x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Flying shoes and grounded boat crew

The UAE celebrated National Day, a Swiss minaret ban was described as a security risk and five yachtsmen strayed into Iranian waters.

A member of the military band takes a nap while waiting for the National Day festivities to start at Heritage Village on Wednesday.
A member of the military band takes a nap while waiting for the National Day festivities to start at Heritage Village on Wednesday.

Islamists claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian train that killed 26 people and injured more than 100. A statement on a website linked to Chechen rebels claimed that the attack was "prepared and executed along with other acts of sabotage, planned from the start of this year and successfully carried out against a set of strategically important sites in Russia, on the orders of Caucasus Emir Dokku Umarov". The self-styled "emir" is the leader of the "Caucasus Emirate", which seeks to unite Islamic groups in the North Caucasus and establish Sharia rule. The statement also described the Nevsky Express, which runs between Moscow and St Petersburg, as being "mainly used by the ruling bureaucrats of Russia".

An Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the former US president George Bush was pelted with footwear on a visit to Paris. Muntadar al Zaidi was attacked by another Iraqi journalist apparently supportive of US policy in the region, as he spoke about Iraqi war victims at a conference. Like president Bush, Mr al Zaidi was able to dodge the flying shoe and joked afterwards: "He stole my technique." The attacker was chased from the building by Mr al Zaidi's brother, who also deployed flying footwear.

President Obama came under fire after announcing an extra 30,000 US troops for Afghanistan while saying he planned to begin a withdrawal from 2011. Some Democrats questioned the US$30 billion cost of the extra troops, while Republicans said setting a date for a pull-out sent the wrong message to both America's allies and the Taliban. Senator John McCain asked President Obama: "You either have a winning strategy, and once it has succeeded then you withdraw, or you have an arbitrary date. Which is it?" America's decision to increase troop numbers also placed pressure on western governments to increase their involvement. The Taliban said it would step up its battle, and that if more troops were sent "more Americans will die".

One of the world's leading climate researchers was forced to stand down after e-mails were leaked showing he advocated suppressing evidence showing global warming was not caused by man. Professor Phil Jones, the head of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, will give up his post while an inquiry takes place. The e-mails suggest that supporters of climate change theories manipulated data to hide evidence that global warming had stopped, something Prof Jones described as "absolute rubbish".

A vote to ban minarets in Switzerland was described as a "security risk" by the country's foreign minister. Nearly 60 per cent of Swiss voted in favour of the ban, which was proposed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, the largest party in parliament, on the grounds that minarets were a sign of Islamisation. Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister, said she was "shocked" and disappointed" by the vote and warned her countrymen that "provocation risks triggering other provocation and risks inflaming extremism". The measure has forced the government to ban the construction of any new minarets, but still allows mosques to be built.

Peru's chief of police suspended a senior investigator who was said to have faked a report that people were being murdered for their fat. Last month Felix Murga caused a sensation after arresting four suspects he claimed were behind the deaths of 60 people, whose fat was sold to European cosmetic companies. Doubts were first raised when local police in the region where the gang were said to be operating said they had no knowledge of any killings. Mr Murga, the head of an anti-kidnapping unit, has now been placed on indefinite leave for damaging the reputation of his department.

A lawyer in Saudi Arabia said he was planning to sue the government over its failure to protect the city of Jeddah after flooding killed more than 100 people. A massive rainstorm brought flash flooding and two metres of water in the city centre that caused massive damage and saw many victims drown in their cars. The human rights lawyer Walid Abu al Kheir said the city had failed to use money intended for drainage works and that this had caused the worst of the flooding. Public protests are banned in Saudi Arabia, but 11,000 people have already signed a Facebook page called Popular Campaign to Save the City of Jeddah.

A council in England has apologised to a woman after initially telling her to remove two gnomes by her front door on the grounds that they were a fire hazard. Linda Langford, 57, was also ordered to remove a pottery tortoise from outside her flat in Tipton in the West Midlands. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has since apologised, with Mahboob Husaain, the borough's cabinet member for housing, saying officials had "slightly misinterpreted the policy on items in communal areas".

Five British sailors, who caused an international incident after their yacht strayed into Iranian waters, blamed a faulty propeller and the wrong map. The group were sailing from Bahrain to Dubai when they were detained by the Revolutionary Guard. They were freed after two days and allowed to continue to Dubai after Iranian authorities concluded the incident had been "a mistake".

National Day celebrations saw thousands take to the streets of all seven Emirates, with fireworks in the skies and traffic jams of cars decorated with the national colours and images of rulers. This year is the 38th anniversary of the creation of the UAE, with celebrations now reaching more remote areas as well as the major cities because of improved transport and communications links. In his address to the nation, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, said that "big goals will remain our objectives".

* The National