24 May 2017

English

Philippine troops attack Daesh-linked militants

KONFRONTASI-Philippine troops battled heavily armed militants backing the Daesh group in a southern city Tuesday, as months of sporadic fighting in the countryside shifted alarmingly into an urban area.

Regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Joar Herrera said five government personnel were wounded in the clash with at least 15 fighters from a rebel group called Maute in the village of Basak Malutlut in Marawi, a city in Lanao del Sur province.

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Suicide bomber kills at least 22, including children, at Ariana Grande concert in Britain

KONFRONTASI-A suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester in what Prime Minister Theresa May called a sickening act targeting children and young people.

May said police believed they knew the identity of the bomber and police then said a 23-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the attack carried out late on Monday evening as people began leaving a concert given by Ariana Grande, a U.S. singer who attracts a large number of young and teenage fans.

"All acts of terrorism are cowardly...but this attack stands out for its appalling sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives," May said outside her Downing Street office in London.

"The attempt to divide us met countless acts of kindness that brought people closer together."

The northern English city remained on high alert. A Reuters witnesses said they heard a "big bang" at Manchester's Arndale shopping mall and saw people running from the building. Police said they were dealing with an incident inside. The shopping center reopened soon afterward, a Reuters witness said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more police had been ordered onto the streets of the British capital.

Monday's attack was the deadliest in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London's transport system in 2005. But it will have reverberations far beyond British shores.

Attacks in cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have shocked Europeans already anxious over security challenges from mass immigration and pockets of domestic Islamist radicalism. The Islamic State militant group has called for attacks as retaliation for Western involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Witnesses related the horror of the Manchester blast, which unleashed a stampede just as the concert ended at what is Europe's largest indoor arena, full to a capacity of 21,000.

"We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs ... it was just chaos," said Sebastian Diaz, 19. "It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off."

U.S. President Donald Trump described the attack as the work of "evil losers". German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it "will only strengthen our resolve to...work with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds."

A source with knowledge of the situation said the bomber's explosives were packed with metal and bolts. At least 19 of those wounded were in a critical condition, the source said.

A video posted on Twitter showed fans, many of them young, screaming and running from the venue. Dozens of parents frantically searched for their children, posting photos and pleading for information on social media.

"We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming," concert-goer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

"It was a huge explosion - you could feel it in your chest."

Singer Ariana Grande, 23, said on Twitter: "broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don't have words." May, who faces an election in two-and-a-half weeks, said her thoughts were with the victims and their families. She and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, agreed to suspend campaigning ahead of the June 8 vote.

Trump, in Israel, says he has new reasons to hope for Middle East peace

KONFRONTASI-U.S. President Donald Trump said in Israel on Monday he came away from a weekend visit to Saudi Arabia with new reasons for hope that peace and stability could be achieved in the Middle East.

On the second leg of his first overseas trip since entering office, Trump is to hold talks separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a stopover lasting 28 hours.

Later on Monday, the U.S. leader will pray at Judaism's Western Wall and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and on Tuesday he will travel to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara, as well as President Reuven Rivlin and members of the Israeli cabinet, were at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport to greet Trump and first lady Melania in a red carpet ceremony after what is believed to have been the first direct flight from Riyadh to Israel.

"During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope," Trump said in a brief speech on arrival.

"We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace, but we can only get there working together. There is no other way," he said.

Trump's tour comes in the shadow of difficulties at home, where he is struggling to contain a scandal after firing James Comey as FBI director nearly two weeks ago. The trip ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

During his two days in Riyadh, Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who focused on his desire to restrain Iran's influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in the Republican president's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

"What's happened with Iran has brought many of the parts of the Middle East toward Israel," Trump said in public remarks at a meeting in Jerusalem with Rivlin.

"And you could say that's one of the - if there's a benefit, that would be the benefit. Because I've seen such a different feeling toward Israel from countries that as you know were not feeling so well about Israel not so long ago. And it's brought a lot of folks together," Trump said.

Iran accuses U.S. of 'Iranophobia', arming 'dangerous terrorists'

KONFRONTASI-Iran accused the United States on Monday of selling arms to "dangerous terrorists" in the Middle East and of spreading "Iranophobia" aimed at encouraging Arab states to purchase arms, state television reported.

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Lee Hsien Loong retiring from premiership in shame

Losing over S$50 billion, getting boycott by China, Singapore having the most expensive cost of living and endangering the country’s principles of meritocracy and

Trump willing to try engagement with North Korea, on conditions: Seoul

KONFRONTASI-U.S. President Donald Trump told South Korea's presidential envoy that Washington was willing to try to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis through engagement, but under the right conditions, South Korea's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Trump has said "a major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible and all options are on the table but that he wanted to resolve the crisis diplomatically, possibly through the extended use of economic sanctions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office last week, has campaigned on a more moderate approach toward the North but he has said it must change its attitude of insisting on arms development before dialogue can be possible.

Moon's envoy to Washington, South Korean media mogul Hong Seok-hyun, said Trump spoke of being willing to use engagement to ensure peace, Hong said in comments carried by television.

"The fact that Trump said he will not have talks for the sake of talks reiterated our joint stance that we are open to dialogue but the right situation must be formed," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told a regular briefing.

South Korea and the United States agreed during a visit to Seoul by Trump's national security advisers this week to formulate a "bold and pragmatic" joint approach, Cho added.

The North has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the mainland United States, saying the program is necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea to guard against the North Korean threat, has called on China to do more to rein in its neighbor.

China for its part has been infuriated by the U.S. deployment of an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it was a threat to its security and would do nothing to ease tension with Pyongyang.

South Korea has complained that some of is companies doing business in China have faced discrimination in retaliation for the system's deployment.

North Korea conducted its latest ballistic missile test on Sunday in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, saying it was a test of its capability to carry a "large-size heavy nuclear warhead".

Cyber attack eases, hacking group threatens to sell code

KONFRONTASI-Governments turned their attention to a possible new wave of cyber threats on Tuesday after the group that leaked U.S. hacking tools used to launch the global WannaCry "ransomware" attack warned it would release more malicious code.

The fast-spreading cyber extortion campaign, which has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide since Friday, eased for second day on Tuesday, but the identity and motive of its creators remain unknown.

The attack includes elements that belong to the U.S. National Security Agency and were leaked online last month.

Shadow Brokers, the group that has taken credit for that leak, threatened on Tuesday to release more recent code to enable hackers to break into the world's most widely used computers, software and phones.

A blog post written by the group promised from June to release tools every month to anyone willing to pay for access to some of the tech world's biggest commercial secrets.

It also threatened to dump data from banks using the SWIFT international money transfer network and from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nuclear and missile programs. "More details in June," it promised.

The spread of the WannaCry attack - which encrypts a user's data and demands a "ransom" be paid electronically to free it up again - slowed to a trickle on Tuesday, with few, isolated examples being reported.

In Canada, the Universite de Montreal was hit, with 120 of the French-language university’s 8,300 computers affected, according to a university spokeswoman.

There were no new, major incidents in the United States. Fewer than 10 U.S. organizations have reported attacks to the Department of Homeland Security since Friday, a U.S. official told reporters on Tuesday.

The attack has caused most damage in Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.

The United States likely avoided greater harm as the attack targeted older versions of Microsoft Corp's (MSFT.O) Windows operating system, and more U.S. users have licensed, up-to-date, patched versions of the software, compared to other regions of the world.

The Department of Homeland Security began an "aggressive awareness campaign" to alert the tech industry to the importance of installing the patch that Microsoft issued in March that protected users from the vulnerability exploited by the attack, a U.S. official working on the attack told Reuters.

Microsoft said on Tuesday it was aware of Shadow Brokers' most recent claim and that its security teams monitor potential threats in order to "help us prioritize and take appropriate action."

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said earlier this week the WannaCry attack used elements stolen from the NSA. The U.S. government has not commented directly on the matter.

Researchers see possible North Korea link to global cyber attack

KONFRONTASI-Cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link North Korea with the global WannaCry "ransomware" cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday.

Symantec (SYMC.O) and Kaspersky Lab said on Monday that some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies have identified as a North Korea-run hacking operation.

"This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry," Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner told Reuters.

Both firms said it was too early to tell whether North Korea was involved in the attacks, based on the evidence that was published on Twitter by Google security researcher Neel Mehta. The attacks, which slowed on Monday, are among the fastest-spreading extortion campaigns on record.

The research will be closely followed by law enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington, where President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser said on Monday that both foreign nations and cyber criminals were possible culprits.

The two security firms said they needed to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers do reuse code from other operations, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.

U.S. and European security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.

FireEye Inc (FEYE.O), another large cyber security firm, said it was also investigating a possible link.

"The similarities we see between malware linked to that group and WannaCry are not unique enough to be strongly suggestive of a common operator," FireEye researcher John Miller said.

The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than others, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, according to some cyber security firms. The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment.

Regardless of the source of the attack, investors piled into cyber security stocks on Monday, betting that governments and corporations will spend more to upgrade their defenses.

North Korea says missile test aimed at testing carrying large nuclear warhead

KONFRONTASI-North Korea said on Monday it had successfully conducted a newly developed mid-to-long range missile test on Sunday, supervised by leader Kim Jong Un and aimed at verifying the capability to carry a "large scale heavy nuclear warhead."

Kim accused the United States of "browbeating" countries that "have no nukes" and warned Washington not to misjudge the reality that its mainland is in the North's "sighting range for strike," the North's official KCNA news agency reported.

The North fired a ballistic missile that landed in the sea near Russia on Sunday in a launch that Washington called a message to South Korea, days after its new president took office pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue.

The missile was launched at the highest angle so as not to affect the security of neighboring countries and flew 787 kilometers (490 miles) reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (1,312 miles), KCNA said.

Experts said the altitude reached by the missile tested on Sunday meant it was launched at a high trajectory, which would limit the lateral distance it traveled. But if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it would have a range of at least 4,000 km (2,500 miles), experts said.

"The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead," KCNA said.

"If the U.S. awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history, Kim said, strongly warning the U.S. should not to disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in the DPRK's sighting range for strike and that it has all powerful means for retaliatory strike," KCNA said.

DPRK is short for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the mainland United States.

Europol: Scale of Friday’s global cyber attack unprecedented

KONFRONTASI-Europol has warned that a "complex international investigation" is required to identify the “culprits” behind the recent "unprecedented" cyber-attack which targeted a multitude of worldwide organizations.

On Friday, at least 75,000 computer systems in 99 countries across the globe were targeted in a data encryption attack, in which a malicious software known as ransomware locked up computers and demanded a payment in Bitcoin to restore access.

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