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North Korea stages nuclear strike drill to protest allied exercises



(Last Updated On: August 31, 2023)

North Korea conducted a simulated “scorched-earth” nuclear strike on targets across South Korea, state media reported on Thursday, in reaction to allied exercises that it said amounted to plans for a preemptive nuclear attack by the United States, Reuters reported.

The state media reports spelled out in unusual detail how the North envisions a potential war, including countering any attack by striking the South with nuclear weapons, then sweeping in to occupy its territory.

“The KPA staged a tactical nuclear strike drill simulating scorched-earth strikes at major command centers and operational airfields of the ‘ROK’ military gangsters on Wednesday night,” the general staff of the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) said in a statement carried by KCNA news agency. ROK is the initials of South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, hours after the U.S. deployed B-1B bombers for allied air drills.

According to Reuters South Korea’s presidential office convened a security meeting after North Korea’s late-night launch, which followed its second failed attempt last week to put its first spy satellite into orbit.

“These conducts pose threats to peace and stability of not only our country, but of the region and international community, and cannot be tolerated,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

Japan will intercept North Korea’s missiles if they fly over Japan’s territory, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

Pyongyang has vowed to try launching a satellite again in October. The United States, South Korea and Japan have condemned the space launch as a provocation and violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning the North’s use of ballistic missile technology, read the report.

The launches late Wednesday came a day before South Korea and the U.S. were set to wrap up 11 days of combined military drills, which Pyongyang has long denounced as a war rehearsal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday observed part of a drill that involved the commanding officers and staff sections of the entire army, aimed at preparing them for an all-out war with the South, KCNA reported.

The drill simulated repelling a sudden invasion, then launching a counter-attack to occupy “the whole territory of the southern half”, the report said.

The simulation included frontline and strategic reserve artillery forces, plans for forming a front behind the enemy lines, disrupting the entrance of “outside armed forces” into the conflict, and “making simultaneous super-intense strikes at the pivotal military command centers, military ports, operational airfields and other important enemy military targets,” KCNA said.

“We strongly condemn Kim Jong Un explicitly revealing his intention for a military attack on us using the annual defensive South Korea-U.S. combined drills as a pretext,” Seoul’s unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said in a statement.

Kim has been urging his military to step up war preparedness, criticising leaders of the United States, South Korea and Japan as “gang bosses” who increase the risk of a nuclear war in the region, Reuters reported.

The North’s first missile reached an altitude of 50 km (31 miles) and flew 350 km, while the second one rose as high as 50 km and flew 400 km, Japan’s defence ministry said.


Gunmen kill 14, kidnap 60 in attacks in northern Nigeria



(Last Updated On: September 25, 2023)

Gunmen in Nigeria killed eight people on Sunday and abducted at least 60 others in two communities of northwest Zamfara state, residents and a local traditional leader said, two days after armed men kidnapped dozens from a university in the state.

Elsewhere, in the northeast of the country suspected Islamist insurgents ambushed a convoy of vehicles under military escort, killing two soldiers and four civilians, said a police source and a motorist who witnessed the attack, Reuters reported.

The attackers set fire to five vehicles and drove off with one truck, the witness said.

President Bola Tinubu is yet to spell out how he will tackle widespread insecurity. His economic reforms, including the removal of a costly fuel subsidy and freeing the naira currency, have increased the cost of leaving, angering citizens.

Residents said gunmen early on Sunday tried to attack a forward army base in a rural Magami community of Zamfara, but were repelled. Zamfara is one of the states worst affected by kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs known locally as bandits.

The gunmen in three groups attacked the army base and the communities of Magami and Kabasa, said a traditional leader who declined to be named for security reasons, read the report.

He said 60 people, mostly women and children, were kidnapped.

“The bandits rode many motorcycles with guns and other weapons (and) were shooting sporadically,” Shuaibu Haruna, a resident of Magami, told Reuters by telephone.

Four people were killed during the attack, said Haruna, who attended their burial.

Isa Mohd from Kabasa community said four people were also killed and dozens of others kidnapped.

Police and army did not respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

Attacks in the northwest are part of widespread insecurity in Nigeria. Islamist fighters still carry out deadly attacks in the northeast, gangs and separatists attack security forces and government buildings in the southeast, and clashes involving farmers and herders continue to claim lives.

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Fire in shop kills 35 people in southeastern Benin



(Last Updated On: September 24, 2023)

At least 35 people were killed in southeastern Benin on Saturday after a fire broke out at a shop where witnesses said gasoline was being unloaded, a justice ministry representative said.

The fire broke out at 0930 local time in Seme-Podji municipality, near the border with Nigeria, Reuters reported.

“The fire burned down the store and according to an initial assessment resulted in 35 deaths including one child,” said Prosecutor Abdoubaki Adam-Bongle in a ministry statement, adding that an investigation had been opened to determine the cause.

“According to the witnesses interviewed, the fire was probably started during the unloading of bags of gasoline.”

More than a dozen others were seriously injured and are being treated in hospital, he said.

A video shared widely on social media, purportedly of the fire, shows a tower of black smoke and flames spewing into the air above what appears to be a market place as shocked people watch from a safe distance.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the video.

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Polish PM tells Ukraine’s Zelenskiy ‘never to insult Poles again’



(Last Updated On: September 23, 2023)

Poland’s prime minister told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday not to “insult” Poles, maintaining harsh rhetoric towards Kyiv after the Polish president had sought to defuse a simmering row over grain imports.

Poland decided last week to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, shaking Kyiv’s relationship with a neighbour that has been seen as one of its staunchest allies since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, Reuters reported.

Zelenskiy angered his neighbours when he told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow.

“I… want to tell President Zelenskiy never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the U.N.,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told an election rally.

Poland holds a parliamentary election on Oct. 15, and Morawiecki’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has come in for criticism from the far right for what it says is the government’s subservient attitude to Ukraine.

Analysts say this has forced PiS, which looks set to remain the biggest party but may not secure a majority, to adopt a more confrontational approach to Kyiv in the closely fought campaign.

Earlier on Friday, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, had said the dispute between Poland and Ukraine over grain imports would not significantly affect good bilateral relations, in an apparent move to ease tensions.

“I have no doubt that the dispute over the supply of grain from Ukraine to the Polish market is an absolute fragment of the entire Polish-Ukrainian relations,” Duda told a business conference.

“I don’t believe that it can have a significant impact on them, so we need to solve this matter between us.”

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