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Officials: Plane carrying Musharraf’s body lands in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A special plane transporting the body of Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Karachi on Monday amid tight security, immigration officials said.

Family members were also on board when the plane landed at the airport in the city where he will be buried Tuesday. Musharraf, who died at age 79, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 by ousting the elected government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Musharraf died in Dubai on Sunday after a prolonged illness.

During his tenure as president, Musharraf made Pakistan a key ally of Washington in the war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. That angered militants who at least twice tried to assassinate him in the city of Rawalpindi in 2003, but he escaped unhurt.

Musharraf was forced to resign in 2008 by the party of former president Asif Ali Zardari when his allies lost parliamentary elections. Pakistan later allowed him to leave the country on bail to travel to Dubai in 2016 for medical treatment. He remained there after being sentenced to death for treason.

Pakistan last year said Musharraf would not be arrested if his family wanted to bring him back home. But Musharraf’s doctors and his family said his treatment was not available in Pakistan.

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Survivors scream as desperate rescuers work in Turkey, Syria

ADANA, Turkey (AP) — Rescue workers and civilians passed chunks of concrete and household goods across mountains of rubble Monday, moving tons of wreckage by hand in a desperate search for survivors trapped by a devastating earthquake.

Can anyone hear me?” rescuers shouted as they searched in the province of Kahramanmaras, the epicenter. In some places around southeast Turkey, survivors could be heard screaming from beneath collapsed buildings.

Many people crouched to look below a massive sheet of concrete propped at an angle by steel bars. They crawled in and out, trying to reach survivors. Excavating equipment dug through the rubble below.

Rescue efforts unfolded as darkness, rain and cold enveloped the region of Turkey and Syria devastated by a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and another major one that hit hours later. At least 3,400 people were killed and civilians joined rescuers in desperate efforts across Turkey and Syria.

Elsewhere in Kahramanmaras province, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble. One lay on a stretcher on the snowy ground. Rescuers quieted the throngs of people trying to help so they could hear survivors and find them.

In Adana, about 20 people, some in emergency rescue jackets, used power saws atop the concrete mountain of a collapsed building to carve out space that would let any survivors climb out or be rescued. Later, excavators joined the efforts as bright spotlights illuminated the wreckage.

Thousands of search-and-rescue personnel, firefighters and medics were working across 10 provinces, along with some 3,500 soldiers. Residents lifted rubble and unearthed people heard screaming from beneath buildings. Aftershocks made rescue efforts more dangerous.

Turkish military ambulance planes were transporting the injured to Istanbul and Ankara hospitals, the defense ministry said. Rescuers from across Turkey tried to make it to the provinces amid heavy snow and rain. But many in Hatay said they didn’t have sufficient help and were worried about the miles of wreckage and those trapped within it.

Four ministers held a news conference in Hatay late Monday explaining their action plans for the province. They said that because Hatay’s airport had been severely damaged, they had to fly into Adana nearly three hours away.

In Syria, a man held a dead girl in his arms beside a two-story collapsed concrete building as he walked away from the debris. He and a woman set the girl on the floor under covering to protect her from the rain, wrapping her in a large blanket and looking back to the building, overwhelmed.

An official with Turkey’s disaster management authority said 7,840 people had been rescued across 10 provinces. The official, Orhan Tatar, said 5,606 buildings had collapsed.

Tatar said the total area affected was large and places were hard to reach, but that as of late Monday, teams had been directed to all collapsed buildings.


Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Chicago contributed.

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The Media Line: Devastating Human Toll as Earthquake Hits Turkey and Syria (VIDEO)

Devastating Human Toll as Earthquake Hits Turkey and Syria

Deaths continue to climb and thousands of wounded seek care after one of strongest earthquakes in history and its continuing aftershocks. International community rushes to help.

By Mohammad Al-Kassim/The Media Line 

A massive 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria at dawn Monday, killing more than 2,300 people as they slept, flattening buildings and causing tremors felt throughout the region.

The US Geological Survey says the temblor, a magnitude 7.8, occurred at 4:17 a.m. local time at a depth of 17.9 kilometers near the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep.

The official death toll from the most powerful earthquake in nearly a century in Turkey is expected to climb higher as rescue efforts continue.

In Syria, a country already destroyed by more than 11 years of civil war, the Health Ministry said at least 850 people had been killed and thousands injured in the cities of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

Rescue teams in both countries are still trying to rescue those trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The head of Syria’s National Earthquake Center, Raed Ahmed, called it “the biggest earthquake recorded in the history of the century.”

A second earthquake was recorded in southern Turkey on Monday afternoon, with a magnitude of 7.5.

In Turkey, the death toll stood at least 1,541 people in the late afternoon, the head of its disaster agency said.






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Haiti appoints council amid push to hold general elections

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s prime minister on Monday formally appointed a transition council charged with ensuring that long-awaited general elections are held in a country with no democratically elected institutions.

While many doubt the creation of the council will help the government hold elections this year as envisioned, Prime Minister Ariel Henry said it was a significant step toward that goal.

“It is the beginning of the end of the dysfunction of our democratic institutions,” he said.

Haiti has failed to hold elections since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Henry assumed power shortly after Moïse’s death, and promised that his administration would do so.

In early January, the terms of the remaining 10 senators expired, leaving no elected officials in place for a country of more than 11 million people.

Henry called on all Haitians to unite and fight for change as the country continues to spiral, with poverty and hunger deepening and violence spiking. The prime minister also thanked the council’s three members for agreeing to join the government in the “noble and thankless task of serving our country in these difficult times.”

The council’s three members are Calixte Fleuridor with Haiti’s Protestant Federation, who will represent civil society; Mirlande Manigat, a law professor and former first lady and presidential candidate who will represent political parties; and Laurent Saint-Cyr, president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, who will represent the private sector.

The council also will be responsible for working with government officials to reform Haiti’s constitution, implement economic reforms and reduce violence as gangs continue to grow more powerful since the presidential assassination, leading to a rise in killings, kidnappings and rapes.

The High Transition Council, as it’s known, also will choose the members of a provisional electoral council that needs to be in place before election planning begins.

Henry stressed that elections can’t be held until Haiti becomes safer: “It would not be acceptable for the state to ask politicians to campaign if the state cannot guarantee their security,” he said.

He noted that the new council also supports his call for the deployment of foreign troops to help quell violence in Haiti, a request he made in October that remains unheeded by the U.N. Security Council.

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Powerful quake rocks Turkey and Syria, kills more than 2,800

ADANA, Turkey (AP) — A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and neighboring Syria on Monday, killing more than 2,800 people and injuring thousands more as it toppled thousands of buildings and trapped residents under mounds of rubble.

Authorities feared the death toll would keep climbing as rescuers searched through tangles of metal and concrete for survivors in a region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and a refugee crisis.

Residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside in the rain and snow to escape falling debris, while those who were trapped cried for help. Throughout the day, major aftershocks rattled the region, including a jolt nearly as strong as the initial quake. After night fell, workers were still sawing away slabs and pulling out bodies as desperate families waited for news on trapped loved ones.

“My grandson is 1 1/2 years old. Please help them, please. We can’t hear them or get any news from them since morning. Please, they were on the 12th floor,” Imran Bahur wept by her destroyed apartment building in the Turkish city of Adana. Her daughter and family were still not found.

Tens of thousands who were left homeless in Turkey and Syria faced a night in the cold. In Turkey’s Gaziantep, a provincial capital about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from the epicenter, people took refuge in shopping malls, stadiums and community centers. Mosques around the region were opened to provide shelter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared seven days of national mourning.

The quake, which was centered on Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.

The quake piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the area is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.

In the rebel-held enclave, hundreds of families remained trapped in rubble, the opposition emergency organization, called the White Helmets said in a statement. The area is packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of the country by the war. Many of them live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments.

Strained health facilities quickly filled with injured, rescue workers said. Others had to be emptied, including a maternity hospital, according to the SAMS medical organization.

More than 6,400 people were rescued across 10 provinces, according to Orhan Tatar, an official with Turkey’s disaster management authority.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkey in 1999.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles). Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude temblor struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

The second jolt in the afternoon caused a multistory apartment building to topple face-forward onto the street in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa. The structure disintegrated into rubble and raised a cloud of dust as bystanders screamed, according to video of the scene.

Thousands of buildings were reported collapsed in a wide area extending from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers (200 miles) to the northeast.

In Turkey alone, more than 5,600 buildings were destroyed, authorities said. Hospitals were damaged, and one collapsed in the Turkish city of Iskenderun.

Bitterly cold temperatures could reduce the time frame that rescuers have to save trapped survivors, said Dr. Steven Godby, an expert in natural hazards at Nottingham Trent University. The difficulty of working in areas beset by civil war would further complicate rescue efforts, he said.

Offers of help — from search-and-rescue teams to medical supplies and money — poured in from dozens of countries, as well as the European Union and NATO. The vast majority were for Turkey, with Russian and even an Israeli promise of help to the Syrian government, but it was not clear if any would go to the devastated rebel-held pocket in the northwest.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the enclave as “disastrous.”

The opposition-held area, centered on the province of Idlib, has been under siege for years, with frequent Russian and government airstrikes. The territory depends on a flow of aid from nearby Turkey for everything from food to medical supplies.

At a hospital in Idlib, Osama Abdel Hamid said most of his neighbors died. He said their shared four-story building collapsed just as he, his wife and three children ran toward the exit. A wooden door fell on them and acted as a shield.

“God gave me a new lease on life,” he said.

In the small Syrian rebel-held town of Azmarin in the mountains by the Turkish border, the bodies of several dead children, wrapped in blankets, were brought to a hospital.

Television stations in Turkey aired screens split into four or five, showing live coverage from rescue efforts in the worst-hit provinces.

In the city of Kahramanmaras, rescuers pulled two children alive from the rubble, and one could be seen lying on a stretcher on the snowy ground. Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said a woman was pulled out alive in Gaziantep after a rescue dog detected her.

In Adana, 20 or so people, some in emergency rescue jackets, used power saws atop the cement mountain of a collapsed building to saw out space for any survivors to climb out or be rescued.

“I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble of another building in Adana earlier in the day, as rescue workers tried to reach him, said a resident, journalism student Muhammet Fatih Yavuz.

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of rescue workers and civilians formed lines across a mountain of wreckage, passing down broken concrete pieces, household belongings and other debris as they searched for trapped survivors while excavators dug through the rubble below.

At least 1,762 people were killed in 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 12,000 injured, according to Turkish authorities. The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 593 people, with some 1,400 injured, according to the Health Ministry. In the country’s rebel-held northwest, groups that operate there said the death toll was at least 450, with many hundreds injured.

Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province, said several of his family members were stuck under the rubble of their collapsed homes.

“There are so many other people who are also trapped,” he told HaberTurk television by phone. “There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.”

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Lubomir Strougal, Czechoslovak communist leader, dies at 98

PRAGUE (AP) — Lubomir Strougal, a Czechoslovak communist-era leader who served as prime minister for a record length of more than 18 years has died. He was 98.

His death was confirmed to media by former Communist Party lawmaker Jiri Dolejs on Monday. No details were given.

Strougal was appointed prime minister in 1970, when the country was ruled by a hard-line communist regime established following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Warsaw Pact troops invaded in August 1968 to crush political reforms and anti-communist protests during the era known as the Prague Spring.

Strougal initially opposed the invasion but later joined the hard-liners.

After Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced a reform program known as ″perestroika,″ or restructuring, Strougal was considered a pragmatic reformer.

But the hard-liners led by Milous Jakes prevailed, with Strougal resigning from his post in 1988 — a year before the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel ended more than 41 years of communist rule.

Legal attempts after 1989 failed to hold Strougal responsible for the communist-era persecution and the deaths of people killed at Czechoslovakia’s borders while trying to flee for the West.

Born Oct 19, 1924 in Veseli nad Luznici, Strougal was a member of the Communist Party’s leadership for three decades and also served as agriculture minister and interior minister before becoming prime minister.

He retired from politics in 1989 and was expelled from the party a year later.

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EU Parliament planning for possible Zelenksyy visit in days

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s legislature was preparing plans Monday to host Volodymyr Zelenskyy should the Ukraine president decide to come to Brussels to attend an EU summit later this week.

Two sources in the parliament, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said such plans are only meant to prepare the legislature to host Zelenskyy if security conditions permit him to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“When he would come, we would be ready,” said one of the sources, stressing that because of security concerns any decision could only come at the last moment.

EU leaders from 27-nation bloc will be gathering for Thursday’s summit in Brussels, enabling Zelenskyy to meet all major leaders of the bloc in one day. Zelenskyy has often addressed EU summits only through video calls from Ukraine.

Zelenskyy has long had an open invitation to come to Brussels if he chose to.

It remains unclear whether Zelenskyy would be able to travel as Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region amid concern that of a new Russian offensive could be in the offing.

EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Kyiv last Friday where they told Zelenskyy he had the bloc’s unrelenting support in Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

The only trip outside Ukraine that Zelenskyy has made was a visit to Washington in December to seek further aid for the war and to thank Ukraine’s major financial and military back for its support.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Mali orders UN human rights official to leave the country

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s government has ordered the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s human rights chief to leave the country by Tuesday, declaring him persona non grata in the latest sign of tensions between Mali’s leaders and the international community.

A government statement Sunday criticized Guillaume Ngefa-Atondoko Andali for choosing someone who represented Malian civil society at a U.N. Security Council briefing. The communique accused the human rights director of “destabilizing and subversive actions.”

The U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINUSMA said in a statement Monday that it “deeply regrets this decision.”

“MINUSMA reaffirms its commitment to continue to work impartially to implement its mandate to promote and protect human rights, which is an important component of Mali’s stabilization efforts,” the statement said.

Mali’s government has taken issue in particular with the choice of Aminata Dicko to appear at the U.N. hearing late last month. Dicko, the vice president of a human rights NGO called Kisal, denounced alleged killings by the Malian army and the shadowy Russian military contractor the Wagner Group.

Andali’s expulsion announced Sunday comes as Mali’s government faces growing questions about its human rights record and its relationship with the Wagner mercenaries.

Last week independent human rights experts working with the U.N. called for an investigation of possible abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by Mali’s government forces and Wagner mercenaries.

“We are particularly worried by credible reports that over the course of several days in late March 2022, Malian armed forces accompanied by military personnel believed to belong to the Wagner Group, executed several hundred people, who had been rounded up in Moura, a village in central Mali,” the experts said in a statement.

Mali has been battling an Islamic insurgency since 2012 and has seen its international partners dwindle since a 2020 military coup. Last year France withdrew its forces after nine years of helping to fight Islamic extremists in its former colony amid rising tensions with the country’s military leaders.

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Russia’s revenue falls sharply in January from year earlier

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s finance ministry said Monday that budget revenue in January was 35% lower compared with the same month in 2022, the last month before Russia sent troops into Ukraine.

The ministry also said the budget deficit for January was 1.77 trillion rubles ($23.9 billion), about 60% of the shortfall that had been planned for the entire year.

Oil and gas revenue, the backbone of Russia’s economy, was down 46% compared with January 2022.

Western countries have declared a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian crude oil as well as ceilings on refined oil products like diesel fuel and gasoline.

Russia has said it won’t sell oil to countries observing the limit, but the cap and falling demand from a slowing global economy has meant customers in China, India and elsewhere can buy Russian oil at steep discounts, cutting into the Kremlin’s revenue.

The country also has been hit with an array of Western sanctions since the start of the Ukraine conflict and many Western companies have stopped doing business in Russia.

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