Foreigners involved in deadly Philippine urban battle: Government

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the southern region of Mindanao on Tuesday, hours after gunmen loyal to the Islamic State group rampaged through Marawi city in response to a raid on one of their safe houses.


“What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters,” Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer, told reporters in the southern city of Davao.

He said Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and “other foreign jihadists” were fighting in Marawi, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines with about 200,000 residents.

Philippine military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said six foreign fighters are believed to have been killed in the Marawi fighting, including Malaysians, Indonesians and another nationality which he did not specify.

Duterte declares martial law in southern Philippines

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Calida said these foreign fighters had heeded a “clarion call” of IS to travel to Mindanao to put up a “wilayat” or IS province, if they could not go to fight in Iraq or Syria.

Padilla said 11 soldiers, two policemen and 31 militants had been confirmed killed in the fighting, which has involved the military bombing buildings where the militants have been hiding.

Two civilians were also killed inside a hospital that the gunmen had occupied on Tuesday, and the military was investigating reports that nine people had been murdered at a checkpoint the militants had set up, authorities said.

The fighting erupted on Tuesday after security forces raided a house where they believed Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the infamous Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang and Philippine head of IS, was hiding.

The United States regards Hapilon as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, offering a bounty of $5 million for his capture.

The raid went spectacularly wrong as dozens of gunmen emerged to repel the security forces, then went on a rampage across the city while flying black IS flags.

Authorities said ending the crisis was proving extremely hard because the militants were moving nimbly through homes, had planted bombs in the streets, and were holding hostages.

They said militants had also occupied higher ground in the city, enabling them to slow down or stop assaults from the security forces.


Chinese fighter jets intercept US Navy surveillance plane

Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy surveillance plane over the South China Sea earlier this week, with one coming within 180 metres of the American aircraft, US officials told Reuters.


The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed that the US P-3 Orion surveillance plane was 240 km south-east of Hong Kong in international airspace when the Chinese aircraft carried out the unsafe intercept.

One Chinese aircraft flew in front of the American plane, restricting its ability to manoeuvre.


The Pentagon confirmed that two Chinese jets had carried out the intercept on Wednesday, saying it was “unsafe and unprofessional”.

“We continue to review the facts of this incident and will convey our concerns through appropriate channels with the Chinese government,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Gary Ross said in a statement.

A US Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, US officials said on Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since President Donald Trump took office.

China is deeply suspicious of any US military activity around its coastline, especially in the resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by China and its smaller neighbours, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Incidents such as Wednesday’s interception are not uncommon.

Earlier this month, two Chinese SU-30 aircraft intercepted a US aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.


Rejection of constitutional recognition raises questions over Recognise campaign

Aboriginal Australia’s rejection of constitutional recognition in favour of an elected parliamentary advisory body and a treaty has raised serious questions over the future of the Recognise campaign.


A major rebranding may be needed for the government-sponsored marketing campaign that has received millions of dollars in funding since 2012 to build community support for the cause.

On Friday hundreds of indigenous leaders at Uluru abandoned the prospect of a symbolic statement of acknowledgement recognising Aboriginal people as the original owners of the land.


Instead they demanded fundamental constitutional reform.

Recognise, which is a part of Reconciliation Australia, says it looks forward to seeing further detail when a final report is presented to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on June 30.

“The principles that Recognise has always focused on are around recognition in the constitution and dealing with the discrimination in it,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“It is clear that the proposal for constitutional change outlined at Uluru – that is the call for an indigenous voice in the constitution – is designed to secure both recognition and provide a counter to the discriminatory elements in the constitution.”

The proposal was delivered on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking 1967 referendum that included Aboriginal Australians in the census.

1967 campaigner mentors next generation

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“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country,” the statement said.

A working group will be set up as grassroots campaigners try to bring Australian voters with them.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt and federal Labor MP Linda Burney have both said the most well-crafted proposal will mean nothing if it’s not winnable, making pragmatism an imperative.

But Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson says putting an “acknowledgement plaque” at the top of the constitution was never going to be enough.

“I don’t at all believe there’s justification to have low expectations here. There’s a groundswell and a ready constituency for support,” he told AAP.

And although only eight out of 44 Australian referendums have succeeded since 1901, Mr Pearson is confident a referendum can be won within the next year.

He believes the next stage of the process – convincing the parliament – will be the most difficult hurdle.

Hundreds march for National Sorry Day

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“I think the Australian people are the easy part, if we have the requisite political leadership who will be able to capitalise on that willingness,” Mr Pearson said.

“(And) I’ve found more substantial bright lights of support on the conservative end. I actually think it’s the sagging, timid middle that is our greatest challenge.”

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten were tight lipped on whether they would endorse a new permanent indigenous representative body and didn’t want to pre-empt the final recommendations.

“We will consider them with the greatest of respect and gravity as is appropriate to accord to them,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney.

“I have no doubt that we need to have a greater voice in decision making in this country for our First Australians, but the form of that, I’m not going to start speculating on,” Mr Shorten said in Melbourne.

Referendum Council Co-Chair Pat Anderson said although governments had ignored the demands of the Aboriginal community for decades, she’s determined to bring an end to disadvantage.

“It’s this generation’s turn to have a run at it and we’re going to run at it head first,” she said.

“Our very survival in fact depends on it. We won’t be around in another 50 years.”


Ariana Grande plans charity concert for Manchester attack victims

Pop star Ariana Grande has promised to return to Manchester to play a charity concert following a suicide attack at her show, as she urged fans to respond to the tragedy with love.


In her first substantive comments since Monday’s tragedy, the singer said she felt “uplift” by seeing fans’ compassion after the blast which killed 22 people and was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The 23-year-old, who suspended her tour and returned to her Florida home to rest, said she planned a concert as “an expression of love for Manchester.”


She said that the concert would raise money for the victims of the attack and their families. The date has not yet been set.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she said in an essay posted on her social media accounts.

“We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win,” she said.

Grande, whose fan base is dominated by girls and young women, said she had seen a “beautiful, diverse, pure, happy crowd.”

She said she viewed her concerts as places for her fans “to escape, to celebrate, to heal, to feel safe and to be themselves.”

“This will not change,” she said.

Grieving Manchester mother speaks

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‘Everyone on Earth can share’ music

Grande wrote that her concert, by bringing people from varied backgrounds into the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, showed the power of music to unite.

“Music is something that everyone on Earth can share,” she wrote.

“Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy,” she said.

In the wake of the attack, Grande had faced criticism from some commentators in Britain, notably Piers Morgan, who said she should have stayed and visited hospitalized survivors rather than return home.

Grande in her statement said she has been focused “non-stop” on the victims and that “I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

Grande canceled two weeks of concerts, including two shows in London, after the attacks. She flew home on Tuesday after releasing a brief message saying she felt “broken.”

She plans to resume her “Dangerous Woman” tour in Paris on June 7.

Despite the name of her tour and accompanying album, the former television child star turned bubblegum pop singer has rarely triggered controversy. 

She has only occasionally shared personal views, including criticizing double-standards for women in entertainment, voicing support for gay rights and advocating a vegan diet to prevent animal cruelty.

Grande is not the only artist who plans a charity gig. Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, a Manchester native, said he will perform his first-ever solo show on Tuesday to support a Red Cross-backed appeal.

Manchester Games continue despite terror attack

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Trump’s disputes shadow ‘most challenging G7 summit in years’

G7 leaders on Friday found common cause on combatting terrorism after the bloodshed in Manchester but failed to bridge a gulf between Donald Trump and US partners on trade and climate change.


On the opening day of a two-day summit, the leaders endorsed a British call urging internet service providers and social media companies to crack down on the dissemination of jihadist content online, after 22 people were killed in the concert bombing in northwest England this week.

But US partners hit deadlock in their attempt to persuade Trump to keep the world’s biggest economy inside the framework of the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions to reduce global warming.


Tensions over trade also flared. Unusually for such a set-piece event, leaders made no effort to hide their divisions in Sicily’s ancient hilltop resort of Taormina.

The choice of venue overlooking the Mediterranean reflected the Italian hosts’ desire for the summit to showcase cooperation against deadly flows of illegal migration from nearby Africa.

But discussions on that subject also hit stalemate because of differences with the US at what EU president Donald Tusk called “the most challenging G7 summit in years”.

Trump berates NATO for dodging defence dues

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Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni acknowledged there had been no breakthrough on climate change, describing the future of the Paris pact as “still hanging”, as Trump reviews the arguments for and against ditching the global deal.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s economic advisor, said the president’s views were “evolving”.

“He came here to learn,” Cohn said. “His basis for decision ultimately will be what’s best for the United States.”

‘Bad, very bad’

British Prime Minister Theresa May led the discussion on terrorism, and won backing for her demand that extremist content should be quickly taken offline by platforms like Facebook and YouTube – although details of what this will mean in practice were left vague.

“Make no mistake: the fight is moving from the battlefield to the internet,” May told her colleagues.

In a joint statement on terrorism, the G7 powers also vowed a collective effort to track down and prosecute foreign fighters dispersing from theatres of conflict such as Syria.

Transatlantic tensions on trade resurfaced after reports that Trump had described the Germans as “bad, very bad” and vowed to stop them selling millions of cars in the United States, during a meeting with senior EU officials in Brussels on Thursday.

Also in Brussels, Trump had fired an extraordinary broadside at NATO allies for failing to pay their fair share of the transatlantic defence bill, and notably did not endorse the group’s commitment to collective defence, as his predecessors have done.

Both US and EU officials confirmed the outspoken president had raised the auto trade issue but sought to play down the language used, as Trump shared friendly words with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders at the G7.

Trump talks ahead of the G7 Summit

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Merkel said that Trump’s criticism was “not really something new”.

“The surplus is also a sign of the good quality of German goods,” she said.

Trump rode to power on an “America First” platform but has yet to implement any significant protectionist measures, as the EU had feared he would.

“We are going to continue to fight for what we believe is right, which is free, open and fair trade, which the president has been very clear on what that means,” Cohn said.

Russia row

For Trump, the talks were the final leg of his first presidential foray overseas.

The gruelling week-long trip briefly diverted attention from domestic concerns focused on alleged campaign collusion with Russia.

But that issue reared up again overnight as it emerged the FBI is examining his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s contacts with the Russian ambassador in connection with the probe of alleged interference in the election campaign by Moscow.

Trump has refused to commit the United States to extending sanctions imposed on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea. But Cohn said neither would the sanctions be curtailed, as Moscow hopes.

“If anything we would probably look to get tougher on Russia,” the economic aide said.

In other talks, France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, gave short shrift to May’s request for Brexit-bound Britain and the EU to negotiate their future trading relationship at the same time as they thrash out the terms of their divorce.

Japan meanwhile was using the summit to air its concerns about North Korea. Meeting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sicily, Trump bullishly promised the problem posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes “will be solved”.

Trump ‘pushes past’ Montenegro PM

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