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Looting, locusts and narco-terrorists: the non-coronavirus news you might have missed

India is hit by swarms of crop-munching locusts, China moves to take more control of Hong Kong and the US files charges against a former Venezuelan MP for narco-terrorism, here's a round up of the biggest stories of the day

Like doomsday: worst locust swarm in decades devours a path through India

It was an ordinary morning for banker Ankur Parekh until he saw a swarm of brown desert locusts blanket the dawn skies in the capital city of India's western state of Rajasthan this week.

The 36-year-old walked to his balcony on Tuesday morning to an astonishing sight – a roaring blizzard of insects invading parts of Jaipur city in their hundreds of thousands.

"It felt like doomsday," Mr Parekh told The National. "It was terrifying. I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie. They were everywhere."

Mr Parekh quickly ran inside his room as people banged metal kitchenware and set off firecrackers to drive the pests from trees and houses, a desperate method used by many residents in a state that has been battling a locust scourge for weeks.

India is in the grip of the worst desert locust outbreak in nearly three decades as huge swarms of the crop-munching insects reached the country through Pakistan from East Africa in April, posing a serious threat to crops.

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Daily update

Murdered Lebanese student in UK was killed in crossfire between tyre companies

Relatives of Aya Hachem, who was killed in a shooting in Blackburn, Britain, carry her coffin during the funeral at a cemetery in her family's hometown of Qlaileh, near Tyre, southern Lebanon. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
Relatives of Aya Hachem, who was killed in a shooting in Blackburn, Britain, carry her coffin during the funeral at a cemetery in her family's hometown of Qlaileh, near Tyre. Reuters

Lebanese law student Aya Hachem was killed in the crossfire in a business dispute between two rival UK tyre companies, a court has heard.

Ms Hachem, 19, from Blackburn in northern England, was shot dead in a drive-by shooting as she walked to a supermarket.

Six people on Wednesday appeared at Preston Crown Court charged with her murder.

Police officers have said they do not believe the part-time charity worker, whose parents fled Lebanon as refugees, was the intended target.

Prosecutor Alexander Langhorn told the court the police had been called to a shooting arising out of what appeared to be a dispute between RI Tyres and Quick Shine.

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Jailed in Iran: Richard Ratcliffe hopes wife Nazanin can come home

Lost in the wilderness for 19 days, New Zealand hikers recount ordeal

In this photo provided by the New Zealand Defence Force, a police officer watches as a helicopter takes off during a rescue operation to find two missing trampers in the Kahurangi National Park in the South Island of New Zealand, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Two hikers rescued in the New Zealand wilderness Wednesday got lost in fog and exhausted their food but survived 19 days with only minor injuries, police said. (CPL Naomi James/New Zealand Defence Force via AP)
A police officer watches as a helicopter takes off during a rescue operation to find two missing walkers in the Kahurangi National Park in the South Island of New Zealand. New Zealand Defence Force via AP

Two New Zealand hikers rescued after 19 days stranded in a rugged national park said they went almost two weeks without food and drank water from puddles to survive.

Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor, both 23, set off on a five-day camping trip in Kahurangi National Park on the South Island on May 8 but became disorientated in heavy fog.

A military helicopter rescued them on Wednesday after a huge search operation in the area, which was the shooting location for Frodo and the Fellowship's escape from the grim Mines of Moria in Peter Jackson's blockbuster Lord of the Rings films.

The pair had only minor injuries suffered during falls as they desperately searched for water, with Mr Reynolds twisting his ankle and Ms O'Connor wrenching her back.

Mr Reynolds said they became lost in fog that lasted three days, and boiled water from "a little rocky puddle" to drink as their food supplies dwindled.

"We were very lost at this point," he told Radio New Zealand, saying they eventually decided to make camp and "wait out our injuries".

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Looting erupts during angry US protests over police killing of black man

Demonstrators gathered on Wednesday for a second night of protests over the killing of a handcuffed black man by a policeman in the US city of Minneapolis. A bystander's video showed a police officer pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, 46, who died in hospital following the incident on Monday.

The officer, along with three others involved in the apprehension of Floyd, were dismissed from the police department and the FBI has opened an investigation.

Late on Wednesday, hundreds of protesters filled streets near the scene of the deadly encounter for a second day, some clashing with riot police who fired tear gas into the crowds and lobbed concussion grenades while demonstrators responded with rocks, water bottles and other projectiles.

Local television news footage taken from a helicopter flying over the area showed dozens of individuals looting a Target store, running out with armloads of clothing and shopping carts filled with merchandise.

Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo cautioned protesters to remain peaceful.

President Donald Trump in a tweet called Floyd's death "sad and tragic", as outrage spread across the country.

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Beyond the Headlines

Hezbollah, FARC and a Venezuelan lawmaker: US files charges over narco-terror plot

US prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former Venezuelan parliamentarian for involvement in a scheme with President Nicolas Maduro linked to militant groups to traffic cocaine and military-grade weapons.

Federal prosecutors in New York also charged Adel Al Zabayar, a 56-year-old former member of Venezuela's National Assembly, with helping to recruit Hezbollah and Hamas operatives to plan attacks against US targets.

Read full story here

China politicians endorse Hong Kong national security law

A woman looks at her mobile phone while traveling on ferry in Hong Kong Thursday, May 28, 2020. China’s legislature endorsed a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday that has strained relations with the United States and Britain and prompted new protests in the territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A woman looks at her mobile phone while traveling on ferry in Hong Kong. AP

China's parliament approved plans on Thursday to impose a security law on Hong Kong that critics say will eradicate the city's promised freedoms.

The vote by the rubber-stamp National People's Congress came hours after the United States revoked the special status conferred on Hong Kong, paving the way for the territory to be stripped of trading and economic privileges.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the status had been withdrawn because China was no longer honouring its handover agreement with Britain to allow Hong Kong a high level of autonomy.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," Mr Pompeo said.

China made the security law a top priority at its annual National People's Congress (NPC) session, after huge pro-democracy protests rocked the financial hub for seven months last year.

Read full story here

Updated: May 28, 2020 05:45 PM

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