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The killing of Russian opposition
figure Boris Nemtsov within sight of
the Kremlin has exposed rarely seen
tensions between different camps
inside President Vladimir Putin’s
system of rule.
No outsiders can know with any
certainty what is happening behind
the red-brick walls of the Kremlin,
but some of Nemtsov’s associates
say his shooting is being used by
one faction to send Putin a message
that they are unhappy and need to be
That would represent a challenge to
the foundations of Putin’s 15-year-
old rule, built on a rigid pyramid
of power and the assumption of
“I think that perhaps Putin, even
completely sincerely, was bewildered
and even afraid,” Vadim Prokhorov,
Nemtsov’s lawyer, said of the hours
after the February 27 shooting.
“Because if you can do that next to
the Kremlin, then is it not possible
to do it along the route of the
(presidential) motorcade?” he said.
Feeding a mood of frenzied
speculation in Moscow, Putin this
week cancelled a planned trip to
Kazakhstan without explanation. A
Kazakh official said Putin was ill,
while the Kremlin said he was fine
and working as usual.
Who is on which side in this rivalry,
or even that such a rivalry exists, is
impossible to establish with complete
confidence because no one has
publicly acknowledged any serious
differences between camps.
Yet analysts point to signs of
tensions between, on one side, the
powerful head of Russia’s Chechnya
region, Ramzan Kadyrov, and on
the other, the Russian State security
agencies which are Putin’s c losest
Nemtsov, a 55-year-old former
deputy prime minister who had
become a vocal critic of Putin, was
shot dead as he walked home with
his girlfriend after dining next to Red
Square. He was the most prominent
of a string of Kremlin critics to be
killed since Putin came to power; in
many cases the gunmen have been
jailed but the masterminds remain
Many of Nemtsov ’s supporters
said the president stood to gain by
removing a relentless critic. Russian
officials denied involvement and
Putin called the killing a shameful
A timeline of events in the days since
Nemtsov was shot points to a tangle
of conflicting accounts, confused
messages and rival narratives from
usually deferential media.
That messy picture jars with the
normally associated with the Kremlin.
Kadyrov put for ward the theory
that Nemtsov was killed by a group
of Islamists because he had publicly
defended Charlie Hebdo, the French
magazine attacked by militants in
January for publishing cartoons of
the Prophet Mohammed.
That version has been contradicted
by evidence, possibly obtained from
sur veillance, published in Russian
media. One paper said Zaur Dadayev,
who has been charged with the
murder, was tailing Nemtsov months
before the January 7 attack on
Charlie Hebdo. Dadayev ser ved as
deputy commander in Chechnya’s
North Battalion, part of the regional
interior ministry. Kadyrov described
him as one of the unit’s “most fearless
and courageous members”.
Nor has Kadyrov ’s version of events
been backed up by State investigators.
They have refused to comment on the
alleged motives of the two men they
charged over the killing, or the three
people they are holding but have not
The suspects in detention are from
Muslim Chechnya, but that does not
make them Islamists. There have been
numerous cases where police have
accused Chechens of acting as hired
gunmen in high-profile killings.
Usually, when an issue is important
to the Kremlin, officials are meticulous
in making sure mainstream media
outlets follow broadly the same script,
according to Russian journalists who
have been exposed to this treatment.
Sergei Sharov-Delaunay, an aide
to Nemtsov in the opposition
movement, said he had a number
of theories about the motive for the
killing, but one is that it was part of
an internal power struggle.
“ It might have been some group
within the authorities trying to put
pressure on Putin, to boost their
position, to force even more radical
scenarios,” he said.
Kadyrov, the Chechen leader,
professes loyalty to Putin but also
represents a risk for him. Kadyrov put
down an anti-Moscow insurgency in
Chechnya, helping Putin cement his
rule. In exchange, Putin gave him a
large degree of autonomy to run his
region as he chooses.
The arrangement has so far been
successful for both men, but some
obser vers say Kadyrov is overstepping
the mark.Russian media have reported
incidents of police in Moscow having
run-ins with Chechens, then coming
under pressure not to prosecute them
because of their ties to Kadyrov.
“ If Putin is able to put Kadyrov
in his place, then that will sharply
improve his standing in his
immediate entourage, something he
is in great need of,” Georgy Satarov,
who was a senior aide to the previous
president, Boris Yeltsin, said.
There are signs, too, that Putin’s
nationalist allies, who include some
senior people inside the government,
are getting fractious.
While Putin’s inter vention in
Ukraine has angered the west, for
some at home he has not gone far
Many wanted Russia to help expand
further the territory held by separatist
rebels in south-east Ukraine, to
include all of the Luhansk and
Donetsk regions. Large swathes
of those mainly Russian-speaking
regions are still controlled by Kiev.
commander among the separatist
rebels in eastern Ukraine, a former
special forces officer called Igor
Girkin, has accused Putin’s entourage
“The team that the president is
now working with is absolutely
pro-western,” he said in January
on Neuromir television, a Russian
internet television channel. “It is the
same people that the west is counting
on as the fifth column. ”
In December last year, at a news
conference in Moscow, a Reuters
reporter asked Putin if, given the
pressures from the crisis in Ukraine
and the sputtering Russian economy,
he felt at risk from a palace coup.
Putin replied: “I can assure you that
we don’t have palaces, so a palace
coup isn’t really possible. The official
presidential residence is the Kremlin.
It is well protected. ” — Reuters
Nemtsov killing exposes Kremlin cracks
Much of the Chadian force fighting
Boko Haram in Nigeria has withdrawn
to Cameroon and is deploying
further south, Chadian soldiers and
a Cameroonian military official said
overnight, signalling the potential start
of a new offensive.
Chad’s military has spearheaded
an operation by Nigeria’s neighbours
against the Islamist militant group
that has killed thousands in north-east
Nigeria and in recent months mounted
an increasing number of cross-border
Nigeria has simultaneously launched
an offensive to retake a series of towns
with the backing of hundreds of
mercenaries from South Africa and the
former Soviet Union in a bid to secure
towns ahead of a rescheduled March 28
Chadian soldiers, who asked not to
be identified, said troops operating in
Nigeria had pulled back from their
for ward base of Gambaru to Fotokol,
a town on the Cameroon side of the
“ We don’t know the reason for the
withdrawal. We just received the orders,”
one of them said, adding that the force
was now heading south to the border
town of Banki.
Banki lies on the main road from
Cameroon to the Nigerian town of
Bama, the second-biggest town in
Borno state. Security sources in Nigeria
said fierce fighting was going on to
retake Bama, which has been held by
Boko Haram since late last year.
A spokesman for the Chadian military
was not immediately available for
comment. A Cameroonian military
source confirmed Chadian troops had
crossed back into Cameroon and were
headed south but gave no further details.
Chadian troops last week pushed the
furthest they have gone into Nigeria
when they freed Dikwa, a town at a
major crossroad some 80km east of
Maiduguri, the capital of Borno.
Since then, Nigeria asked Chadian
troops to leave and deployed its own
troops to the town, Chadian officers said.
Nigeria’s defence headquarters said
overnight that its army had cleared the
last Boko Haram camps in Adamawa
State, which borders Borno.
Chadian troops are also battling Boko
Haram to the north along the long,
porous border with Niger.
A Niger military source said about 20
Boko Haram militants were arrested in
Damasak overnight, highlighting how
fighters were still present in the zone
despite reports from Niger officers that
they had scattered them this week.
Mistrust and rivalries have hamstrung
co-ordination between the regional
armies, which are in the process of
planning and seeking United Nations
backing for a joint 10,000-strong force
to defeat Boko Haram.
Chadian officials complain that Nigeria
has repeatedly prevented them from
advancing despite Chad having scored
several victories against the militants,
who recently pledged allegiance to
Islamic State and aim to carve out a
caliphate in Nigeria’s northeast.
Nigeria’s military denies any lack of
cooperation and says it has not been
credited enough for its own gains against
With Nigerian President Goodluck
Jonathan seeking reelection at polls on
March 28, his opponent Muhammadu
Buhari has lambasted his government
for relying on Chadian inter vention to
tackle Boko Haram. — Reuters
PICTURE: Getty Images
Medical staff stand by as a British military health care worker is moved to an ambulance at RAF Northolt air base in London, after he tested
positive for Ebola. He was taken to a specialist isolation unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital overnight.
Ebola death toll tops 10,000
More than 10,000 people have now
died from the Ebola virus, almost all
of them in west Africa, the World
Health Organisation says.
The three hardest-hit countries of
Sierra L eone, Guinea and Liberia
have recorded 24,350 cases and
10,004 deaths since the epidemic
began more than a year ago, the
United Nations body said overnight.
There have also been six deaths in
Mali, one in the United States and
eight in Nigeria, all of which have
since been declared Ebola-free.
Apple has apologised to users after
a major outage of its on-line ser vices,
affecting customers worldwide.
The tech giant ’s status page showed the
App Store, iTunes, iBooks store and Mac
App store went down from 8am GMT
and were still off-line at 7pm.
Similar outages were seen in Apple on-
line ser vices in Britain and France. The
Next Web, the international technology
news site, said it had reports of outages
affecting more than 40 countries.
“ We apologise to our customers
experiencing problems with iTunes and
other ser vices this morning,” Apple said
in a statement, blaming an “internal”
domain name system error.
“ We’re working to make all of the
ser vices available to customers as soon as
possible, and we thank everyone for their
Apple’s iCloud and mail ser vices
were also down, but appeared to have
been restored after around four hours,
according to the status page.
Other ser vices such as Face Time,
messaging and Apple TV did not appear
to be affected.
The outage made it impossible for
iPhone and iPad users to download
music or to install or update apps on
Apple support forums included
complaints from users around the world,
including the Netherlands and Iceland,
unable to install or update apps.
Reddit forums mentioned problems
from users in Britain, Australia and
The news comes two days after Apple
announced details about its smartwatch,
which will be available in several markets
on April 24, along with a new Macbook
Apple said at the event that it has sold
more than 700 million iPhones since
launching the device in 2007. — AFP
Rare lion seen
Cape Canaveral (Florida)
Scientists using the Hubble Space
Telescope have confirmed that the
Jupiter-orbiting moon Ganymede has
an ocean beneath its icy surface, raising
the prospects for life, the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration
Nasa said overnight.
The finding resolves a mystery about
the largest moon in the solar system after
Nasa’s now-defunct Galileo spacecraft
provided hints that Ganymede has a
subsurface ocean during exploration
of Jupiter and its moons from 1995 to
Scientists told reporters on a conference
call that it took some detective work to
confirm the discovery.
Like Earth, Ganymede has a liquid
iron core that generates a magnetic field,
though Ganymede’s field is embedded
within Jupiter’s magnetic field. That
sets up an interesting dynamic with
telltale visuals — twin bands of glowing
aurora around Ganymede’s northern and
southern polar regions.
As Jupiter rotates, its magnetic field
shifts, causing Ganymede’s aurora to
rock. Scientists measured the motion
and found it fell short. Using computer
models, they realised that a salty,
electrically conductive ocean beneath
the moon’s surface was counteracting
Jupiter ’s magnetic pull.
“ Jupiter is like a lighthouse whose
magnetic field changes with the rotation
of the lighthouse. It influences the
aurora,” geophysicist Joachim Saur, from
the University of Cologne in Germany,
said. “ With the ocean, the rocking is
Scientists ran more than 100 computer
models to see if anything else could be
having an impact on Ganymede’s aurora.
They also repeated the seven-hour,
ultraviolet Hubble obser vations and
analysed data for both belts of aurora.
“This gives us confidence in the
measurement,” Saur said.
Nasa Associate Administrator Jim
Green called the finding “an astounding
“They developed new approach to look
inside a planetary body with a telescope,”
Ganymede joins a growing list of
moons in the outer solar system with
subsurface water. On Wednesday,
scientists reported that Saturn’s moon
Enceladus has hot springs beneath its icy
crust. Other water-rich worlds include
Jupiter moons Europa and Callisto.
Scientists estimate the ocean is 100km
thick, 10 times deeper than Earth’s
oceans, and is buried under a 150km
crust of mostly ice.
“ It is one step further toward finding
that habitable, water-rich environment
in our solar system,” said astronomer
Heidi Hammel with the Washington-
based Association of Universities for
Research in Astronomy. — Reuters
Nasa telescope spies
ocean on Jupiter moon
About 25 people may have been
killed and are still under the rubble of
a shopping centre that caught fire in
the Russian city of Kazan, Interfax
news agency cited the head of the
regional emergencies ministry as saying
The blaze broke out yesterday in a first-
storey cafe at the centre, killing seven
people, according to the latest media
reports, and sending flames and black
smoke high into the air.
“There may be up to 25 people under
the rubble of the burned-out shopping
centre in Kazan. No one among them is
alive,” Igor Panshin, head of the regional
emergencies ministry, was quoted by
Interfax as saying.
“The roof collapsed and under the
ruins there are people,” he said, adding
that relatives and store workers were
unable to contact around 25 people who
were known to be in the shopping centre
at the time of the blaze.
Emergency workers were continuing
to clear away rubble late last night in
Kazan, about 800km east of Moscow.
Life News, which has good sources
among Russia’s law enforcement
authorities, said around 200 people had
been evacuated from the building in
Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan
Panshin said emergency workers would
need approximately two days to clear the
rubble from the scene of the blaze, while
Life News said 16 people were still in
hospital for injuries.
According to a regional emergencies
ministry, nine foreign citizens have been
injured, including citizens of Azerbaijan,
Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and
Tajikistan. — Reuters
25 feared dead in
shopping centre blaze
A lion has been spotted in Gabon for
the first time in nearly 20 years, raising
hopes the animals long feared extinct
in the country could be returning,
conser vationists said overnight.
Lions used to roam central Africa in their
hundreds in the middle of the last century.
But the population has fallen sharply due
to poaching and loss of habitat.
Hidden cameras planted as part of
a chimpanzee study in south-eastern
Gabon’s Bateke Plateau have captured
on tape a single male lion three times
since January, lion programme sur vey co-
ordinator for campaign group Panthera,
Dr Philipp Henschel, said.
“I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I could,
I went there to set up more cameras,” he
said by phone from Libreville, adding
a new study was being launched in the
hope of finding more of the big cats.
Lions are known to live a few hundred
kilometresaway in Democratic Republic
of Congo and Henschel said the animal
could have swum across the Congo river,
one of the world’s largest, and travelled
over to Gabon’s savannah. Male lions
are often solitary roamers and can travel
long distances in search of a mate.
Henschel said researchers were
considering naming the lion after
Gabon’s President Ali Bongo — a known
lover of cats whose father Omar Bongo
at one point had a pet tiger at home.
“ We are thinking of naming the lion
‘Ali’ after the president as he’s a cat
fanatic,” Henschel said.
Since Bongo was elected in 2009,
Gabon has stepped up anti-poaching
patrols in its 13 national parks which are
also home to elephants and gorillas. The
last lion, a female, was spotted in Gabon
in 1996. — Reuters
Spy held for helping girls join IS
A spy who worked for a country
in the United States-led coalition
that is fighting Islamic State had
helped three British girls to cross
into Syria to join the militants
and has been caught, the Turkish
foreign minister said overnight.
The minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu,
told broadcaster A Haber in an
inter view : “He was caught. It turned
out to be someone who works for
the intelligence of a country from
He did not say which country
the spy was working for, but said
it was not the European Union or
the US. The coalition also includes
countries such as Saudi Arabia,
Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Australia
A European security source
familiar with the case of the three
girls said the person in question had
a connection with the Canadian
Security Intelligence Ser vice
(CSIS) spy agency.
A Canadian government source
in Ottawa said the person was not
a Canadian citizen and was not
employed by CSIS. The source did
not respond when asked whether
the person had been working for
The spy agency did not respond
to requests for comment. The office
of Public Safety Minister Steven
Blaney — in overall charge of law
enforcement — said it did not
comment on operational matters.
A Turkish official who declined to
be identified said the spy was now
“The person was working for the
intelligence agency of a coalition
country but is not a citizen of
that country. The person was not a
Turkish citizen either,” he said.
Islamic State seized large swathes
of land last June, including territory
close to the Turkish border. The
US-led coalition is using mostly
air power in an attempt to push the
Sunni militant group back.
British police and the girls’
families have issued appeals for
their daughters to return home after
they flew to Istanbul from London
on February 17. Amira Abase, 15,
Shamima Begum, 15, and Kadiza
Sultana, 16, are thought to have
since entered Syrian territory
controlled by Islamic State.
Thousands of foreigners from
more than 80 nations, including
Britain, other parts of Europe,
China and the United States, have
joined the ranks of Islamic State
and other radical groups in Syria
and Iraq, many crossing through
Turkey says it needs more
intelligence agencies to intercept
them. — Reuters
Dera Ismail Khan (Pakistan)
Wildlife officials in Pakistan fined
a Qatari prince and seized two of his
prized hunting falcons after he was
discovered illegally hunting a rare bird
species, an official said overnight.
The confiscated falcons — which can be
worth upwards of $250,000 ($338,450)
each — were released into the wild this
week, Khan Malook, a district wildlife
officer in the north-western province of
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said.
The prince, identified as Sheikh
Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani,
paid a fine of 80,000 rupees ($1063)
before leaving the country, Malook said.
The Qatari was discovered hunting
houbara bustards, listed as a vulnerable
species by the International Union for
Conser vation of Nature, in the area in
mid-January, he said.
Pakistan has come under fire from
conser vationists for granting permits for
hunting bustards to wealthy Gulf Arabs,
for whom falconry is a revered cultural
The sheikh, however, had no permit for
hunting, Malook said.
Representatives of the Qatari royal
family could not be reached for comment.
Home raided after police pair shot
The shooting of two police officers
in Ferguson, Missouri, during a
protest rally sparked an intense
manhunt for suspects overnight
and ratcheted up tensions in a city
at the centre of a national debate
over race and policing.
President Barack Obama and
Attorney-General Eric Holder
condemned the attack on the
officers, who were treated at a
local hospital and released, as a law
enforcement team in tactical gear
swarmed a home in the St Louis
suburb. Television images showed
officers on the roof breaking into
the attic with heavy tools.
Shawn McGuire, a St Louis
County police spokesman, said an
undisclosed number of people were
taken from the house but there have
been no arrests so far. The rally at
Ferguson police headquarters was
called hours after the resignation of
its long-criticised police chief, Tom
Jackson. Jackson quit in the wake
of a scathing Justice Department
report. About midnight, gunfire
rang out, leaving a 41-year-old St
Louis County Police officer with
a shoulder wound and a 32-year-
old officer from nearby Webster
Groves Police Department with a
bullet lodged near his ear, St Louis
County police chief Jon Belmar
The shootings were “inexcusable
and repugnant,” Holder said in a
statement. The White House sent a
Tweet that read: “ Violence against
police is unacceptable. O ur prayers
are with the officers in MO. Path
to justice is one all of us must travel
together. ” — Reuters
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