wagyu beef, Yukon gold potatoes and chocolate mousse on the menu.
Trump will be seated next to Japan’s Shinzo Abe, who is expected to share his concerns about North Korea during his address on Wednesday.

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Suu Kyi appeals to global community over Rohingya crisis

September 19, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Tue, 2017-09-19 07:28
ID: 
1505797735530760700

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi reached out to the global community Tuesday in a broad appeal for support over a refugee crisis the UN has decried as “ethnic cleansing,” urging outsiders to help her nation unite across religious and ethnic lines and offering a pathway back to the country for some of the Rohingya Muslims forced to flee by army operations.
Communal violence has torn through Rakhine state since August 25, leaving hundreds dead and driving more than 410,000 of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar into Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has been decried for failing to speak up publicly for the stateless Rohingya or urge restraint from the military.
But in 30-minute televised speech Tuesday she reached out to her critics, deploying the soaring rhetoric that once made her a darling of the global rights community.
“Hate and fear are the main scourges of our world,” she said.
“We don’t want Myanmar to be a nation divided by religious beliefs or ethnicity… we all have the right to our diverse identities.”
While expressing her sorrow for “all” groups displaced by violence, she said her country stood ready “at any time” to take back refugees subject to a “verification” process.
It was not immediately clear how many of the estimated 410,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar would qualify to return.
But the subject of their claims to live Myanmar is at the heart of a toxic debate about the Muslim group.
Myanmar’s army has previously it will not take back people linked with “terrorists” — suggesting many came from the hundreds of Rohingya villages that have subsequently been burnt to the ground.
Inside Myanmar, supporters say the 72-year-old lacks the power to rein in the army, with whom she is in a delicate power-sharing arrangement.
The UN has accused Myanmar’s army of “ethnic cleansing” over a campaign of alleged murder and arson that has left scores of Rohingya villages in ashes.
The army denies that, insisting its operations are a proportional response to the late August raids by Rohingya militants, who they label “extremist Bengali terrorists.”
Since then just under half of Rakhine’s Rohingya population has poured into Bangladesh, where they now languish in one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
A further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also been displaced — apparent targets of the August 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group.
Suu Kyi skipped this week’s UN General Assembly in New York to manage the crisis at home and deliver her televised address — the biggest yet of her time in office.

Analysts say Suu Kyi must walk a treacherous line between global opinion and Islamophobic anti-Rohingya views at home, where the military has curdled hatred for the Muslim minority.
While stories of weary and hungry Rohingya civilians streaming into Bangladesh have dominated global headlines, there is little sympathy for the Muslim group among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.
Many reject the existence of a Rohingya ethnicity and insist they are “Bengalis” — illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
That narrative has justified the denial of citizenship for the estimated one million Rohingya who lived in Rakhine before the recent crisis.
Loathing for the Rohingya has brought the public, including prominent pro-democracy activists, into an unlikely alignment with an army that once had them under its heel.
A siege mentality has emerged in Myanmar with the UN, international NGOs and foreign media the focus of ire for apparent pro-Rohingya bias.
Many Facebook users changed their profile picture on Tuesday to carry a banner with a photo of ‘The Lady’ and saying “We stand with you Daw Aung San Suu Kyi” — using an honorific.
Tensions over the status of the Rohingya have been brewing for years in Myanmar, with bouts of anti-Muslim violence erupting around the country as Buddhist hard-liners fan fears of an Islamic takeover.
Although the military stepped down from outright junta rule in 2011, it kept control of security policy and key levers of government.
Any overt break from the army’s policy in Rakhine could enrage the generals and derail Suu Kyi’s efforts to prevent a rollback on recent democratic gains.
Observers say the military may be deliberately destabilising her government with one eye on 2020 elections.
Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has emerged during the crisis as an unexpectedly popular figure, pitching himself as a defender Myanmar’s territorial integrity and the Buddhist faith.

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related_nodes: 
Fleeing Rohingya Muslims watch as homes burn in Myanmar
Myanmar urges Rohingya Muslims to help hunt insurgents amid deadly violence
Turkey urges global action on Rohingya Muslims

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Austrian court sentences man who urged gassing of migrants

September 18, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Associated Press
Mon, 2017-09-18 23:00
ID: 
1505754238326165600

VIENNA: An Austrian court has found a man guilty of violating the country’s anti-Nazi laws and sentenced him to a 14-month suspended prison term after he posted a call for the reopening of a Hitler-era concentration camp and the gassing of migrants there.
The man acknowledged that during a discussion of the migrant situation he had posted on a social media platform: “If possible, open Mauthausen again and let the gas in.”
He said during the trial that ended Monday that he acted under the influence of alcohol and did not mean to spread Nazi propaganda.
The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt also imposed a 1,200-euro ($1,434) fine. The man is not being identified in keeping with Austrian confidentiality laws.

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3 suicide bombers kill 12 in Nigeria, emergency agency says

September 18, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Ahmed Kingimi and Lanre Ola | Reuters
Mon, 2017-09-18 23:37
ID: 
1505752630866006100

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Suspected suicide bombers killed at least 12 people and injured 26 others on Monday in northeast Nigeria’s state of Borno, epicenter of the Islamist militant Boko Haram insurgency, the chairman of the local emergency agency said.
The attacks are the latest in a series of bombings in the restive northeast that have killed at least 200 people since June 1, according to a Reuters tally.
“Three suicide bomber infiltrated a settlement called Mashimari, in Konduga Local Government,” said Ahmed Satomi, chairman of Borno’s State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). The area is around 35 kilometers southeast of the state capital, Maiduguri.
Another SEMA official said the suicide bombers joined a gathering of farmers in Mashimari before detonating their devices around 11:45 a.m. (1045 GMT) as they mingled with the group.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the use of suicide bombers is a hallmark of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which is trying to create an Islamic state in the Lake Chad region that includes northeast Nigeria, has killed more than 20,000 people and caused over two million to flee their homes since 2009.

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