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Helicopter attacks Venezuela court, Maduro denounces coup bid

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2017)

A Venezuelan police helicopter strafed the Supreme Court and a government ministry on Tuesday, escalating the OPEC nation’s political crisis in what President Nicolas Maduro called an attack by “terrorists” seeking a coup.

The aircraft fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry, where scores of people were at a social event, and dropped four grenades on the court, where judges were meeting, officials said.

However, there were no reports of injuries.

“Sooner rather than later, we are going to capture the helicopter and those behind this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country,” Maduro said.

“They could have caused dozens of deaths,” he said.

The 54-year-old socialist leader has faced three months of protests from opposition leaders who decry him as a dictator who has wrecked a once-prosperous economy. There has been growing dissent too from within government and the security forces.

At least 75 people have died, and hundreds more been injured and arrested, in the anti-government unrest since April.

Demonstrators are demanding general elections, measures to alleviate a brutal economic crisis, freedom for hundreds of jailed opposition activists, and independence for the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislature.

Maduro says they are seeking a coup against him with the encouragement of a U.S. government eager to gain control of Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest in the world.

Venezuela’s government said in a communique the helicopter was stolen by investigative police pilot Oscar Perez, who declared himself in rebellion against Maduro.

Images shared on social and local media appear to show Perez waving a banner from the helicopter reading “Liberty”, and the number “350” in large letters.

The number refers to the constitutional article allowing people the right to oppose an undemocratic government.

A video posted on Perez’ Instagram account around the same time showed him standing in front of several hooded armed men, saying an operation was underway to restore democracy.

Perez said in the video he represented a coalition of military, police and civilian officials opposed to the “criminal” government, urged Maduro’s resignation and called for general elections. “This fight is … against the vile government. Against tyranny,” he said.

Local media also linked Perez to a 2015 action film, Suspended Death, which he co-produced and starred in as an intelligence agent rescuing a kidnapped businessman.

On Tuesday, witnesses reported hearing several detonations in downtown Caracas, where the pro-Maduro Supreme Court, the presidential palace and other key government buildings are located.

Opponents to Maduro view the Interior Ministry as a bastion of repression and also hate the Supreme Court for its string of rulings bolstering the president’s power and undermining the opposition-controlled legislature.

Opposition leaders have long been calling on Venezuela’s security forces to stop obeying Maduro.

However, there was also some speculation among opposition supporters on social media that the attack could have been staged to justify repression or cover up drama at Venezuela’s National Assembly, where two dozen lawmakers said they were being besieged by pro-government gangs.

Earlier on Tuesday, Maduro warned that he and supporters would take up arms if his socialist government was violently overthrown by opponents.

“If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat. We would never give up, and what couldn’t be done with votes, we would do with arms, we would liberate the fatherland with arms,” he said.

Maduro, who replaced Hugo Chavez in 2013, is pushing a July 30 vote for a special super-body called a Constituent Assembly, which could rewrite the national charter and supersede other institutions such as the opposition-controlled congress.

He has touted the assembly as the only way to bring peace to Venezuela. But opponents, who want to bring forward the next presidential election scheduled for late 2018, say it is a sham poll designed purely to keep the socialists in power.

They are boycotting the vote, and protesting daily on the streets to try and have it stopped.

Maduro said the “destruction” of Venezuela would lead to a huge refugee wave dwarfing the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

“Listen, President Donald Trump,” he said earlier on Tuesday. “You would have to build 20 walls in the sea, a wall from Mississippi to Florida, from Florida to New York, it would be crazy … You have the responsibility: stop the madness of the violent Venezuelan right wing.”

Opposition to the July 30 vote has come not just from Venezuelan opposition parties but also from the chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega and one-time government heavyweights such as former intelligence service boss Miguel Rodriguez.

Rodriguez criticized Maduro for not holding a referendum before the Constituent Assembly election, as his predecessor Chavez had done in 1999.

“This is a country without government, this is chaos,” he told a news conference on Tuesday. “The people are left out … They (the government) are seeking solutions outside the constitution.”

The government said pilot Perez was linked to Rodriguez.

Neither men, nor representatives for them, could be reached immediately to comment on the accusations.

Written by: Reuters

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Footballers ‘take a knee’ in commemoration of George Floyd

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(Last Updated On: June 3, 2020)

Liverpool players in a training session took a knee at the center circle at Anfield stadium.

Following the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests in the USA, Liverpool football players took a knee at Anfield Stadium on Monday in a gesture of support and unity, said an Aljazeera report.

The players posted a picture of the act on their social media accounts with the caption “Unity is strength #BlackLivesMatter”.

This was an act to show the solidarity of Liverpool players to the death of George Floyd who was killed in police custody.

Marcus Rashford, Manchester United forward also reacted to the death of George Floyd.

“Black lives matter. Black culture matters. Black communities matter. We matter,” Rashford wrote.

Apart from the Premier League, in Bundesliga, the Borussia Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Ashraf Hakimi wore shirts on Sunday with the message “Justice for George Floyd” in a match.

It is to be recalled that Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on the Black man’s neck.

Floyd’s death has been followed by nationwide protests and chaos in the United States.

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Al-Aqsa Mosque reopens to worshippers – Jerusalem

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2020)

After over two months of lockdown for the Coronavirus, Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been reopened, international news agencies.

The Council of Islamic Waqf, which oversees Muslim sites on the complex, said the restriction was lifted after the virus’ spread slowed down locally.

The council also imposed some precautionary measures to reduce the risk of contagion at Islam’s third-holiest site.

That is, worshippers must wear face masks and bring personal prayer rugs should they wish to pray in the mosque or on the grounds.

It worth mentioning that the Al-Aqsa Mosque which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Islam.

The mosque was built on top of the Temple Mount, known as the Al Aqsa Compound or Haram-e-Sharif in Islam.

Celebrating the reopening, dozens of Muslims gathered in front of the large wooden doors, pronouncing, “God is greatest, we will protect Al-Aqsa with our soul and blood.”

Reportedly, the resumption of prayers capped a somber period for Jerusalem’s Muslims, who this year marked the fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid al-Fitr holiday without their usual daily visits to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

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Angry protesters take to streets over police brutality – USA

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(Last Updated On: May 31, 2020)

Clashes between the police and the protesters over George Floyd’s death in police custody have been intensified, western news outlets report.

As demonstrations escalated in several US cities, protesters in Minneapolis met a more determined response from police officers and National Guard troops.

Reports show that several other US states have activated National Guard troops to help quell the protests, some of which have turned violent.

Cities nationwide have also implemented curfews, but protesters appear undeterred.

It is noteworthy that Floyd died on Monday after a white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck.

The officer has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter; however, the other officers have not been charged.

According to reports, protesters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have pledged to continue until all four officers involved in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, are charged.

In the meantime, the US President Donald Trump has ordered Pentagon to put military police on alert, saying they may be deployed to Minnesota.

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