Category Archives: Asia News

TOP STORIES, Asia

Turkey demands China close camps after reports of musician’s death”:


Turkey has called on China to close its detention camps following the reported death of a renowned musician from the ethnic Uighur minority.

Abdurehim Heyit is thought to have been serving an eight-year sentence in the Xinjiang region, where a million Uighurs are reportedly being detained.

A statement from Turkey’s foreign ministry said they were being subjected to “torture” in “concentration camps”.

China says the facilities are re-education camps.

The Uighurs are a Muslim Turkic-speaking minority based in the north-west Xinjiang region of China, which has come under intense surveillance by Chinese authorities.

What did Turkey say?

In a statement issued on Saturday, foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said: “It is no longer a secret that more than a million Uighur Turks exposed to arbitrary arrests are subjected to torture and political brainwashing” in prisons, adding that those not detained were “under great pressure”.

“The reintroduction of concentration camps in the 21st century and the systematic assimilation policy of Chinese authorities against the Uighur Turks is a great embarrassment for humanity,” Mr Aksoy said.

He also said the reports of Heyit’s death “further strengthened the Turkish public’s reaction to the serious human rights violations in Xinjiang” and called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “to take effective steps to end the human tragedy” there.

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China’s hidden camps

Beijing claims that the detention camps in Xinjiang are “vocational education centres” designed to help rid the region of terrorism.

Speaking last October, the top Chinese official in Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, said “trainees” in the camps were grateful for the opportunity to “reflect on their mistakes”.

Rights groups say Muslims are being detained indefinitely without charge for infractions like refusing to give a DNA sample, speaking in a minority language, or arguing with officials.

What do we know about Heyit’s fate?

Amnesty International said it was very concerned about reports of his death, which has not been officially confirmed.

Heyit was a celebrated player of the Dutar, a two-stringed instrument that is notoriously hard to master. At one time, he was venerated across China. He studied music in Beijing and later performed with national arts troupes.

Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’

Heyit’s detention reportedly stemmed from a song he performed titled Fathers. It takes its lyrics from a Uighur poem calling on younger generations to respect the sacrifices of those before them.

But three words in the lyrics – “martyrs of war” – apparently led Chinese authorities to conclude that Heyit presented a terrorist threat.

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Who are the Uighurs?

Uighur men read newspapers in Xinjiang (2015)

The Uighurs make up about 45% of the population in Xinjiang.

They see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations, and their language is similar to Turkish.

In recent decades, large numbers of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) have migrated to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.

Trump-Kim summit: Second meeting by end of February

Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

US-Bangla crash: Nepal says pilot had ’emotional breakdown’


The plane caught fire after making a dangerous landing attempt in Kathmandu last March

The pilot of a plane that crashed in Nepal last March “seemed to have an emotional breakdown”, according to a final report into the disaster.

The flight carrying 71 people from Dhaka in Bangladesh caught fire as it landed in Kathmandu, killing 51 people.

It was initially thought that poor communication with air traffic control  may have been to blame.

But investigators now say the pilot was ranting to crew members and even smoking in the cockpit, due to stress.

Nepal’s Accident Investigation Commission said in its report that the captain of US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 was “very much emotionally disturbed and stressed” because a female colleague, who was not on board the plane, had “questioned his reputation” as a good flight instructor.

The 52-year-old pilot was released from the Bangladeshi Air Force in 1993 because of depression, the report says, but was later declared fit to fly civilian aircraft.

Recent medical reports had not mentioned any symptoms.

Crash site in Kathmandu
Of the 71 passengers and crew members on board, 51 died

Investigators say the pilot’s vocal pitch, and the language he was using “indicated that he was agitated and experiencing high levels of stress” even when speaking to ground control in Dhaka before take-off.

According to the black box voice recorder and reports from surviving passengers, the pilot smoked in the cockpit and “engaged in unnecessary, unprofessional and lengthy conversation even in the critical phase” of the flight.

Wang Quanzhang: China jails leading human rights lawyer

Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’

“This state of mind with high degree of stress and emotional state might have led him to all the procedural lapses,” the report says. “This, together with the failure on the part of both the crew to follow the standard operating procedure at the critical stage of the flight, contributed to the loss of situational awareness.”

It adds that the 25-year-old first officer may have been reluctant to be more assertive during the final approach and landing because of the captain’s experience and authority.

Because they had lost “situational awareness”, the crew failed to realise the flight had deviated from its intended path until it was too late.

They missed the runway at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, and ended up flying in an incorrect position in the dangerous mountainous terrain.

Vigil in Dhaka for crash victims
After the crash, vigils were held in Dhaka for those who died

“Finally, when the crew sighted the runway, they were very low and too close to [it] and not properly aligned,” the report says, adding that the landing attempt should have been aborted.

Instead the pilot “forced it to land while in a turn”. The plane quickly skidded off the runway and through a fence, rolling down a slope into a grassy field where it was engulfed in flames.

Emiliano Sala: Search for footballer and pilot called off

Soon after the crash, 29-year-old survivor Sharin Ahmed told BBC Nepali that  “there was a huge fire outside and smoke gushed into our cabin”, followed by an “explosion”

Both pilots, the two cabin crew and 47 passengers died as a result of the accident. The crash was the worst aviation disaster to hit Nepal in 26 years.

The report recommended that US-Bangla should actively monitor and assess its pilots’ mental health, as well as any professional or personal issues they may be facing.

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Wang Quanzhang: China jails leading human rights lawyer


Wang Quanzhang went missing in a 2015 crackdown

China has sentenced prominent human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang to four and a half years in prison for state subversion.

Wang, 42, had defended political campaigners and victims of land seizures, as well as followers of the banned spiritual Falun Gong movement.

He was one of several lawyers and activists arrested in a 2015 crackdown, and the last to go on trial.

China has intensified its prosecution of rights lawyers in recent years.

Mr Wang was “found guilty of subverting state power, sentenced to four years and six months in prison, and deprived of political rights for five years,” the court in Tianjin said.

The trial had been conducted behind closed doors with journalists and foreign diplomats barred from entering the courthouse.

Reuters news agency reports that Wang fired his state-appointed lawyer during the proceedings.

Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu, was also banned from attending and confined to her home in Beijing. A tireless champion of his case, she has shaved her head in protest against his detention and files near-weekly petitions to China’s highest court.

Wang’s wife and her friends shave their heads to protest against his detention

In April, police intercepted Ms Li after she began a 100km (62 mile) march calling for her husband’s release. She was forcibly returned to Beijing and placed under temporary house arrest with her five-year-old son.

After the verdict Ms Li tweeted: “Wang Quanqi is not guilty, the public prosecution law is guilty!”

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‘A chilling message’

John Sudworth, BBC News, Beijing

Wang Quanzhang had disappeared so completely into a legal black hole, that for much of the past three and half years, his family did not know if he was alive or dead.

He was denied family visits and denied the right to appoint his own lawyer.

Perhaps he’d been seriously injured, those who knew him wondered. Or perhaps, against all the odds, he was somehow managing to hold out – refusing the pressure, and perhaps the torture too, and refusing to confess.

Other lawyers caught up in the same 2015 crackdown, have since been processed, convicted and sentenced.

Whatever the reason for the delay in Mr Wang’s case – his brief one-day trial was finally held behind closed doors over Christmas – he has been found guilty for much the same reason; his attempts to use the letter of the Chinese law to hold the authorities to account in their own Communist Party-run courts.

As the Party has been making clear in recent years, it sees concepts such as constitutionalism and an independent judicial system as dangerous Western ideals.

Mr Wang’s fate is likely intended to reinforce that chilling message.

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Michael Caster, researcher and author of The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, told the BBC that Wang’s case was “emblematic of Xi Jinping’s assault on the human rights and legal community”.

“The rights defence and broader civil society community in China is rightly outraged. For some time now they have rallied around Wang Quanzhang and his wife Li Wenzu as symbolic of both abuse and resistance under Xi Jinping,” he said after the sentencing.

Li Wenzu, the wife of prominent Chinese rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, holds a box with a family picture and her husband's detention notice, before shaving her head in protest in Beijing, China
Li Wenzu holds a family picture, and her husband’s detention notice

Mr Caster said that “the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that Wang’s detention is arbitrary, which means that under international law he should never have faced a trial in the first place, and so obviously should never have faced any length of sentence”.

Rights groups have condemned the trial with Amnesty International calling it a “sham” and the verdict “a gross injustice”.

“It’s outrageous that Wang Quanzhang is being punished for peacefully standing up for human rights in China,” Amnesty China researcher Doriane Lau said in a statement.

China’s crackdown on lawyers, known as the “709” crackdown because it began on 9 July, has been seen by activists as a sign of a growing intolerance of dissent under President Xi Jinping.

More than 200 people were detained in that sweep, with many given jail terms, suspended sentences or house arrest.

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Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’


The conflict in Afghanistan is America’s longest-ever war

US and Taliban negotiators have agreed on a draft framework for a peace deal seeking to put an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan, Washington’s top negotiator has said.

US negotiators held six days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar last week.

The Taliban have so far refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets”.

But analysts caution that it could be years until any substantive peace agreement is reached.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, was in Kabul to brief the Afghan government about the talks.

We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” he told The New York Times in an interview, adding that as part of the proposed deal the Taliban had committed to preventing Afghanistan being used as a base for terror groups.

Taliban talks: Will negotiations lead to peace in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan’s Ghani says 45,000 security personnel killed since 2014

The US is exploring a full withdrawal of its troops – in return for a ceasefire and a commitment by the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.

The Taliban say they will only begin negotiations with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops has been agreed.

On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a fresh plea to the Taliban to talk directly to his government.

He alluded to fears that freedoms could be lost if the Taliban were to share power. Women’s rights activists have expressed particular concern due to the militants’ brutal treatment of women when they ran the country.

“We are committed to ensuring peace,” he said. “But there are values which are non-negotiable, for example national unity, national sovereignty, territorial integrity a powerful and competent central government and basic rights of the citizens of the country.”

Auliya Atrafi went to Helmand Province where the Taliban are most active

According to Mr Ghani’s office, in a meeting on Sunday, Mr Khalilzad denied that there had been any discussions with the Taliban about future governance arrangements in Kabul.

In the New York Times interview, Mr Khalilzad said the Taliban had pledged not to give terrorist groups like al-Qaeda safe haven – a key demand from Washington if it pulls out troops.

“The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” he said.

Until the interview, the US envoy had only released a series of tweets about the talks – saying “significant progress” had been made but without providing details.

The discussions clearly remain at a provisional stage – and a long way from agreement on the broader issues required for lasting peace in Afghanistan – but after years of stalemate, it’s welcome progress, says the BBC’s South Asia editor Jill McGivering.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after al-Qaeda – which had used the then Taliban-run country as a base – carried out the 9/11 attacks in the US.

A senior Taliban official who attended the talks told the BBC over the weekend that both sides had agreed to form two committees to draw up detailed plans on how to implement agreements in principle on two key issues:

  • When will American-led forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan?
  • A commitment from the Taliban that the group will not allow international jihadist groups like al-Qaeda to use the country as a base in the future

President Ashraf Ghani (C) talks with US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (L) during a meeting in Kabul, 27 January
Mr Khalilzad (back left) briefed President Ghani (centre) on Sunday

The Taliban official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the committees would “identify routes for the withdrawal, and how much time is needed. We suggested six months, but are flexible”.

The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

few days ago, a devastating attack on an intelligence training centre killed more than forty troops. The daring assault took place around 50 km (30 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

It is estimated that about 15 million people – half the Afghan population – are living in areas either controlled by the Taliban or where the militants are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

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Taliban talks: Will negotiations lead to peace in Afghanistan?


The Taliban say they will talk with Afghan officials after the US sets a withdrawal date

The “significant progress” said to have been made during six days of talks between US officials and the Afghan Taliban suggests that both sides are serious about trying to find a peaceful solution to a 17-year conflict that has scarred Afghanistan.

He Jiankui: China condemns ‘baby gene editing’ scientist

But with the Taliban currently refusing to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, and negotiations relating to “unsolved matters” still to continue, what has actually been agreed during the meetings in Qatar?

Secunder Kermani, the BBC’s Afghanistan correspondent, and senior Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai, look at what we know so far about the talks, and what it could mean for the future of the country and the foreign forces operating there.

How significant were the talks?

Both the Taliban and US officials have said “progress” was made in the latest set of talks in Qatar, and despite continuing violence on the ground in Afghanistan, there seems to be a growing momentum to the peace negotiations.

Leading analyst Ahmed Rashid told the BBC the talks were “enormously significant” and that “we’ve never been as close… to an end to the civil war in Afghanistan”.

The talks lasted for six days – longer than any of the other previous set of discussions that have been held during recent months.

In the middle of the talks last week, the Taliban announced one of the group’s founding members, Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader, would be appointed the new head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, after recently being released from detention by Pakistani authorities.

Mr Rashid said Mullah Barader “had a record of wanting peace and stability” and could help persuade grassroots members to accept any deal that is reached.

What was discussed?

The “progress” made seems to relate to two key issues:

Trump-Kim summit: Second meeting by end of February

  • When will American-led forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan?
  • A commitment from the Taliban that the group will not allow international jihadist groups like al-Qaeda to use the country as a base in the future.

A senior Taliban official who attended the talks told the BBC that both sides had agreed to form two committees to draw up detailed plans on how to implement agreements in principle on these topics.

The Taliban leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the committees would “identify routes for the withdrawal, and how much time is needed. We suggested six months, but are flexible”.

He said the committees would also produce concrete proposals on how the Taliban can sever any links to al-Qaeda, and would start work within the next week. The Taliban source added that another meeting with the US would likely take place in early February.

Another source in the Taliban told the BBC that once an agreement had been drawn up, they would attempt to get other countries or international organisations to act as guarantors for it.

What about a ceasefire?

Both sides have said further talks are necessary to resolve outstanding issues.

What remains unclear is how a ceasefire fits into current discussions. The Taliban position seems to be one that can only be declared once a withdrawal date for international forces has been agreed.

A separate high ranking Taliban official suggested that the group was nervous about agreeing to a ceasefire before having established a firm settlement, as it could be difficult to convince grassroots fighters to take up arms again, after having laid them down.

The other crucial issue is when the Taliban will agree to begin talking directly to the Afghan government. The Taliban official said the “committees” due to be established would also produce recommendations on this.

Alleged Taliban militant poses for a photo with Afghan Army soldiers as a group of Taliban visit people as a goodwill gesture amid a three-day ceasefire on second day of Eid al-Fitr, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 16 June 2018
Image captionTaliban militants pose with an Afghan Army soldier during a three-day ceasefire last June

So far, the insurgents have only engaged with the US, dismissing the administration of President Ashraf Ghani as “puppets.”

What’s the Afghan government’s view?

In pointed comments at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland earlier this week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had lost their lives since he took office in 2014.

“It shows who is doing the fighting,” he said.

When asked about the progress of talks in Qatar, President Ghani responded tersely that the aim of the meetings was “to bring the Afghan government and the Taliban into face-to-face discussions and negotiations… then, the larger issues of the US presence and other international issues will be addressed”.

Many analysts have interpreted those comments as revealing a concern amongst Afghan authorities that they are being excluded from the discussions amidst the rush to bring the conflict to an end. US President Donald Trump is believed to be growing increasingly frustrated by the continued US presence in the country.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation who has led talks for the American side, seemed aware of these concerns when he tweeted he was travelling to Kabul to brief President Ghani and said that any deal “must include an intra-Afghan dialogue.

The discussions between the Afghan government and the Taliban are likely to be even more complicated and delicate than the discussions that have been held so far.

They would have to include agreements on the role of women’s rights and democracy in an Afghanistan where the ultra-conservative Taliban are a significant part of the political mainstream.

What happened in previous peace talks?

Previous attempts at peace have failed in their early stages.

In 2015, talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban in Pakistan broke down after news emerged of the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar – with whose authority the Taliban team was supposedly meeting.

Whilst in 2013, talks in Qatar were cancelled when the then Afghan President Hamid Karzai was angered by the presence of a Taliban flag at the group’s offices in Qatar, and felt his authority was being undermined.

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Afghanistan’s Ghani says 45,000 security personnel killed since 2014


President Ghani, who took office in 2014, revealed the figure at the World Economic Forum

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says more than 45,000 members of the country’s security forces have been killed since he became leader in 2014.

The figure is far higher than previously thought, with Mr Ghani saying late last year that 28,000 had been killed since 2015.

“The number of international casualties is less than 72,” he said on Friday. “It shows who is doing the fighting.”

His comments come amid top-level talks between US and Taliban representatives.

The Taliban, the main insurgent group in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that they had held four days of face-to-face talks with US officials seeking to end 17 years of war.

It is not clear if the talks have continued into Friday, but earlier reports said negotiators were progressing towards a deal.

“Since I’ve become president… over 45,000 Afghan security personnel have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr Ghani said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

We need to get a stable Afghanistan that can ensure the security of Americans, Europeans, and others on the one hand, but more fundamentally our own democratic rights and institutions,” he added.

Mr Ghani’s decision to reveal new death toll figures is unusual.

The Taliban frequently carry out deadly attacks targeting military bases, soldiers and policeand in recent years US and Afghan officials have withheld detailed casualty figures as they are deemed too sensitive.

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Unsustainable and demoralising

Analysis by Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC South Asia Regional Editor

Afghan security forces pictured during a military march

It’s a staggering casualty figure – nearly 30 deaths a day – for any military.

A record number of Afghan police and troops have been killed since most international combat troops withdrew from the country by the end of 2014.

The admission from Mr Ghani came during a bad week for the forces.

few days ago, a devastating attack on an intelligence training centre killed more than forty troops. The daring assault took place around 50 km (30 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

Afghan officials may justify the high casualty rate, saying they are now doing most of the fighting – not the international forces. But many analysts have described the current death rate as unsustainable and utterly demoralising for the Afghan military.

Military observers say that Afghan soldiers are spread too thin on the ground and the Taliban exploit this by attacking isolated posts, check points and bases with ferocity.

The Taliban feel that the momentum is on their side, and that’s why they are talking to the US, but refusing to engage with the Kabul government.

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The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

The US/Nato-backed military is struggling to cope, and attacks are becoming more frequent and much deadlier.

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Large parts of provinces like Helmand and Kandahar – where hundreds of US, UK and other foreign troops were killed – are now under Taliban control.

Meanwhile, civilian casualties are at an unprecedented level. According to the UN, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in 2017.

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Emiliano Sala: Search for footballer and pilot called off


The search for missing footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been called off after rescuers failed to find their plane.

The voice message Emiliano Sala sent on missing plane

 Cardiff City’s Argentine striker, 28, and Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, were on the aircraft that disappeared from radar, After three days of scouring the English Channel, authorities made the decision to abandon the search.

But Sala’s sister Romina pleaded with rescuers to keep looking for him.

Guernsey Police tweeted at 15:15 GMT to say rescuers were “no longer actively searching” for the plane.

Harbourmaster Capt David Barker said the chances of survival were “extremely remote”.

“We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search,” he added.

Romina Sala pleads with rescue teams not to give up the search

Map showing location of Alderney and lighthouse
Emiliano Sala was on board a plane bound for Cardiff from Nantes when it disappeared from radar

He said: “I understand Emiliano Sala’s family are not content with the decision to stop the search and I fully understand that.

“I’m absolutely confident that we couldn’t have done any more.”

As the news was announced, Sala’s sister Romina pleaded with the authorities to keep searching, saying: “I know in my heart Emiliano is still alive.”

She said: “Please, please, please don’t stop the search. We understand the effort but please don’t stop the search.

“For us, they are still alive. It is difficult to express our feelings at the moment because everything is really hard.

Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson
Emiliano Sala (left) was on board the plane being flown by pilot David Ibbotson

“Emiliano is a fighter. I’m asking you please, don’t stop looking for them. It’s been three days and I’ve still got hope that they’re alive.

“It’s terrible, it’s desperate not knowing anything. We don’t have certainty of anything.”

His former club FC Nantes also tweeted appealing to the police to continue the search.

Responding to the search being called off, Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan said: “We were looking forward to providing Emiliano with the next step in his life and career.

A banner has been put up at the training ground in Nantes
A banner has been put up at his former club’s training ground in Nantes

“Those who met Emiliano described a good-natured and humble young man who was eager to impress in the Premier League.

“The response from the football community has been truly touching and we place on record our sincere thanks to those who have sent messages of support.

“We also thank everyone involved with the search and rescue operation, and continue to pray for Emiliano, David Ibbotson and their families.”

A fan lays flowers by the statue of Cardiff City footballer Frederick Charles Keenor outside Cardiff City Stadium
Flowers and tributes have been left outside Cardiff City Stadium

Capt Barker said the depth of the sea where the plane had last contact was about 100m and it would remain a missing persons case for the police.

“Despite best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France… we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger,” he added.

Sala became Cardiff City’s record signing on Saturday, joining from Ligue 1 club Nantes for a fee of £15m.

He had returned to the French city to say a final farewell to his former teammates before taking the plane back to the Welsh capital.

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The single-engine plane carrying Sala and Mr Ibbotson left Nantes, north-west France, at 19:15 on Monday and had been flying at 5,000ft (1,500m) over the Channel Islands when it disappeared off radar near the Casquets lighthouse, near to Alderney.

It lost contact while at 2,300ft (700m) and disappeared off radar near the Casquets lighthouse, infamous among mariners as the site of many shipwrecks, eight miles (13km) north-west of Alderney.

Sala reportedly sent a WhatsApp voice message before the flight. Sounding conversational and jokey, he said he was “so scared” and: “I’m on a plane that seems like it is breaking apart.”

Rescue crews have searched about 1,700 square miles of land and sea in the Channel Islands in the past three days, covering Burhou, the Casquets, Alderney, the north coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula, north coast of Jersey and Sark.

The PA-46-310P Malibu aircraft
The PA-46-310P Malibu aircraft Sala and Mr Ibbotson were on board

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Baby formula ring’ leads to six arrests in Australia


By mr ben rory

Australian police say they have arrested six members of an “expansive” criminal gang which has been stealing baby formula for illegal sale in China.

Stolen formula valued at more than A$1m (£550,000; $720,000) had been sold in the past 12 months alone, police said.

But they said the syndicate had been operating for “a number of years”.

Australian formula has been nicknamed “white gold” in China because it is perceived to be safer and of better quality than locally produced products.

A man, 31, was arrested at Sydney International Airport on Saturday after stepping off a flight from China, New South Wales Police said.

Another three men and two women were arrested in recent months. Five of the six arrested had been charged.

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Detective Supt Danny Doherty said the “lucrative” operation had sent thousands of shipments to China over several years.

“This was quite an expansive criminal group that was exploiting an overseas market at the disadvantage of the Australian public,” he told reporters on Monday.

Police also seized other stolen items, including vitamins, and more than A$215,000 in cash.

Clear plastic bags filled with Australian currency, alleged to be the proceeds of crime
Police seized more than A$215,000 in cash, alleged to be the proceeds of crime

Australian parents have complained about a shortage of formula in recent years.

Last year, one Australian supermarket chain decided to sell baby formula from behind a counter to protect customers with a “genuine need” for it.

According to Australia media, tins of formula bought for about A$30 in Australia have been resold for approximately A$100 in China.

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He Jiankui: China condemns ‘baby gene editing’ scientist


By mr ben rory

China says the scientist who claims to have created the world’s first genetically edited babies last year acted illegally and in pursuit of fame and fortune, state media report.

He Jiankui’s claim to have altered twin girls’ genes so they could not get HIV was met with scepticism and outrage.

Investigators say the researcher faces serious punishment after acting on his own and forging ethical review papers.

Professor He, who is reportedly under house arrest, has defended his work.

In November, he told a genome summit in Hong Kong he was “proud” of his gene-editing work, a practice which is banned in most countries, including China.

His announcement was met with condemnation from hundreds of Chinese and international scientists, who said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.

What does China say?

Prof He’s claims had not been verified, but investigators confirmed on Monday that his work had resulted in the birth of twin babies, and that another woman was currently pregnant.

Investigators from Guangdong provincial government said the doctor had raised his own funds, deliberately avoiding oversight.

He had also allegedly used technology of an uncertain safety level in order to carry out human embryo gene editing.

Investigators confirmed Prof He had recruited eight couples to participate in his experiment, resulting in two pregnancies.

They said baby twins nicknamed Lulu and Nana were born in November, and are under medical supervision.

Since Prof He’s announcement of his experiment, he is said to have been placed under house arrest in Shenzhen.

What has the scientist claimed?

Speaking to the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong, he said the girls had been “born normal and healthy” and they would be monitored over the next 18 years.

He said he had funded the experiment himself and confirmed his university, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, had not been aware of it.

Prof He also explained that eight couples – comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers – had signed up voluntarily for the experiment.

One couple dropped out, but there was “another potential pregnancy” of a gene-edited embryo in its early stages.

He said his study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal. He was also evasive about other details, including the names of “some experts” who, he said, had reviewed his work and offered feedback.

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Trump-Kim summit: Second meeting by end of February


By Emmanuel Justices

US President Donald Trump is to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a second summit by the end of February, the White House says.

The announcement came after Mr Trump met top North Korean negotiator Kim Yong-chol at the White House.

He had been expected to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un to Mr Trump.

Little progress has been made on denuclearisation since their historic summit in Singapore last June. No venue has been announced for the new summit.

Speculation is mounting that it could be held in Vietnam.

▪ Kim Jong-un leaves China with ‘backing for second Trump summit’

▪ US and North Korea negotiating location for second summit – Trump

Kim Yong-chol’s visit to Washington is the first sign of movement in nuclear diplomacy with North Korea for months, BBC state department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher reports.

It is not clear what the reported letter from Kim Jong-un contained. But it was expected to lay the groundwork for another summit, our correspondent adds.

President Trump said he was looking forward to the talks.

His press secretary Sarah Sanders said after the White House meeting that progress in the talks on denuclearisation continued, but added: “The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea.”

What has happened since the last summit?

Not very much was agreed on in the Singapore summit, so there is little to measure success by.

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Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled, no detailed account of North Korea’s nuclear facilities has been provided and sanctions are still firmly in place.

Mr Kim however, has been busy boosting his global image. He’s improved relations with neighbouring South Korea, and both countries have destroyed guard posts along the heavily guarded demilitarised zone – and paid trips to each other’s countries.

Ties between North Korea and China also appear to have improved, with Mr Kim making multiple trips to Beijing to meet President Xi.

What was achieved at the Singapore summit?

The summit was historic for the fact that it happened at all – but on paper, all it really achieved was a vaguely-phrased agreement in which both countries agreed to work towards denuclearisation.

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It was never really made clear what denuclearisation would entail – the agreement did not include any timeline, details or mechanisms to verify this process.

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If there is a second summit, many will be expecting something more concrete to come out of it. Both North Korea and the US are unlikely to get away with calling another vague agreement a success.

Where is North Korea’s nuclear programme currently at?

North Korea hasn’t conducted a missile test since the summit. It’s also dismantled a nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

It did however test out a new “high-tech” tactical weapon last November – its first official report of a weapons test in a year. This however, was not taken to represent a huge threat.

But it’s still not clear how many nuclear facilities still exist in North Korea.

A report after last year’s summit identified the extent of North Korea’s network of missile bases.

How is North Korea evading sanctions?

However, this is not a breach of the Singapore agreement – as North Korea has not made any commitment to halt any weapons development or shut down its missile bases.

Will the new summit actually happen?

It should. Both sides appear to want it to happen.

The last summit was a rollercoaster in itself – it was cancelled, and then restarted after a hand-delivered letter to Mr Trump from Mr Kim.

It’s not impossible that something similar might happen again – we’ll just have to wait and see. This time, however, a letter appears to have arrived early enough.

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