Police in western Germany launch massive raids against criminal clans; More than 1,300 police officers were deployed in coordinated raids against family crime syndicates across northwestern Germany. The raids are focused on shisha bars, cafes and gambling venues. German police launched simultaneous raids in six cities across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Saturday evening, with some 1,300 officers sweeping shisha bars and other venues in Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Bochum, Recklinghausen and Gelsenkirchen. Authorities said they were targeting family crime clans of Arabic background in the northwestern state. According to the mass-circulation Bild daily, police are focusing on the Arabic crime syndicates, especially those with Lebanese background. Police spokesman Oliver Peiler told reporters that the coordinated raids started at 9 p.m. local time (2000 UTC). “As we do quite often, tonight we are checking numerous shisha-bars (…) because the shisha bars act as sanctuaries for members of these family clans,” he said. Clans also use shisha bars, cafes, and gambling venues for money laundering and other illegal business activities, according to media reports. Police in Essen tweeted that a man has been detained carrying €9,000 ($10,322) in cash.
CDU to review Angela Merkel’s migration policy since 2015 crisis; CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants a “comprehensive review” of Germany’s immigration system. Contradicting Angela Merkel, the new party leader said scrutiny of the fateful year of 2015 was necessary. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor at the helm of the Christian Democrats (CDU) has told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the party will scrutinize the chancellor’s migration policy since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015. “We will look at the entire immigration issue, from the protection of the external border to asylum procedures and integration, from the perspective of effectiveness” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who replaced Merkel as CDU leader in December, said the party would review the immigration system at a planned workshop in February. The European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, and Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees would take part in the talks to examine “where and what needs to be improved,” she added.
US Ambassador Richard Grenell threatens German firms over Russian pipeline; The US ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, has sent threatening letters to German companies working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, according to a German newspaper. Grenell reportedly warns of possible sanctions. German companies building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia received letters from US Ambassador Richard Grenell warning them of “a significant risk of sanctions” if they did not pull out of the project, Germany’s mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag has reported. The large pipeline is set to deliver gas from northwestern Russia to northern Germany under the Baltic Sea and effectively double the amount of gas Germany imports from the country. The US opposes the project over fears that the gas link would tighten Russia’s control of Europe’s energy supply and diminish the importance of gas transit countries such as Ukraine. US companies are also keen to sell gas obtained by fracking to many European countries.
Germany: Man stabs pregnant woman, kills unborn child; The 25-year-old pregnant woman was stabbed during a hospital stay. The perpetrator, an Afghan asylum-seeker, was visiting the woman when the two got into a “violent argument.” An altercation between a pregnant woman and man in the western German town of Bad Kreuznach near Mainz ended with the man stabbing the woman and killing her unborn child. The incident took place on Friday at a hospital, where the 25-year-old Polish woman was staying. Police said the man was a 25-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker, who had come to the hospital to visit the woman. The man stabbed the woman repeatedly after they got into what police described as a “violent argument.” The woman suffered life threatening injuries and had to undergo emergency surgery. Although she survived the attack and her condition is stable, the unborn baby died from its injuries. The attacker surrendered to police at a train station shortly after fleeing the scene. He was arrested and taken into custody. Bad Kreuznach’s public prosecutors office has sought the cooperation of the criminal police of Mainz to carry out an investigation. For now, the man’s motive is unknown.
Serbia: Protesters gather for sixth weekend of anti-Vucic demonstrations; Thousands of people marched against the rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for the sixth week in a row, rallying in Belgrade and other major cities. Protesters accuse him of corruption and stifling the media. Some 40,000 people took part in the protests in Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad, and several smaller cities, organizers said on Saturday. The authorities did not immediately confirm the count. In Belgrade, protesters carried a banner showing a bloodied shirt, an allusion to the unsolved assault on leftist leader Borko Stefanovic in November. An umbrella of opposition parties, the Alliance for Serbia, suspect President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of involvement in the assault. The ruling party rejects the claims. Demonstrators called for protecting media freedoms, ending the country’s hostile environment for journalists and opposition figures, and transparency from the government as it seeks to settle outstanding disputes with neighboring Kosovo.
Top Yemen brass injured in rebel drone strike dies: medics; A high-ranking Yemeni intelligence official injured in a Huthi rebel drone attack on the country’s largest air base died of his wounds on Sunday, medical sources said.
Intelligence Brigadier General Saleh Tamah was wounded on Thursday in a strike on a military parade in Al-Anad air base, in government-held Lahij province some 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Yemen’s second city Aden. Medical sources told AFP that Tamah underwent several surgeries in a hospital in Aden but died Sunday morning. At least seven loyalists — including Tamah — were killed and 11 injured in Thursday’s incident, which threatens to hamper United Nations-led peace efforts. Among those injured were Yemen’s deputy chief of staff Saleh al-Zandani, senior army commander Fadel Hasan and Lahij governor Ahmad Abdullah al-Turki. Turki and Zandani were transported to Saudi Arabia for treatment, a Yemeni official told AFP. The UN voiced alarm on Friday following the attack and urged “all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation”. At talks in Sweden last month, the UN brokered several agreements between the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government seen as the best chance of ending nearly four years of devastating conflict. The warring sides agreed on truce deals for the key rebel-held aid port of Hodeida and battleground third city Taez.
Italian ex-militant Battisti detained in Bolivia: official; Cesare Battisti, an Italian sought by Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s, has been detained in Bolivia and will be extradited to Brazil, a senior aide to Brazil’s new president said Sunday. Battisti was detained late Saturday in Bolivia “and will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence,” tweeted Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Battisti, who has lived in Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now in prison for corruption. During Brazil’s recent presidential campaign, the far-right Bolsonaro — who took office on January 1 — vowed that if elected he would “immediately” extradite Battisti. In mid-December Brazil’s outgoing president, Michel Temer, signed an extradition order for Battisti after a judge ordered his arrest. By then the Italian ex-militant was nowhere to be found. Battisti was arrested in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Brazilian Federal Police sources told Brazilian media.
China will tackle US trade dispute in 2019: minister; China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the US this year, the country’s commerce minister told state media, following talks with US negotiators this week. A large US delegation ended a three-day visit to Beijing Wednesday in the first face to face trade talks since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in December pledged a three-month truce in the escalating tariff spat. China said the talks had “laid the foundation” to resolve mutual concerns on trade. “We will properly handle the China-US economic and trade frictions” this year, commerce minister Zhong Shan said, according to a Saturday report by state media outlet Xinhua. Zhong said Beijing will also promote outside investment, work to pass a foreign investment law and improve its dispute resolution system, Xinhua reported. China’s policymakers have long promised a more open and free market with better protections for foreign investors, but officials have been slow to make good on those pledges — leading the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China to coin the term “promise fatigue”. Zhong said China’s negative list — which restricts investment in certain industries — will be further slimmed down, while Beijing also intends to expand economic sectors open for foreign investment without the need for a Chinese joint-venture partner. The minister specifically outlined a push for foreign investment in manufacturing, high-tech industries and investment in China’s inner regions — pledges which are similar to promises made last year.
21 dead in coal mine collapse; 21 workers died when a tunnel collapsed in a Chinese coal mine on Saturday. The mine is located in Shaanxi Province. 87 miners were working there at the time of the accident.66 were rescued. Officials are looking into what caused the accident. Chinese coal mines are known for their unsafe working conditions. Authorities say nearly 400 miners died in accidents in 2017.