Djokovic into Rome semis, extends stay as world number one

Novak Djokovic took his place in the Italian Open semi-finals on Friday with a 7-5, 7-6 (7/1) win over Felix Auger-Aliassime which guaranteed that he would remain world number one for the 370th week. Top seed Djokovic is chasing a sixth title in Rome ahead of Roland Garros later this month and needed more than…

Read More

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur delivers thrilling comeback to make Rome semis

Ons Jabeur is in the semis of the women’s draw after bouncing back from being a game away from defeat to beat Maria Sakkari 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. Tunisian Jabeur made history last weekend by winning in Madrid to become the first Arab or African player to claim a WTA 1000 title and let out a…

Read More

Osinbajo Condemns Killing Of Deborah Samuel In Sokoto

A file photo of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday condemned the brutal killing of Debora Samuel, a student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State.

Samuel, a second-year student of the college, was killed on Thursday following an allegation that she had blasphemed Muhammad (SAW), the prophet of Islam.

Speaking at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Vice President commended the Sultan of Sokoto, the State Governor and other leaders in the state for condemning the dastardly act, insisting that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

President Muhammadu Buhari has also condemned the killing.

In a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, President Buhari said the news of the killing of the young lady by fellow students was a matter of concern.

READ ALSO:  Tambuwal Meets Muslim Leaders, Bishop Kukah Over Killing Of Deborah Samuel

He, therefore, demanded an impartial, extensive probe into all that happened before and during the incident.

The President stated that Muslims all over the world demand respect for the holy prophets, including Isah (Alaihissalaam, Jesus Christ) and Muhammad (SAW).

He, however, explained that where transgressions occur, as alleged to be the case in this instance, the law does not allow anyone to take matters into their hands.

President Buhari stressed that religious leaders have always preached that it was not for a believer to judge the actions of another person and the constituted authority must be allowed to deal with such matters when they arise.

“No person has the right to take the law into his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Violence Clouds Jerusalem Funeral Of Al Jazeera Journalist

Mourners carry the coffin of slain veteran Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her burial at the Mount Zion Cemetery outside Jerusalem’s Old City on May 13, 2022, two days after she was killed while covering an Israeli army raid in the West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP

 

Thousands of people packed Jerusalem’s tense Old City on Friday for the burial of veteran Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, after Israeli police stormed the start of the funeral procession.

Television footage showed pallbearers struggling to stop Abu Akleh’s coffin from falling to the ground as baton-wielding police officers charged towards them, grabbing Palestinian flags from mourners.

The White House described the scenes as “deeply disturbing” while the European Union said it was “appalled” by the “unnecessary force” used by Israeli police before and during the funeral.

The Jerusalem Red Crescent said 33 people were injured during the procession, of whom six were hospitalised.

READ ALSO: UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Dies At 73

Israeli police said they made six arrests. A government official said mourners had thrown “rocks and glass bottles”.

In the occupied West Bank, an Israeli commando was killed during a fresh shootout with Palestinian gunmen near the flashpoint city of Jenin. The Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were responsible.

Israel and the Palestinians have traded blame over the fatal shooting of Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in Jenin on Wednesday.

The Israeli army said an interim investigation could not determine who fired the fatal bullet, noting that stray Palestinian gunfire or Israeli sniper fire aimed at militants were both possible causes.

Al Jazeera has said Israel killed her “deliberately” and “in cold blood”.

Abu Akleh, a Christian and a Palestinian-American, was a hugely revered reporter and her funeral in her native Jerusalem drew massive crowds.

As her body left St Joseph’s hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli police stormed the crowds who were hoisting Palestinian flags.

The Jewish state forbids public displays of Palestinian flags and routinely intervenes against those who parade them at demonstrations or other gatherings.

‘Inhumanity’

Police said they had warned the crowd to stop “nationalistic” songs and were forced to act as “violent rioters (were) trying to disrupt the proper course of the funeral.”

But prominent Palestinian figure Hanan Ashrawi said the police charge on pallbearers showed Israel’s “inhumanity.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “We regret the intrusion of what should have been a peaceful procession.”

Asked if she condemned the Israeli forces’ actions, she responded: “I think when we said they were disturbing, we obviously were not justifying them.”

US President Joe Biden discussed ways to address the rising violence in White House talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

“The leaders… discussed urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric and reduce tensions,” the White House said in a statement.

The French consulate general said “police violence” at the hospital had been “deeply shocking”.

Thousands of Palestinian mourners attempted to follow the coffin towards the cemetery just outside the walled Old City.

Police briefly attempted to prevent them but ultimately relented, allowing thousands to stream towards the graveside, and did not intervene as Palestinian flags were waved, AFP reporters said.

‘Sister of all Palestinians’

In a sign of Abu Akleh’s prominence, she was given what was described as a full state memorial service on Thursday at Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s compound in Ramallah before being transferred to Jerusalem.

“Her voice entered every home, and her loss is a wound in our hearts,” said mourner Hadil Hamdan.

The United States, European Union and United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing.

Israel has publicly called for a joint probe and stressed the need for Palestinian authorities to hand over the fatal bullet for forensic examination, but the Palestinian Authority has rejected holding a joint probe with Israel.

Grief over her killing spilt beyond the Palestinian territories, with protests erupting in Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere.

She “was the sister of all Palestinians,” her brother Antoun Abu Akleh told AFP.

Fresh violence

Fresh violence erupted in the West Bank, including a raid and clashes around Jenin refugee camp.

The Israeli officer killed was identified as Noam Raz, a 47 year old father of six. Police said he was wounded “during a shootout with armed terrorists,” and later died.

The Palestinian health ministry said 13 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, one of them seriously.

An AFP photographer said Israeli forces had surrounded the home of a suspect, besieging two men inside and firing anti-tank grenades at the house in an effort to flush them out.

Tensions were already running high after a wave of anti-Israeli attacks that have killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.

A total of 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have died during the same period, according to an AFP tally, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

 

AFP

Turkey Opposes NATO Membership For Finland, Sweden

FILE: A handout photograph taken and released on October 25, 2021 by the Turkish Presidential Press Service shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving a news conference following a cabinet meeting in Ankara. Murat KULA / TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey did not have a “positive opinion” on Finland and Sweden joining NATO, throwing up a potential obstacle for the nations’ membership bid. 

The leader of NATO-member Turkey spoke ahead of expected confirmations from the Nordic nations on Sunday that they will apply to join the Western military alliance.

Erdogan accused both countries of harbouring “terrorist organisations” in his unfavourable assessment of the membership bids.

READ ALSO: Finland Will Join NATO ‘Without Delay’ – President, PM

“We do not have a positive opinion,” Erdogan told journalists after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

“Scandinavian countries are like a guesthouse for terror organisations,” he said.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, especially Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring extremist Kurdish groups as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher wanted over a failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan cited a “mistake” made by Turkey’s former rulers who okayed Greece’s NATO membership in 1952.

“We, as Turkey, do not want to make a second mistake on this issue,” he said.

Unanimous approval needed

Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has swung political and public opinion in Finland and Sweden in favour of membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

Both countries have long cooperated with NATO and are expected to be able to join the alliance quickly.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said they would be welcomed “with open arms”.

Turkey’s response is the first dissenting voice against the two Nordic countries’ NATO prospects.

Sweden’s and Finland’s foreign ministers responded on Friday by saying they were hoping to meet their Turkish counterpart in Berlin at an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Saturday.

“We will then have the opportunity to discuss a potential Swedish NATO application,” Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde said in a statement to AFP, also noting the “Turkish government had not delivered this type of message directly to us”.

Speaking at a Helsinki press conference, Finland’s Pekka Haavisto also said he hoped to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during the weekend to “continue our discussion.”

Stockholm and Helsinki have cranked up their international contacts to seek support for their potential bids.

Once a country has decided to apply for NATO membership, the alliance’s 30 members must agree unanimously to extend a formal invitation, which is followed by membership negotiations.

The final approval could then take place at a NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June. The 30 member states would then have to ratify the decision.

Turkey, which enjoys good relations with Kyiv and Moscow, has been keen to play a mediating role to end the conflict and has offered to host a leaders’ summit.

Ankara has supplied Ukraine with combat drones but has shied away from slapping sanctions on Russia alongside Western allies.

‘Hungary of the EU’

Erdogan’s comments may also raise tensions with France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has said NATO was undergoing “brain death” partly due to Turkey’s behaviour.

Macron has made clear he supports Finland’s bid as does the United States.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday Washington was “working to clarify Turkey’s position”, adding there was “broad support” for the two countries’ joining the alliance.

The Finnish president spoke with Erdogan in April as part of consultations for its NATO bid.

“I thanked President Erdogan for his efforts for peace in Ukraine. Turkey supports Finland’s objectives,” he tweeted at the time.

Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership risks making it look like the “Hungary of the EU”, said Washington Institute fellow Soner Cagaptay.

Pro-Russia Hungary often breaks from its EU colleagues on a broad range of issues, including rule of law and human rights.

Cagaptay said Ankara should have negotiated its terror-related concerns behind closed doors with the two countries.

“The fact that this is done publicly is going to hurt Ankara’s image significantly,” he said.

But Erdogan is “a clever tactician”, said Elisabeth Braw, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“He knows that this is an opportunity for Turkey to get something from NATO member states… F-35s, for example,” she said, referring to US defence giant Lockheed Martin’s jets.

AFP

US Defense Secretary Urges ‘Immediate’ Ukraine Ceasefire In Call With Russian Counterpart

This photograph taken on May 13, 2022, shows a damaged tank on a road near the Vilkhivka village east of Kharkiv, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. SERGEY BOBOK / AFP

 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine Friday in talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, but their first call since the war began resolved no immediate issues, the Pentagon said.

Shoigu spoke with Austin at the Pentagon chief’s request for about an hour, their first direct discussion since February 18, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the call, saying the two sides discussed current international security issues, “including the situation in Ukraine.”

No other details were offered officially by either side, but a senior US defense official dampened expectations that any progress was made on the war situation beyond the reopening of a crucial line of communication between Moscow and Washington.

“The call itself didn’t specifically solve any acute issues or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or what they are saying,” the official said.

The official added that the US call for a ceasefire was not a change in US policy toward the war, even as Washington has said it wants to support Ukraine with arms and funding in a longer effort to weaken the Russian military.

“Our call for a ceasefire is very much in line with what other allies and partners want to see happen,” the official said.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently urged the two sides to negotiate a settlement.

On Friday German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations, according to his office.

Scholz called for a ceasefire “as soon as possible to improve the humanitarian situation and make progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” his office said.

The call also came as Finland and Sweden have expressed the desire to join the NATO defense alliance, a direct consequence of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which is not part of NATO.

Neither side would say whether NATO’s expansion, which Russia has opposed, was discussed in the defense chiefs’ call.

At the UN Security Council Friday, the United States branded as “ludicrous” Russian allegations that the US government had run a secret biological and chemical weapons program in Ukraine.

The allegations “are categorically false and ludicrous,” said US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Richard Mills.

The defense chiefs’ conversation came as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle along a long front line in eastern and southern Ukraine, with the Pentagon maintaining that Russia is weeks behind goals set in its war plan.

The Pentagon official said the Russians are “not making any major gains in the Donbas” region where the fighting is heaviest.

“Ukrainian artillery is frustrating Russian efforts to  make much ground,” the official said.

But Moscow has shown no indication of pulling back and is believed by Western intelligence to want to take control of a wide swath of southern Ukraine stretching along the Black Sea to Moldova.

 

AFP

Oil tycoon, Jack-Rich, declares for Presidency, submits N100m APC form

Oil magnate, Tein Jack-Rich, on Friday, declared his intention to run for President on the platform of the All Progressives Congress. This came moments after Jack-Rich submitted his N100m Presidential forms to the APC. He also appointed a former Governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, as the chairman of his campaign organisation. At 47, Jack-Rich…

Read More

UN Secretary-General ‘deeply disturbed’ by violence at Aljazeera reporter’s burial

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is “deeply disturbed” by violence during the funeral procession for veteran Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, a spokesman said on Friday. He “was deeply disturbed by the confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians gathered at St Joseph Hospital, and the behavior of some police present at the…

Read More

Rivers Court Remands Lawmaker Granted Bail By Federal Court

A file photo of Mr Farah Dagogo.

 

The prosecution of Mr Farah Dagogo for allegedly sponsoring cultism in Rivers State has taken a new twist, as a State High Court on Friday remanded him in a correctional centre.

He was remanded by the court on Friday, a day after a Federal High Court on Thursday ordered that he should be released on bail.

Dagogo is the lawmaker representing Degema-Bonny Federal Constituency of Rivers in the House of Representatives, and a governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He was reported to have been hand-lifted into the courtroom from a police vehicle during his arraignment before Justice Chiwendu Nwogu.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Rivers Governorship Aspirant Declared Wanted By Wike

Justice Nwogu ordered that the governorship aspirant be remanded in a correctional centre because he appeared too weak to take his plea.

In his reaction, Dagogo’s media aide, Ibrahim Lawal, described the lawmaker’s remand as a pre-determine action by the Rivers State government and the police to disobey the order of the Federal High Court which initially granted him bail.

Dagogo was arrested on April 28 in Port Harcourt at the venue of the PDP governorship screening for the South-South states.

His arrest came after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers declared him wanted for reportedly recruiting cultists to attack the state party secretariat during the screening of National and State Assembly aspirants.

The lawmaker was first arraigned before Justice A. I Amadi-Nna of a Magistrate Court on April 29, but the case was adjourned till May 9 for the charge to be amended following arguments that a Magistrate Court cannot hear matters relating to cultism.

On the adjourned date, the case was moved to the State High Court, but Dagogo could not be produced in court on the ground that he was being managed for some health challenges.

While the case was later adjourned till Monday next week for mention at the Rivers State High Court, the matter was brought forward for Friday.

Deborah Samuel’s Killing: Tambuwal Meets Muslim Leaders, Bishop Kukah

Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal

 

Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, has met with a broad spectrum of Muslim leaders in the state to deliberate on the way to maintain peace and harmony amongst its citizens after a female student was killed on Thursday.

He has also met with Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah among others.

This is according to a statement from the Governor’s media office.

READ ALSO: Buhari Condemns Deborah’s Killing In Sokoto, Calls For Impartial Investigation

Deborah Samuel, a second-year student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, was killed on Thursday following an allegation that she had blasphemed against Muhammad (SAW), the prophet of Islam.

“Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state, a while ago, met with a broad spectrum of Muslim leaders in the state at the Government House, Sokoto to deliberate on the way to maintain peace and harmony amongst its citizens of all religions that Sokoto is famous for following the killing of Deborah Samuel,” the statement said.

“It should be noted that Governor Tambuwal was billed to visit Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States today in continuation of his Presidential consultations but had to cancel the visits to consult with citizens and religious leaders to ensure security of lives and property of all residents of Sokoto State.”